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OxfordshireChildren's Services Procedures Manual

Adoption Support

Contents

  1. What is Adoption Support?
  2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support
  3. Role of the Adoption Support Services Adviser
  4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
  5. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
  6. Which Local Authority Should Provide the Support?
  7. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support
  8. The Adoption Support Plan
  9. Financial Support
  10. Birth Relative Support After Adoption

1. What is Adoption Support?

See also: Oxfordshire’s Passport to Adoption Support.

Adoption Support includes any support likely to be required for an adoptive placement to endure through to adulthood and is applicable to both existing and new situations. 

Local authorities must make arrangements, as part of their adoption service, for the provision of a range of adoption support services.

Assessments carried out by social workers for the provision of adoption support will attend to the needs of adopted children, birth families and members of adoptive families in relation to health, education, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships, social presentation, self-care skills, contact arrangements, and financial and practical considerations.

Local authorities may arrange for the required services to be provided by appropriate voluntary organisations.

Adoption Support includes: 

  1. Financial support to adopters;
  2. Priority access to social housing, and access to additional support to cover a spare room whilst adopters wait for their child to arrive in their new home;
  3. Priority admission for school places, including academies and free schools;
  4. Services to enable groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to adoption;
  5. Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents, siblings or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  6. Therapeutic services for adopted children (including children from overseas);
  7. Assistance to adoptive parents and their children (natural and adoptive) to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care. This includes inter country adopters and their children;
  8. Assistance to adoptive parents and their children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption. This includes inter country adopters and their children;
  9. A range of adoption support services, including access to counselling, information and advice for both adoptive parents and their children, who may have complex needs;
  10. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  11. Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure. We do not provide Intermediary Services as a matter of course.

Financial Support will be subject to the approval of the Adoption, Permanence & Fostering Service Manager.

2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support

Under Adoption and Children Act 2002 (as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014), the local authority has a duty to provide information on adoption support services to:

  • Anyone contacting the authority to request information about adopting a child;
  • Anyone informing the authority that (s)he wishes to adopt a child;
  • Any parent of an adopted child within the authority’s area who requests the information;
  • Any parent of an adopted child within the authority’s area of whom the authority is/becomes aware (e.g. where a parent rings about an SEN assessment and it becomes clear that the child is adopted).

Information must be provided about:

  • The full range of adoption support services available in the local authority area. This includes, but is not limited to, therapeutic services, assistance in relation to contact arrangements, and financial support;
  • The right to request an assessment for adoption support services (at any time);
  • The address and telephone number of the authority’s Adoption Support Services Adviser;
  • The availability of assessments for adoption support services for persons outside the local authority area, so that parents understand which local authority is responsible for assessing their support needs;
  • Contact details for first4adoption and any local web-based information service which provides information about adoption;
  • Priority school admissions (where relevant). Details can be found at School Admission of Children Adopted from Local Authority Care, GOV.UK website;
  • Priority council housing and Discretionary Housing Payments;
  • The entitlement to early education from the age of two;
  • How to make a complaint, both under the local authority complaints procedure and to the Local Government Ombudsman;
  • Any other relevant services provided by the local authority;
  • Any other information that the local authority considers relevant.

The following information must also be provided to potential and prospective adopters:

  • Details of where to find information about adoption pay and leave. Details can be found at Adoption Pay and Leave (GOV.UK website);
  • Information about the right to receive a copy of the child’s permanence report, including a summary of the medical adviser’s report on the health of the child, before the child is placed with them for adoption;
  • The entitlement to a life story book. This should include who provides the life story book, what it includes and what it can be used for.

When a person requests information about a specific service, the local authority must ask whether they would like any of the other information as well.

Information does not need to be provided where:

  • The local authority has provided all the necessary information in the last 12 months and none of the information has changed substantively;
  • A person has informed the local authority that they do not wish to receive the information (unless the authority considers it appropriate to do so);
  • Where the information has already been sent, e.g. where the same person requests the information a number of times in a short period.

If the local authority refuses a person’s request for information, it should give reasons for the refusal and signpost the person to the website that holds the information.

3. Role of the Adoption Support Services Adviser

All local authorities must appoint an Adoption Support Services Adviser (ASSA), who will be a person with knowledge and experience of adoption and its impact on all those involved.

The ASSA provides advice and information to people affected by adoption on how to access adoption support services. S/he also gives advice and information to social workers and other relevant staff about the assessment of need for adoption support services, the availability of adoption support services locally and effective planning for service delivery - in particular, supporting and facilitating intra and inter agency joint working where needed. 

S/he is a key point of contact for negotiating adoption support services where children are placed outside the county, for example in liaising between local authorities where a family is moving between areas to try to ensure a smooth transition in the provision of adoption support. In addition, where Oxfordshire is the receiving authority, the ASSA is a key point of contact for the placing local authority.

