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Guidance on Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

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THE ADOPTION SUPPORT SERVICES AND ALLOWANCES (SCOTLAND) REGULATIONS 2009

PART II: ADOPTION SUPPORT SERVICES

Planning

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 broadens the range of services and duties of local authorities to provide support in both domestic and foreign adoptions. The legislation requires the local authority to prepare and publish a plan for the provision of the adoption service in its area. An adoption service is defined in section 1(4) of the 2007 Act and clearly includes adoption support services. One of the values of the plan for adoption services is the requirement for the local authority to consult both the Health Board(s) and any voluntary organisation which either represents the interests of those likely to use the adoption service or may provide services in the area. Just as good inter-agency and multi-disciplinary working is important in other parts of the Children's Services Plans, so will it be an active part of adoption support services. The local authority plan will also reflect both the social work and education responsibilities in this area. Although the legislation refers specifically to the requirement to consult certain bodies and organisations, it is expected that this will also include efforts to obtain the views of the consumers of adoption support services, whether or not there is a particular voluntary organisation in the local authority area.

In preparing this part of the adoption services plan, local authorities should consider all the persons listed in section 1(3) of the 2007 Act in relation to the nature of the services they might seek and what should appropriately be available. In particular, the adoption support service needs to think about both those members of a 'relevant family' as defined in regulation 45(7) who can seek assessment for an adoption support plan, and the wider range of people with adoption related issues who may require certain services. In shaping this part of their adoption services plan, therefore, it will be helpful to look at i) the range and nature of resources required following the preparation of support plans for members of relevant families and ii) the provision of adoption support services to others in section 1(3) who request an assessment under section 9 of the 2007 Act.

i) A 'relevant family' as defined in regulation 45(7) means one including a child who is placed for adoption or has been adopted, where a child in this legislation means under the age of 18; the person or persons with whom the child has been placed for adoption or who have adopted the child and any other children in the household. Much of the concern about placing support services within a sound legal framework which is properly recognised and resourced, stems from the growing understanding of the needs of looked after children who are then adopted from the care system. Without significant investment in supporting the new adoptive family, adoption on its own cannot repair the damage of earlier neglect, trauma and abuse. Infants placed comparatively early may bring a legacy of pre-birth damage or injury to the foetus or have genetic or other developmental challenges and all will have experienced separation. All new parents will need to learn and adapt as their child grows but there is clear evidence that many adoptive parents will meet parenting challenges beyond the range of universal services for children and families. The regulations do not define the full range of adoption support services that may be required for these families and this is where a focussed consideration of these services within the local authority plan for adoption services in general will be important.

ii) Other persons listed in section 1(3) of the 2007 Act, who are not members of a relevant family, include - adults who have been adopted; birth parents, siblings and other members of the birth family of children who were subsequently adopted; other people who before the placement of the child, treated the child as their child including guardians; persons who are considering adopting a child and the very broad category of other persons affected by an adoption or the placing or proposed placing of a child for adoption. For some of these persons, there are already well established services especially in relation to tracing and the use of the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland operated by Birthlink. Other needs may be less well recognised or may not be consistently monitored. An adoption support plan may help all the members of a 'relevant family' in managing post-adoption contact, but birth parents, siblings and other relatives may have an equivalent support need. The growth in the understanding of genetics may bring up new dilemmas when children and their birth parents are legally separated by adoption. Other adult services such as mental health, criminal justice or substance misuse services may identify an adoption issue as part of a person's counselling needs that are not specifically about tracing and where adoption may not be the sole factor. People who are involuntarily childless may be at an interim point between fertility treatment and debating whether or not to consider adoption.

The local authority plans under section 4 of the 2007 Act are the first stage in developing robust adoption support services for both the groupings above. Where this has not already been completed, the first step should be an audit by each local authority of the demand for adoption support services in their area and the extent of the services that are currently available either directly from the LA, from other professional services or through the independent sector. Based on this, the adoption plan should contain proposals for addressing any gaps in available services; identify a central point and an identified person within the authority to gather together information about the development of services and monitor progress and should also establish a timescale for reviewing the plan.

