Courts At least half of current adoptions are contested although the contest seldom goes in favour of the birth parents
Beacon Council Research - Round 3 Theme Report
The Hadley Centre for Adoption & Foster Care Studies (June 2001)
Anticipated Barriers to Good Practice
The development of effective policies and practices needs to be seen in the context of the great complexity of the task of making decisions on adoption and in recruiting, matching and supporting the new families. The potential barriers outlined below are taken both from research literature and from our brief survey of south-west councils.
Children - There is at present an imbalance between the children needing adoption and the preferences of potential adopters. The children most in need of placements are beyond infancy and even older whilst the majority of applicants are childless couples who want younger children. There are some signs that this is changing with older applicants who have had their own children coming forward as well as applicants who have experience of working with children (Murch and Lowe, 1999).
Murch and Lowe's study (2001) of local councils use of adoption as a placement of choice, showed the child's age to be the main barrier to adoption plans, with children under four the most likely to have adoption as the plan. Gender was also a significant factor, with girls more likely to be placed for adoption than boys, and plans for direct contact with the birth family were also a barrier.
The mis-match between adopters desires and children needing placements will be a problem for local authorities trying to achieve their targets, as will the proposed time scales for placement. Older children are likely to need longer preparation time before they can be moved to a new placement, because of their problems and because of existing attachments. In addition efforts to match black and mixed-parentage children with appropriate parents are likely to create problems for councils with higher proportions of these children to place. Similar issues will arise around sibling placements.
One of the issues for councils will be how the target of 40% relates to their individual circumstances, e.g. one adopted sibling group will have a significant statistical influence on the rates of adoption in a small local council.
Recruiting and using potential adopters Local councils may struggle to recruit the diverse range of adopters they need but may, nevertheless, have conflicting views about interagency working, use of consortia and advertising children, due to the costs of interagency fees, and the lack of guaranteed services for a child placed in a neighbouring council. Conversely a council with more applicants than they require may be loathe to advertise this, because of the fear of increased demand on their post-adoption and other services once children are placed.
In addition, the supply of adopters may be limited by restrictive criteria for applicants or the failure actively to encourage applicants from some section of the population. The assessment and preparation of adopters may not meet the needs of potential applicants, e.g. applicants with disability, applicants who are experienced parents. Small local councils may struggle to provide regular or diverse recruitment campaigns and preparation courses, without joining another agency, or consortia.
The transition from foster carer to adopter is, as yet, limited in the UK. Councils may not encourage foster carers to adopt; as they may fear foster carers will 'by-pass the system' in order to adopt a young child; or because councils do not want to erode their foster care resources. Foster carers themselves may not want to adopt if post-adoption allowances and support are restricted, or not guaranteed.
Social Work Barriers are likely to be caused by lack of time available for assessment, direct work and paper work. More importantly, a lack of experience, training and guidance from an experienced manager, may delay appropriate planning and decision making, or make the conflicts experienced in permanently removing a child from it's birth family too onerous. South West councils were concerned that resources will be inadequate to meet the post-adoption requirements, and to provide birth parents with a separate social worker. Social work vacancies and a shortage of experienced staff were also seen as a problem as were large social work case loads that limited the time for direct work with children. There is currently a lack of training for social work students in permanency planing. The high turnover of staff results in the need to appoint newly qualified staff untrained in this complex work.
Courts At least half of current adoptions are contested although the contest seldom goes in favour of the birth parents. This inevitably causes delays and, indeed, delays may not necessarily be a bad thing if the issues are very complex. Court-based delays may also be caused by lack of available court time, or the courts requiring further re-unification attempts.
Councils A lack of clear policies integrating adoption into the overall children's plan. Budgetary constraints limiting the availability of post adoption services and allowances. There was also concern paradoxically that the needs of children may be overlooked in the struggle to meet targets. The more rural councils will struggle to run regular preparation courses to meet the assessment targets, even when co-operating with other agencies.
Other agencies Barriers may exist that are not directly under the control of the council. E.g. there may be a lack of partner agency time such as waiting lists for pre-adoption medicals.
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