4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support

4.1

Practitioners should consider the need for adoption support at the following stages of care and permanence planning:

  1. When preparing the case for presentation to the Adoption and Permanency Panel as to whether the child is suitable to be placed for adoption.

  2. When considering the suitability of prospective adoptive parents.

4.2

Practitioners must consider the need for adoption support services for the child, the prospective adopters and any children of the prospective adopters when considering the placement of a particular child with particular prospective adopters.

4.3

Adoption support must also always be considered at a child’s reviews following the adoptive placement.

See Adoption Reviews Procedure

4.4

Local authorities must undertake assessments of need for adoption support at the request of the following:

  1. Children who may be adopted, their parents or guardians

  2. Persons wishing to adopt a child

  3. Adopted persons, their parents, birth parents and former guardians

  4. Children of adoptive parents (whether or not they are adopted)

  5. Birth siblings of adopted children

  6. Relatives of the adopted child or other persons with whom the child has a beneficial relationship

There is also discretion to undertake assessments for others where it is considered appropriate.

The adoption does not need to have been arranged by the local authority or an adoption agency in order to qualify for an assessment for adoption support. It is only where the adoption is by a step parent that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information may be offered as appropriate.

5. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?

The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of adoption support, and in what circumstances.

Circumstance Responsibility for Assessment

Child being Looked After by Oxfordshire and in respect of whom an adoption plan is being considered

Oxfordshire

Child, placed with or adopted by family living in the county

Oxfordshire if this was the placing local Authority. Otherwise the placing local authority has financial responsibility for 3 years following the making of an adoption order.

Child, adopted by family living outside the county

Oxfordshire has responsibility for 3 years after the Adoption Order is made and then the local authority where the adopters reside will have the responsibility.

In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent adoption)

The local authority where the requester lives must assess.

6. Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?

The local authority responsible for carrying out the assessment of need should provide support to meet the identified needs to the extent that the person assessed is entitled to the adoption support service. 

The exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or supported contact arrangements have been agreed by the placing agency before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with the placing agency.

7. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support

Most requests for support will be made by service users directly to the Adoption and Permanence Support Helpdesk. Practice has shown that requests for support may also be made by adoption social workers; social workers in LAC and Assessment Teams; at training events and support groups; via the letter box staff and by other local authority staff / other professionals. As adoption support is carried out in partnership with parents, wherever possible, the referrer will be asked to go back to the parents and ask them to make direct contact with the team. Where there are safeguarding concerns or the placement is at risk of disruption, these request for support will be redirected to the MASH Team.

Where there are no safeguarding concerns, an Adoption Support Assessment of Needs (ASNA) will be undertaken by the Adoption Support Team. In cases where the children have been placed by other local authorities and the Adoption Order was made less than 3 years ago, advice should be sought from the Adoption Support Services Adviser (see Section 3, Role of the Adoption Support Services Advisor).

When an adoption placement has disrupted or where there are safeguarding concerns, the case should be referred to the MASH Team or the relevant Assessment Team (on an open case). In such cases, there will be need to be consultation between the two teams as the Adoption Support may hold significant information and/or have existing relationships which will assist in the assessment process.

Requests from birth families regarding contact arrangements with children who have been adopted should be referred to the Birth Relative Support Worker or the Adoption Support Services Adviser.

An Adoption Support Assessment of Needs will not be required in every case - i.e. before providing advice and information.

Where an Adoption Support Assessment of Needs is required, the practitioners involved should have regard to the authority’s Eligibility Matrix and the assessment should broadly follow the guidance set out in the Practice Guidance on Assessing the Support Needs of Adoptive Families (published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2004). The assessing social worker will need to use discretion as to whether to interview the subject child (and any other child in the household) depending on the case and the age, understanding and wishes of the child.

A written report of the assessment should be produced. Where the assessment identifies a possible need for financial support, the proposal must be presented to the Team Manager Adoption Support and or Adoption, Permanence & Fostering Service Manager for approval before it can be included in the written report (see Section 9, Financial Support).

If ongoing support is identified following the Adoption Support Assessment of Needs, a draft Adoption Support Plan is drawn up. This should be sent with a covering letter to the person assessed and should include:

  1. The person’s assessed needs for support;
  2. Whether the local authority proposes to provide adoption support services and if so, what the proposed services are;
  3. Where the assessment relates to the need for financial support, how this has been determined and calculated and the conditions to be attached, (see Section 9, Financial Support).

Where the person assessed is a child, and it is not appropriate to send the notice to the child, notices should be sent to the adoptive parent or the most appropriate adult.

Those assessed should be allowed time to consider and make representations on the proposal - good practice suggests that adopters should be given 28 days to respond to the Adoption Support Plan before it is finalised (see Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan). 