The value of the requirement to consult with Health Boards and voluntary organisations about these plans is clear when considering the issues indicated above. Where looked after children are subsequently adopted they will already have had a Child's Plan which is likely to have included carefully negotiated multi-agency working. The growing body of research on children adopted from the care system indicates that a large number of the challenges come under the heading of emotional, social and behavioural issues. Supporting adoptive parents in handling these is likely to need co-ordinated input from health, education and social work services alongside other therapeutic interventions. The GIRFEC model of the Child's Plan provides a useful framework for considering adoption support plans. Just as services need to work together to support vulnerable children before they become looked after, so too this support should continue when they are no longer looked after because they have been adopted. In areas where the specific GIRFEC model has not been established, there will still be a need to discuss with health and education services their role within their Children's Services Plan. The new legislation provides the opportunity to include adoption support services in this discussion. This will also offer the opportunity to highlight both the similarities and the differences in providing certain services as part of adoption support services.

Many of the children adopted now will have a very similar legacy from their early experiences, such as parental substance abuse pre-birth, neglect, abuse or trauma, as children who remain with foster carers. On the other hand, both legally and emotionally, adoptive parents may see themselves very differently from either birth parents of the child or agency foster carers and are most likely to engage with services which are sensitive to their role - and to their hopes and expectations. For adults who are not members of a relevant family but have adoption related needs, there is frequently an interface with other parts of the local authority, services such as Health Boards or voluntary organisations. Adoption support plans need to identify these points of connection and find the most effective means of communicating. (Hyperlink to ADSW protocol (currently in draft form)).

Assessment

Regulation 5 of the regulations concerns requests for an assessment or reassessment and regulations 6 and 7, the procedures for this. Regulation 5(1) indicates that where a person falling within section 9(1) of the 2007 Act requests an assessment, this may be adequately assessed by reference only to a particular service. This is where the clarity of the local authority audit of requests and services will be helpful. For some of the persons listed in section 1(3) of the Act, their entitlement to an assessment is covered in other parts of the regulations and guidance. This particularly relates to the services for assessing the needs of children who may be adopted and the assessment of those who may adopt a child. Specifically in relation to adoption support services, there are additional details in regulations relating to relevant families requesting assessment for an Adoption Support Services plan and for Adoption Allowances which are covered separately in this guidance. Local authority adoption support plans also need to consider the additional services not covered by these particular assessments and services. The two main groups here are adults who have been adopted and the whole range of birth parents, other birth family members, especially siblings not placed with an adopted child and guardians or other individuals who, prior to the adoption, treated the child as their own. Agency guidelines should address at what point and to what extent these situations require an assessment. Many of these start initially as a request for information - for example when individuals seek details of tracing services and the use of an adoption contact register. Once people have this they may become aware of further aspects of a support service that they wish to access but which has more restricted availability or is not available in their area. This may be about a need for counselling on an adoption issue; support groups where they may meet others in their situation or action they wish the agency to take on their behalf about contacting another party in their particular adoption triangle. This is where a request for information may become a request for an assessment of a need for a service.

Regulation 6(1) lists a number of considerations in carrying out an assessment but recognises that the agency should have regard to those that are 'relevant to the assessment'. For a number of the requests it may be adequate to record sufficient information to establish under regulation 6(1)(a) 'the needs of the person being assessed and how these might be met'. Agency procedures may include guidelines and/or a brief pro forma for accessing specific services which will include an element of assessing eligibility of the person and the appropriateness of the service to the enquirers needs. The requirement in regulation 5 is to start an assessment as soon as practicable and no later than four weeks from receiving the request. The effectiveness of this level of assessment and service provision relates to the quality of the bank of information held by the local authority or other agency acting on their behalf, the skill and training of the person in a position of receiving and responding to such requests and the ease with which individuals requiring an adoption support service can be directed to an appropriate source.

