Charity urges extension of adoption support to special guardians

Joe Lepper
Friday, May 1, 2015

Support services for children who have been adopted must be extended to those placed with families under special guardianship orders, a charity has said.

From today (1 May) adoptive families will be able to access specialist therapeutic services to help children settle into adoption placements through the government’s £19.3m Adoption Support Fund.

It is estimated that the fund could provide support for in the region of 3,000 families who have adopted children, but there is concern that families who take on children through similar arrangements – special guardianship orders (SGOs) – are not eligible for the same kind of support.

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), which is playing a part supporting councils to access the fund on behalf of families, says special guardians need additional support as well.

BAAF's head of policy, research and development, John Simmonds, said: “There still isn’t funding available for these children to access therapeutic services yet they have often experienced similar trauma to those adopted from care.”

The use of SGOs, an order made by a court under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 which gives legal status for non-parents, meaning a child or a young person can live with them permanently, has rocketed in recent years.

A total of 3,330 SGOs were issued between April 2013 and March 2014, compared with 1,290 in 2010.

BAAF is also calling for the fund to be made available to families that adopt internationally.

Bernie Stringer, BAAF therapeutic services manager, said: “For a long time now we have been saying that legal status does not determine need.

“This fund needs to be inclusive to all children that cannot return home and are involved in permanent care arrangements.”

In the absence of access to the Adoption Support Fund, families with an SGO will continue to have to rely on council funding to access therapeutic support, she added.

Leading up to the launch of the Adoption Support Fund, concerns have been raised that the marketplace for services is underdeveloped.

Both Adoption UK and The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (Tact) have acknowledged that work needs to be done to improve the range of services on offer.

Last May Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK, described the provision of support services as "patchy".

In November last year the chief executive Tact, Andy Elvin, said there was "very little by way of evidence-tested and robust post-adoption support".

BAAF has said it is looking to address this by creating a national network of therapists that families can access.

So far around 25 independent therapists have been signed up through a recruitment drive.

Stringer says there is a particular shortage of therapists in the North of England and is urging therapists wanting to support children who have been adopted to come forward.

She said: “We want to grow that number. We would particularly like to recruit therapists from north of the Midlands. The majority of our applications have come from the Midlands and the South.

The Adoption Support Fund was first announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2013 as part of a range of measures unveiled by the coalition government in an attempt to improve the adoption system.

Hugh Thornberry said Adoption UK will monitor the roll out the adoption the initiative and listen to feedback from parents.

“The fund is a huge step in the right direction towards ensuring that families get the help they need to parent vulnerable children,” he said.

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