Where the service proposed is one-off, the notice of the outcome of the assessment will be sufficient to outline what is proposed and a draft plan will not be required.

8. The Adoption Support Plan

An Adoption Support Plan should set out clearly:

  1. The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
  2. The timescales for achieving the plan;
  3. Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom;
  4. The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan;
  5. The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.

There are two occasions when an Adoption Support Plan should be drawn up. One is when a match is being considered before the proposed placement is presented to the Adoption and Permanency Panel. The other is when there is a request for an assessment of need for support services, after an adoption has been finalised, where the child is less than 18 years of age or still in full-time education.

Pre-Placement

The Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Primary Care Trust, CAMHS or education departments where any special arrangements may need to be made. Where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the agencies in that authority’s area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for adopters and adopted children. In these circumstances, the prospective adopters should be assisted with any cross-boundary issues that may arise.

The Adoption Support Plan should include any proposed financial support including assistance with court fees and legal expenses, how the amount has been calculated, where it is to be paid in instalments - the frequency of payment, the period over which it will be paid and when the first payment is to be made, the conditions and the consequences of failing to meet them and the arrangements for review, variation and termination, (see Section 9, Financial Support).

The proposed Adoption Support Plan must have the approval of the Adoption Team Manager and once approval has been given, a copy should be sent to the proposed recipients of the support with the notice of the outcome of the assessment (see Section 7, Process of Assessment for Adoption Support), as well as to any party involved in the delivery of the plan and to the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer. (A standard letter is available).

The recipients of the proposed support should be given 10 days to consider the proposals and make representations to the local authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Adoption Team Manager, who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of the consideration.

Where the proposed Adoption Support Plan relates to a proposed agency placement, it should be submitted to the Adoption and Permanency Panel when a proposed placement is being considered. The final Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the Agency Decision-Maker (Adoption), taking into account any advice given by the Adoption and Permanency Panel. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

A copy of the final Adoption Support Plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult).

The Adoption Support Plan should be reviewed at the reviews of the adoptive placement - see Adoption Review Procedure - or at any time if there is a significant change of circumstances, within four weeks of the notification of the change. 

After the Adoption Order has been made, the Adoption Support Plan will be reviewed by the adopter’s link worker. If no further support is needed, this needs to be put into writing before the case is closed.

The Adoption Support Plan will be reviewed by the adopter’s link worker or the adoption support social worker if a change in the person’s circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority. The format and content of any such review will depend on the circumstances of the case. It may refer to only one element of the plan or be relatively minor in which case an exchange of correspondence may be sufficient. (For reviews of financial support, see Section 9.7, Annual review of support).

Where the change of circumstances is substantial, such as a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs involving other parties.

If as a result of a review before an Adoption Order has been made, it is proposed to vary or terminate the support, the proposed change must be approved by the Adoption Team Manager. Once so approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposal and given the same information as in the notice of the outcome of the first assessment, together with a copy of the revised plan in draft. (A standard letter is available). He or she must then be given 28 days to make representations on the proposals. 

Having taken account of any such representations, any proposed change in the Adoption Support Plan should be submitted to the Adoption, Permanence & Fostering Service Manager for a decision to be made.

The decision should be made on whether to vary or terminate the support, taking into account any representations made and, in the case of financial support, the decision should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any of the financial support already paid. Notice of the decision must then be sent to the person concerned with reasons and, where appropriate, a copy of the revised plan.

Where there is an urgent need for support, the support can be provided before a Plan is drawn up but the above procedure should then be followed as soon as possible.

Post-Placement Requests

New requests for assessments for adoption support services should be made via the Adoption and Permanence Support Helpdesk.

9. Financial Support

9.1 Introduction

Financial support is intended to supplement existing means of support available to adoptive parents and the child or children being adopted. 

Adopters must be given advice of entitlements to employees' rights to leave and pay, benefits, tax credits and allowances, and these should be taken into account when considering amounts of financial support.

9.2 Criteria

The circumstances in which provision of financial support may be paid are as follows:

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child’s condition is serious and long-term;
  3. Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home;
  4. Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others
  5. Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute towards expenditure on legal costs, including Court fees (in cases where the adoption is supported by the local authority). N.B. Court fees should be paid by the local authority. See also Guidance for Parents and Carers on Circumstances where the Local Authority will help with Legal Costs.
  6. Expenses associated with the child’s introduction to adoptive parents or, such as travel and overnight accommodation are not means tested.
  7. Settling in grants may be considered in cases such as where two or more children are being placed together, or where a child has special needs and special equipment needs to be purchased, and or there is a need for adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport). 