This is a very different aspect of providing an adoption support service from that of responding to the challenge of helping struggling adoptive parents and damaged needy children build healthy functioning families. While there are now a number of well established services for those separated by adoption, they frequently started up to manage the growing numbers of adults who were relinquished for adoption as babies many years ago who wished to trace birth family members, and birth parents - usually mothers - who desperately wanted to know how their adopted child fared. As well as expanding in response to growing demand numerically these services are also now faced with many more dilemmas given the more complex children who have been placed now over many years. Examples include young adults with vulnerable lifestyles who have been through the care system and want to see a younger sibling who has been adopted - perhaps by adopters who are resistant to getting involved; angry adopted adults who want to deal with that anger by facing the birth parent who 'failed' them; adults recently diagnosed with a genetic condition and have come face to face with the implications of the biological separation of adoption; birth parents who may be chronically or terminally ill. These sorts of situations will fall outside the provisions of section 45 of the 2007 Act to make an adoption support plan although they may in some cases also have implications for an adoptive family who already have an adoption plan in their own right. Realistic planning needs to monitor and take into account the demand for all forms of adoption support services and the complexity of that, not just where there is an agreed adoption support plan.

Making support plans

There are three main points at which adoption agencies need to consider the possibility of an adoption support plan. These are

  • at the point of matching
  • when the adoption order is granted
  • when the adopters approach the agency after an adoption seeking support that goes beyond general advice and information.

At the point of matching

While there is no requirement to present an adoption support plan to the panel which is considering the match between a child and a particular family, there is an assumption that support will be available and the preparation and assessment prior to approval will have established that expectation. It will be good practice to be explicit with adopters at this point about the agency view of the importance of planned support alongside the family's own identified support network. The Adoption Agencies (Scotland) Regulations 2009 do provide a basic requirement in regulation 25 about visits to the child to ensure their welfare. Where children are being placed on a fostering basis with a view to adoption, the prospective adopters will be asked to sign a Foster Carer Agreement which has, as its first item the agreement that support and training will be given to the foster carers. Adopters embarking on a placement need equal assurance of the support that will be offered to them. Where agencies have a structured co-ordination process to oversee the introduction of a child to the family, the details may be clarified in that setting and will cover

  • the transfer of any existing support for the child as identified in the Child's Plan
  • additional support to the child and family during the transition period
  • the frequency of visits by the family's support worker
  • any agreed financial support
  • tasks to be completed by the agency prior to the granting of the adoption order
  • interim and long-term arrangements about any contact with birth family members and former foster carers, either direct or indirect
  • the right of the adopters to request an assessment for an adoption support plan.

Where there are known elements that will require ongoing adoption agency involvement after the granting of an adoption order, an adoption plan should be formally considered at this point to provide an agreed contract about how these will operate. This will be the case where an adoption allowance was agreed at the time of the match and/or where part of the matching considerations was the need for post adoption contact. In addition, some adopters may be aware of extra therapeutic support being provided for the child while in foster care and will want assurance that this will continue to be available and funded in the future.

When the adoption order is granted

This is the point when the adopters' choice comes to the fore. One of the positives for a child in thinking about adoption is that it takes them out of the care system and normalises their family experience. Equally, adopters often welcome the sense of being in control of their family life. Whether they will seek assessment for an adoption plan may depend on the timing of the petition to adopt and what this signifies for all parties. Many adopters may recognise the issues that lie ahead but want a period of time to concentrate on consolidating the family unit. A formal agreement on allowances or contact may be necessary but the need for any other support services may not be a priority. If the child has any additional support needs, the adopters may be full of energy to take responsibility for negotiating with other services such as education and health themselves. For other adopters, their ability to contemplate legally adopting a child or children may depend on reassurance of ongoing support. There may not have been a honeymoon period or it may have come to an end. As the child has built trust in their adoptive parents they may be starting to disclose the depth of former trauma or abuse. The adopters may be becoming aware of the reality of the impact of all the aspects of adoption that were highlighted during preparation and assessment.

