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7.2.5 Adoption Support

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

The Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopters

Statutory Guidance on Adoption: For local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support agencies (July 2013)

Adoption Support Fund (ASF)

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised in September 2019 to reflect that Adopt Thames Valley (ATV) Regional Adoption Agency provide Swindon’s Adoption Services.


Contents

  1. What is Adoption Support?
  2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support
  3. Examples of Adoption Support
  4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
  5. The Adoption Support Plan
  6. Financial Support


1. What is Adoption Support?

Adoption Support includes any support likely to be required in order 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. Since December 2017, Swindon Borough Council’s adoption services have been provided through Adopt Thames Valley Regional Adoption Agency, a service shared across seven local authorities.

Further Information can be found at Adopt Thames Valley.


2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support

Under 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 they wish 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);
  • Any parent of an adopted child who requires adoption support (whether financial or advice), guidance and/or therapeutic intervention.

When a person requests information about a specific service, the local authority must ask whether they would also like to receive information about other adoption support services that may be available to them.

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 over 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.

Social workers are advised to consult with Adopt Thames Valley prior to discussing post adoption support with potential or prospective adopters.


3. Examples of Adoption Support

Adoption support is defined as including:

  1. Financial support to adopters. This can include paid adoption leave at similar rates to maternity and paternity leave;
  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 around contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  6. Therapeutic services for adopted children;
  7. Assistance to adoptive parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care;
  8. Training to help adopters to meet the needs of their adoptive child;
  9. Assistance to adoptive parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
  10. 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;
  11. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  12. Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure.

Support provided under 4) to 8) above may include cash assistance, for example to pay for a babysitter, although this would not be regarded as financial support.


4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support

4.1 In relation to adoption support pre and post adoption order, practitioners must assess the need for adoption support at all stages of care and permanence planning and must consult with Adopt Thames Valley to ensure that the proposed support plan can be delivered.
4.2

In relation to placements arranged by the agency, adoption support must also always be considered at a child's Adoption Reviews following the adoptive placement.

See Adoption Reviews Procedure.
4.3

Local authorities must also 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. Other 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.
The requirement to assess the need for support is limited to the entitlement to services applicable to the person making the request. When a request is received Adopt Thames Valley will be responsible for undertaking the assessment which may be jointly undertaken with the child’s social work team. Financial responsibility will be retained by Swindon Borough Council.


5. The Adoption Support Plan

Support plans are undertaken pre-order and post-order.

Pre-Order

When a prospective adopter expresses an interest in a child, the child’s social worker will lead on the adoption support plan in consultation with the family finder for ATV. Adoption support is not purely financial but can include universal or targeted service for the child or prospective carer(s) such as health visitor, GP and community paediatric services to address health needs; a speech and language therapist to address developmental delay; a looked after children’s social worker producing a life story book and later in life letter; support from the prospective adopters family in respect of child care; Theraplay (learning therapeutic parenting) commissioned by the child’s social worker through the Adoption Support Fund, Letterbox Services for contact and adopters peer support group.

The offer to the prospective adopters in the support plan must have agreement from those listed as providing support i.e. the child’s social worker cannot assume services will be provided unless they have engaged with the proposed services who confirm they can offer services as named in the support plan.

Post-Order

ATV will undertake an Assessment of Adoption Support Needs and develop the Adoption Support Plan being the lead agency for the adoptive family. ATV are unlikely to deliver all adoption support services but will commission to their approved providers as necessary.

Swindon Borough Council will retain financial responsibility for the child until the age of 18 years of age, All financial support plans will be presented to the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency for consideration. All financial support plans must distinguish between maintenance payments for the child and enhanced payments requested. See Section 6, Financial Support.

Swindon Borough Council will also consider match funding for applications to the Adoption Support Fund upon application from Adopt Thames Valley. All applications for match funding must be agreed by the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency.


6. Financial Support

6.1 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 employee's rights to leave and pay, benefits, tax credits and allowances, and these should be taken into account when considering amounts of financial support.