9.3 Types of Payment

Payment to adoptive parents may be made in the following ways:

  • Regular payments - which will be based upon the developmental age of the child and calculated as agreed from time to time by the borough;
  • Lump sum payments (settling in costs, special needs and adaptations), which will cover items or adaptations that are required as a consequence of assessment of each child’s individuals needs. Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the borough;
  • Payments in special circumstances (for example, a child with additional needs or where foster carers adopt a child for whom they are already caring or where adopters incur legal expenses in contested cases). Payment may be in instalments and may end at a time specified by the borough.

Financial support cannot generally include the “reward” element which may be payable to foster carers and neither will payments be made so as to provide an income. However, payments may be paid above the usual level where it is regarded as necessary to ease the transition from foster care to adoption. Generally such additional payments can be paid for a period of two years although in exceptional circumstances, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.

9.4 Assessment for Financial Support

Where regular financial support is considered appropriate under Section 8.2 i.) to iv.) above, the amount to be paid to adoptive parents will be determined by an assessment of their means. This will take account of the adopters’ income and resources (excluding their home), reasonable outgoings and commitments, and the financial needs and resources of the child. (N.B. Support provided under Section 8.2 v. will not be subject to an assessment of means). 

As part of this assessment, the adopters should be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form and the completed form should be forwarded to the Finance Department. (The Financial Assessment Form can be found by going to the Forms Index). The Adoption Team Manager, in consultation with the Family Placement Service Manager, will decide the level of support to be included in the draft Adoption Support Plan (see Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan), having regard to this assessment.

In relation to proposed financial support for a new placement, the Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption and Permanency Panel with the Adoption Placement Report when a matching recommendation is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

9.5 Notification

The child’s social worker will arrange to send the adopters written notification of the decision to provide financial support and any changes in support, subject to their agreement to the terms and conditions (see 8.6 and 8.7 below). This includes the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews. (A standard letter and form of undertaking are available).

9.6 Terms and Conditions

If it is decided that financial support should be given to adoptive parents, payment may be subject to conditions and a date specified by which the condition is to be met.

Prior to making financial support available to prospective or adoptive parents, they will be required to sign a written undertaking to inform the local authority:

  1. Of changes to their home address;
  2. If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them;
  3. If there are any changes to their financial situation or the resources of the child.

Where information is given orally, adoptive parents must confirm this in writing within 7 days.

Should adoptive parents fail to comply with the requirements, the authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.

9.7 Annual review of support

Adoptive parents must also agree to complete and supply the authority with an annual statement of their circumstances for the annual review. This will be done by completion of a Financial Assessment Form sent out to them by the finance department.

The adopters should specify the following in the statement:

  1. Their financial circumstances;
  2. The financial needs and resources of the child or children;
  3. Their home address and whether or not the child or children live at home with them;
  4. If there have been any changes to their own or the child/children’s circumstances.

Any proposed significant variation or termination of the financial support must have the approval of the Adoption Team Manager in consultation with the Family Placement Service Manager and be notified to the person(s) concerned in accordance with the procedure set out in Section 7, The Adoption Support Plan. Where appropriate, the Adoption Team Manager will consult with the link social worker or the adoption support social worker.

Should adoptive parents fail to supply an annual statement, the authority must send a written reminder and give 28 days to comply. If they fail to comply, the authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.

9.8 Remuneration for former foster parents

Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child’s foster parent, the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of two years from the date of the adoption order. This can continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional. The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the adoption order.

9.9 Ending of financial support

Financial support will end in the following circumstances:

  • When a child reaches age 18, unless he/she continues in full time education or training when support may continue until the end of the course of education or training being undertaken, subject to any other financial support the child may be entitled to receive;
  • Where a child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment;
  • Where a child qualifies for income support or job seekers allowance in his/her own right;
  • Where circumstances have changed significantly and the criteria are no longer met;
  • If a child leaves the adoptive home and this is regarded as a permanent departure. Temporary absences do not apply, e.g. boarding school, hospital, and respite care;
  • The child dies.

10. Birth Relative Support After Adoption

For birth relative support pre-adoption please refer to Placement for Adoption Procedure, Independent Counselling and Support for Birth Relatives.

As indicated above, under the Adoption Support Regulations, birth relatives are entitled to an assessment of their support needs after the child is adopted as well as during the adoption proceedings.

Requests for birth relative support after the child is adopted are likely to come to the Adoption and Permanence Support Helpdesk or sometimes to the Letterbox Service or the Birth Relative Support Worker.

Some issues raised post-adoption may require mediation or support for both the adoptive family and the birth family. The initial request should be recorded on the FWi file of the party requesting the support. Relevant information should be copied to the child's FWi file taking care to protect confidentiality.

Any of the Adoption Support staff, including the Birth Relative Support Worker, can take these referrals and may work with either or both parties. In complex situations and where there is a clear conflict of interest, consideration should be given to separate workers for the birth and adoptive families.