At the point when the adoption order is due to be granted, therefore, the agency should explicitly address the possibility of an adoption support plan if this has not already been considered. Where adopters do not identify a need for such a plan, they should be given information in writing about their right to seek this support in the future. The tone of this will be important in establishing both their entitlement to support and also the understanding of the needs that could arise. In practical terms, there should be clear understanding about how the agency and the adopters will keep in touch and also who will be responsible for providing a service if they move.

Obtaining support post-adoption

All current prospective adopters should receive information about their right to request an assessment. Any adopters with whom the agency has contact who have completed the legal adoption and who qualify as a 'relevant family' should also receive this information. Once a local authority has procedures in place for assessing adoption support needs and has audited their adoption support services they should consider, as part of their adoption services plan, how they will inform families of this provision.

Nature of adoption support services

The 2007 Act lists in section 1(5) as the meaning of adoption support services the provision of counselling, guidance and 'any other assistance in relation to the adoption process that the local authority providing an adoption service in a particular case considers appropriate in the circumstances of that case'. The regulations provide more details about use of adoption allowances and the range of financial support that may be made available but does not further define the nature of services that may be considered. This allows scope on one hand for creativity in developing services but carries the risk of patchy development across Scotland and a lack of clarity about what adopters can expect. The APRG phase II report suggested that other services could be identified in regulations. At this stage this has not been included but the suggested options provide a foundation for defining more clearly the range of services that should be available across Scotland. The following list is drawn from the further support services in the English Adoption Support Regulations 2005

  • support to groups of adopted children, adopters and birth children
  • assistance, including mediation, in arrangements for contact between adopted children and their birth parents, siblings and other relatives
  • services to meet the therapeutic needs of adopted children
  • assistance to adopters such as training to meet special needs and respite care
  • mediation and other services if there is a disruption in an adoption placement, or risk of one.

This provides a suggested starting point for developing a robust range of services across Scotland. Any such articulation of a range of services required should reflect the support needs of relevant families. In making an assessment, the five key areas to bear in mind are

  • the child's needs
  • the adoptive parent's needs
  • the impact on the family as a unit including other children
  • integrating knowledge of the child's background and heritage including contact
  • financial needs.

Responding to a request for an assessment

The four main steps to consider are

  • the initial response
  • notice of the proposed plan
  • notification of a decision
  • reassessment and reviews.

Initial response

The initial approach may be a formal request for an assessment or may start off as a cry for help. The legislation makes it clear that where a support service is required immediately, this can be provided without an assessment. If a family is in crisis they may need an emergency intervention, but it is important to establish as quickly as possible a timescale for starting a fuller assessment of the situation. The regulations indicate that an assessment should start as soon as possible and within four weeks of a request. In urgent situations an assessment should begin as soon as an intervention is required. The aim should be to complete an assessment within three months and where the assessment is for a particular service with its own criteria, it may be much less.

Regulation 6 lays out the considerations in making an assessment and what the local authority must do. The local authority should explain clearly how they will carry this out. Points to consider include

  • The intention of this part of the legislation is to provide much more robust adoption support services to reduce the risk to some of the more challenging placements. The hope is that a speedy and informed response will enable a placement in crisis to continue. If it is clear that stress is at a level where the adopters and child need a break from each other, the first consideration, as for any other child, would be to consider the child's kinship network in their adoptive family. Where accommodation by the local authority is needed thought needs to be given to how to arrange this. If the adoption has not been completed, the adoption/family placement team will be working alongside the child's social worker. If the adoption has been completed the adopters are likely to see the adoption support worker as their point of contact. While in practice it may be necessary for the child to become looked after again, the structures that go along with that, the service should be sensitive to the adoption dimension and a social worker who is knowledgeable about adoption involved from the outset both in the early intervention and any subsequent assessment.

'The regulations do not address the possibility of disruption but given the known risk factors in some placements, agency procedures should include guidelines for handling these situations. There are three major areas to cover - the role of the local authority; the legal status of the child and the integration of research and understanding of the concept of adoption at all stages for all parties in the adoption triangle - the adopted child, the adopters and the birth parents. This should be explicit when the point is reached when an adoption moves from being in crisis to being identified as a 'disruption'. This will include timing for holding a disruption meeting to look at the various contributory factors to the disruption and the planning forum to explore the way forward.