Swindon Borough Council will be responsible for financial support both pre and post placement order which must be agreed by the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanency. Swindon Borough Council remains responsible for the completion of annual financial reviews in respect of any ongoing allowances agreed.

6.2 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 they have 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), or expenses associated with the child's introduction to adoptive parents or expenditure on accommodating the child (e.g. adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport).

6.3 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 local authority;
  • 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 individual needs. Payment may be in instalments and will end at a time specified by the local authority;
  • 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 local authority.

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 2 years although in exceptional circumstances, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.

6.4 Assessment for Financial Support

The adopters means will be considered when ongoing financial support is being considered. This will take account of the adopter(s) 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 6.3, Types of Payment to assist with legal costs or expenses associated with the child's introduction to the placement will not be subject to an assessment of means.) They will be required to complete a Financial Assessment Form, which, when completed, must be passed to the Finance Officer who will carry out the means tested financial assessment.

Once the means tested financial assessment has been carried out, the Finance Officer will send written notification of the outcome to the child’s social worker. The process to follow in relation to the approval of the financial package being offered to an adopter is:

  1. Responsible social worker to gain agreement from their Team Manager for any enhanced payments following an assessment of need;
  2. Team Manager / Social worker to send the financial assessment completed by the Finance Officer together with the request for Enhanced Payments to the Service Manager, Children Looked After & Permanence;
  3. Service Manager, Children Looked After & Permanence agrees the financial assessment together with Enhanced Payment request or returns to the Team Manager for further work / clarification / evidence of need;
  4. Once approved, the Team Manager / Social Worker will complete the notification letter with details of any Enhanced Payments and write to, or meet with, the adopter setting out the allowance and any Enhanced Payments for their agreement;
  5. Upon receipt of the signed acceptance letter by the Finance Officer, the payments will be set up once the child has either been linked to the adopter or has been matched. The child’s social worker is responsible for notifying the Finance Officer of the date on which payments are to commence.

N.B. It is important to note that without the signed agreement of the adopter accepting SBC’s financial offer, no payments will be made. Once agreed, backdated payments will be made to the adopter.

The financial support package will be explained in two parts:

  1. Allowance for the child linked to the age banded payments made to foster carers;
  2. Enhanced fee payments to include ‘one-off’ payments which could be:
    1. Skills payments for adopters who were previously foster carers which will automatically cease at the end of two years;
    2. Additional needs payments for children with complex needs and/or disabilities;
    3. Any salary / loss of earnings requests which will be time limited;
    4. Any other expenditure which is not included in the child’s allowance.

Exceptional payments such as:

  1. a. Any therapeutic work outside the remit of the Adoption Support Fund complete with costings based on actual costs not estimated costs;
  2. Extension to homes / works to homes;
  3. Purchase / lease of car.

will need to be presented to the Care Panel for approval as this is outside the remit of the Service Manager Children Looked After & Permanence.

The letter sent to the adopter by the Team Manager / Social Worker / ATV family finder will set out the following:

  • Whether financial support is be paid in regular instalments and if so, the frequency of payment;
  • The amount of financial support;
  • The period for which the financial support is to be paid;
  • When payment will commence;
  • Conditions for continuing payment and date by which conditions are to be met, i.e. returning Review Forms;
  • Arrangements and procedure for review and termination.

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

6.5 Notification

The adopters will be sent written confirmation of the decision to provide financial support. This will include the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews.

6.6 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 inform the adoption service:

  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 / 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.

6.7 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.

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.

The Finance Department will carry out an annual review of the financial support, taking into account the information given. Any proposed variation or termination of the financial support must be notified to the person(s) concerned in accordance with the procedure set out above. Any decision to vary or terminate an allowance should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any of the financial support already paid.

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.

Remuneration for former foster parents

Where the prospective adopter(s) previously fostered the child(ren) who they are to adopt, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child(ren)’s foster carer(s), the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of up to two years from the date of the Placement Order. This can in exceptional circumstances continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers this to be appropriate. The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the Placement Order.

6.8 Ending of financial support

Financial support will end in the following circumstances:

  • When a child reaches age 18, unless they continue 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 their 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.

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