Where the child has not yet been adopted, the child is still looked after and the local authority responsibility is clear. At that point, the birth parents may or may not still retain parental responsibilities and rights depending on the legal route. Once the adoption is completed then the adopters are legally the child's parents, the local authority role may change from providing a post-adoption support service to considering looking after the child again and all the structures and requirements that go with that. Underlying that is the professional task of considering the three sides of the adoption triangle from the prospective of a disrupted adoption. This requires careful assessment by workers aware of the adoption dimensions. Before a child is legally adopted, both child and prospective adopters may have already made a huge investment in this family which will continue to need to be acknowledged and recognised on ongoing work. Legal adoption is regarded as a key step in consolidating the adoptive family but if it subsequently disrupts, attention may shift back to unresolved feelings about the birth family. This does not mean that the child's legal membership of their adoptive family ends and an ongoing task for many adopted people is making sense of their place in two families. This is likely to alter over time. One of the risks of failure to continue to recognise actively all the important relationships in the child's life both within their birth and adoptive network is that they may end up with little or no place in any family network. Whether or not there has been ongoing contact with birth family members the child will also be part of that family history. This requires sensitive consideration of when and how to share with birth family members subsequent events within the adoptive family, such as a disruption or occasionally the death of a child.

Where an adoption has disrupted, there needs to be careful consideration first of whether sharing such information could lead to any re-involvement of the birth family. Local authorities should be aware of the change in legislation in the 2007 Act which no longer bars birth parents who have lost all their responsibilities and rights through adoption from returning to court under section 11 of the 1995 Act seeking contact. They are required, however, to seek the leave of the court to do so and need to establish good reasons.

  • Regulation 4 establishes the responsibility of a local authority for adoption support services for a child, his/her birth parents, the adoptive parents and any other children in the adoptive family for a period of three years or until the child reaches 18, including if they reside outside the local authority area. This is, of course, in addition to the needs of children and their adoptive families who remain in the one local authority area. Depending on distance and established communications, adopters requesting an assessment may approach the local authority which placed their child, the adoption agency who assessed, approved and supported them, if different, or other local adoption services if they have moved since the child was placed or adopted. In any situation where more than one agency is involved, there should be clarification of the separate issues of who holds responsibility for financial provision for services and who will carry out the necessary work. This calls for good communication which keeps the needs of the adoptive family at the centre and also appropriate sharing of information. Where a local authority has placed a child outwith their home area they will have already have notified the adopters' home local authority. Some discussion may have already taken place about any post-placement or post-adoption services. This is likely to have included information about what is available locally to meet the needs of a particular family and who will meet any financial costs. Any requests for an assessment for further adoption support services should build on this. Regulation 4 also includes the proviso that a local authority can provide an adoption support service to persons outside their area after three years if it considers it appropriate to do so. This regulation puts in place the recommendation in the APRG report that 'in general, a local authority placing a child for adoption should retain responsibility for providing adoption support services to the child and the adoptive family for three years after the adoption order, after which point, if the adopted person is under 18 years of age, the responsibility would become the responsibility of the local authority where the adopted person and family lives'. This covers all dimensions of the support service including adoption allowances and contact. These raise particular issues that need to be negotiated as the implications will often stretch well beyond the three year period. The availability of an adoption allowance may be an important factor in a particular match and adopters need to know that a change in the responsible authority will not affect their eligibility for an allowance or significantly alter the amount. In making contact arrangements, these may be anticipated as lasting for a number of years and experience of managing such arrangements indicates the need for support for all parties. A child and his/her adopters may move but the birth parents and other relatives, including siblings, may remain within the placing authority's area. This again calls for good inter-agency working rather than a clear cut transfer of all responsibility.
  • Section 45 of the 2007 Act details a number of other areas to which staff undertaking an assessment should pay attention. Agency procedures should include a framework for ensuring that all the information in both legislation and regulations is covered. It should be clarified at the outset whether there is agreement to prepare one single support plan in respect of all members of a relevant family rather than individual plans for each member. This requires the consent of all family members aged 12 or over.
  • Part 1 of the support regulations includes the requirements on sending notices to children and alerts authorities to the position of children aged 12 and over. Agencies need to be sensitive to young people from the age of 12 who seek a service in confidence.
  • There is a growing understanding of the impact on carers of secondary traumatic stress and the difficulty carers may experience in recognising and talking about this. Seeking an assessment for adoption support services can be even more difficult for adopters than foster carers as they may be approaching social workers they do not know or be returning after a long gap when their last contact with the adoption agency had been when everything was going well. Initial presentation needs to be understood in the context of any former assessments.
  • The procedure in regulation 6 draws specific attention to the requirement to consult with the Health Board where they consider that the person may require services from the Board. This should be in the context of ongoing discussion with the Health Board and any other relevant services about the provision of therapeutic services for children in adoptive families.
  • Regulations 6 and 7 about the procedure for assessment and reassessment are in general terms about the need for adoption support services. The next stages of notice of the proposal to provide services and notification of decisions bring in a significant number of references to adoption allowances. Factors that are specific to Adoption Allowances will be covered separately in this guidance.

Notice of the proposed plan

The final stage of any assessment will be the written report which should be shared with the person(s) who requested the assessment and in line with any agreement on whether or not it is a single plan for the whole relevant family. This should include the assessment of the need for support services; whether or not as a result the local authority proposes to provide adoption support services; and if so, what these are. This notice should be accompanied by a draft support plan. Local authority procedures should include the timescales and process for making representations and how any decision will be reached.

Regulation 8 requires that no less than two weeks should be allowed for representations. The person(s) seeking support should be encouraged to give a clear response to the proposed plan by either indicating they are satisfied or making further comment on what they would hope to see or where they disagree. Some elements of an adoption support plan may be clearly defined, for example the regulations require the local authority to lay out the basis for determining adoption allowances and any conditions. Other services are evolving and developing and are not available across Scotland. There are, for example, a growing number of different therapeutic interventions that may be suggested for children or as a basis for working with families. These include

  • play therapy
  • art, music or drama therapy
  • psychotherapy
  • cognitive behavioural techniques
  • brief interventions
  • family therapy
  • training and consultation for adopters.

During this period of notice of the proposals there may need to be some debate about the range of options considered and offered by the local authority and the views of the person(s) seeking the service. The likely starting point for the local authority in considering a support plan will be their knowledge of the services available within reasonable reach of the adoptive family. Adopters frequently make their own enquiries about options and may wish to suggest alternatives that they consider more likely to meet their assessed needs. The broad wording in regulation 10(2)(a) offers the possibility of adopters establishing a need for an adoption allowance to fund a particular therapeutic intervention 'where it is necessary to ensure that the adoptive parent can look after the adoptive child'. Regulation 12 allows local authorities to make a single payment or payments by instalments as opposed to an ongoing periodic allowance in order to provide a flexible response.

A satisfactory and workable adoption support plan is most likely to be achieved when there has been sufficient time for all parties to discuss the implications fully and also where the adoptive family feel their needs are recognised and there is no unnecessary delay. The timescales should therefore include both the regulatory minimum of two weeks and also a maximum time of six weeks for making representations and within which a decision should be made.

Each local authority should have an identified person as the Agency Decision Maker on adoption support plans who may be the person who acts as Agency Decision Maker for the adoption panel. The agency can decide whether and in what circumstances they would wish to involve the panel in consideration of adoption support plans. The Agency Decision Maker will be assisted in the process if Adoption Support Plans form part of the matching considerations at panel. The agency will need to make budgetary provision for adoption support plans which should be monitored by the Agency Decision Maker and reflected in the local authority review of adoption plans.

Notification of a decision

As noted above, local authority procedures should cover the mechanism and timescales for making decisions on Adoption Support Plans after completion of the period for making representations. All members of a relevant family who have agreed to the assessment for an Adoption Support Plans should have written notice of the agreed plan. This includes a child aged 12 and over unless, in the opinion of the local authority or registered adoption service, the child 'is not of sufficient age and understanding for it to be appropriate to give that child such notice'. This point should be an explicit part of the assessment for an Adoption Support Plans. The assumption should be that a child aged 12 or over should be fully involved unless there are identified contra indications which must be recorded. One of the skills in approaching these assessments is likely to be about finding ways of opening up communication in families about painful and difficult areas when family members are feeling vulnerable. This is a familiar area of social work and part of good practice when children are looked after. These children are not looked after and many will have been placed a number of years ago as young children. Their adoptive parents will have spent some time focusing on building trust and confidence in their ability to manage their family functioning themselves so that discussion about notices and notifications under these regulations should not be seen as a formality but as an opportunity for openness about the need for a support plan and the benefits for its effectiveness if all parties are fully engaged.

The notification of the decision should be accompanied by the final version of the Adoption Support Plans. Particular attention should be paid to situations where the final plan differs from the draft plan and demonstrate how any representations by the person requesting the assessment were taken into account.

Reassessment and reviews

The procedure for reassessment of Adoption Support Plans is contained in regulation 7. The provision for reviews is in sections 47 and 48 of the 2007 Act. Local authorities must review all Adoption Support Plans from time to time and whenever they become aware of a change in the circumstances of a relevant member. A member of a relevant family may request a review if they believe that the local authority is not complying with any of their obligations under an Adoption Support Plans, although there is a requirement that where the relevant member is not an adopter or prospective adopter they have to be capable of understanding the need for services. Local authority procedures should indicate frequency of reviews and how these will be done. One possible starting point for this could be what is already in place for reviewing adoption allowances. Some Adoption Support Plans will include adoption allowances and reviews of these and any other adoption services should be considered as a whole. Normally, these would be done annually unless there was a change of circumstances in the interim. Other more specific services may be about a period of therapeutic work and the review period may be more directly related to the particular service so that all parties can review the effectiveness of the service and decide whether a particular programme or intervention is complete.

A distinction should be made in agency procedures between a process for reviewing ongoing Adoption Support Plans and making any necessary variations to those and times when either the local authority considers a reassessment is required or a member of a relevant family requests a reassessment. Basically, a review will accept the original assessment of needs but may consider adjustments to the Adoption Support Plan which was subsequently drawn up. A reassessment will be required when any party to the plan considers that needs have changed or additional needs have emerged that were not taken into consideration when the original Adoption Support Plan was concluded.

Procedures

The procedure for reassessment in regulation 7 is very similar to the assessment procedure for an Adoption Support Plan in regulation 6. In most instances it should be possible to start with the original assessment and discuss

  • the circumstances leading to the need for a reassessment
  • the areas where fresh information is required
  • the points where any member of a relevant family considers that the original assessment should be readdressed
  • whether there are any other persons or bodies who should be consulted who were not included in the original assessment
  • an update of any other consultations where relevant such as the Health Board
  • the implications of the child's current developmental stage and the change in needs arising from that.

For reviews, agency procedures may make different provisions depending on the nature of the Adoption Support Plans. There are three broad areas

1) The local authority will have a full range of discrete procedures surrounding their adoption allowances scheme, including reviews and confirmation of ongoing need for financial support.

2) Post-adoption contact arrangements should be negotiated before the completion of the adoption and have been originally featured as part of the matching considerations. This should include the extent to which all parties agree to their part in the arrangements and how this will be supported and monitored. Review requirements should be written into any agreement or contract made at the time.

3) Where Adoption Support Plans are primarily about counselling, guidance or therapeutic input, much of this is likely to be face to face and in ongoing discussion with the adopters and other family members. Review procedures should be consistent with that approach and reflect an agreed frequency for all parties to sit down together and take stock of progress.