5.3.4 Adoption Support
This chapter was updated in February 2015 and includes a new Section 2, Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support in line with the Children and Families Act 2014.
- What is Adoption Support?
- Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support
- Examples of Adoption Support
- Adoption Support Services Adviser (ASSA)
- When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
- Which Local Authority Should Carry Out the Assessment?
- Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?
- Process of Assessment for Adoption Support
- The Adoption Support Plan
- Financial 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.
Local authorities do not have to provide the services themselves but must have made arrangements for services to be provided by voluntary or other agencies such as Health or Education.
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 (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 the local the web-based information service which provides information about adoption;
- Priority school admissions (where relevant). Details can be found at School Admissions 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 (from September 2014);
- 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.
Adoption support may include:
- Financial support to adopters. This can include paid adoption leave at similar rates to maternity and paternity leave;
- 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;
- Priority admission for school places, including academies and free schools;
- Services to enable groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to adoption;
- Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
- Therapeutic services for adoptive children;
- Assistance to adoptive parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care;
- Assistance to adoptive parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
- 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;
- Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure;
- Assistance with cross boundary matters.
Support provided under 4) to 8) above may include cash assistance, for example to pay for a baby sitter, although this would not be regarded as financial support and therefore not require a financial assessment.
There is no obligation to provide services other than counselling, advice and information for non agency adopted children for example when the child who is/will be adopted is the birth child of the partner of the adoptive parent.
Each adoption agency must appoint an Adoption Support Services Adviser, who must be a person in the adoption agency with sufficient knowledge of and experience in adoption and its effect to give advice and information to anyone affected by adoption.
In Lancashire, the Team Manager, Post Adoption Support is the ASSA and will arrange and provide advice regarding adoption support to people affected by adoption, Children Services Staff and other local Authorities as appropriate. The contact details of the ASSA can be located on the Lancashire County Council website.
Adoption support must also be considered at a child’s Looked After reviews following the adoptive placement.
The requirement to assess the need for support is limited to the entitlement to services of the person making the request.As well as adoptions arranged by the local authority, children adopted from abroad are entitled to be assessed for therapeutic services and disruption support. It is only where the adoption is by a birth parent's partner that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information can be offered as appropriate.
The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of need for adoption support, and in what circumstances.
|Circumstance||Responsibility for Assessment|
|Lancashire Child being Looked After and in respect of whom an adoption plan is being considered.||Lancashire.|
|Lancashire Child placed with or adopted by family living in the county.||Lancashire.|
|Lancashire Child placed with and/or adopted by family living outside the county.||Lancashire has responsibility at the time of the placement and for up to 3 years after the Adoption Order is made, and then the local authority where the adopters reside will have the responsibility in relation to any subsequent requests.|
|A child from outside the county living with adopters in Lancashire.||The placing authority retains responsibility for adoption support services for the first three years after the making of the Adoption Order. Thereafter the responsibility for assessment would be Lancashire's.|
|In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent or partner adoptions).||The local authority where the requester lives must assess.|
The local authority responsible for carrying out the assessment of need should provide support to meet the identified needs.
The local authority where the adoptive child lives may provide the identified service and recover costs from the placing local authority. The placing local authority may request the other local authority's help, where appropriate and reasonable, and the second local authority is required to comply.
The exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or support with contact arrangements have been agreed by Lancashire before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with Lancashire for as long as eligibility for the service continues.
In all cases where an assessment is required, the practitioners involved should conduct assessments by following the guidance set out in the Assessment Framework. The assessment should take account of the adoption context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all the developmental needs of the child should be covered including health, education and emotional needs, and contact issues. The relevant education authority and health trust should be consulted as necessary.
Assessments of need for adoption support under Paragraph 5.1 (a to d) above should be carried out by the child’s social worker and/or the prospective adopters’ social worker as appropriate and, if there are financial implications, have the approval of a senior manager prior to being presented to the Agency Decision Maker or Adoption Panel.
The assessment at the time of the child’s proposed placement with prospective adopters (Paragraph 5.1 (c)) should be considered at the Matching Meeting and have the approval of the Team Manager. If there are financial implications, the relevant Senior Manager's approval is required prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report.
At all stages, the Adoption Panel must consider and may give advice on the proposed adoption support and this advice will be considered by the Agency Decision Maker, before making a final decision on the contents of the Adoption Support Plan see Placement for Adoption Procedure.
Any further assessment considered necessary at an Adoption Child Looked After Review, as a result of which a change in the Adoption Support Plan is required, should be referred to the relevant Team Manager. Any assessment which may have financial implications should be referred to the relevant Senior Manager for approval. For any other variations in the plan the person concerned must be given notice and be allowed time to make representations.
Requests for assessment for adoption support under Paragraph 5.3 will be allocated to a social worker to carry out an assessment, with advice from the Adoption Support Service Advisor as necessary. The assessing social worker will usually need to interview the person being assessed. – where this is a child, the adoptive parents will also need to be interviewed depending on the case and the aged, understanding and wishes of the child.
An assessment will not be required before providing advice and information.
Where an assessment is carried out as a result of a request under paragraph 5.3, a written report of the assessment should be produced and agreed by the Team Manager, Adoption Support.
A copy of the assessment, once approved, should be sent to the person assessed with notice of the outcome of the assessment, which should state:
- The persons assessed needs for support;
- Whether the local authority proposes to provide adoption support services and if so, what the proposed services are;
- 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 10, 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.
Where services are proposed, a draft Adoption Support Plan should usually be attached to the notice and those assessed should be allowed time to consider and make representations on the proposal (see Section 9, 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.
9.1 Contents of Adoption Support Plan
An Adoption Support Plan should set out clearly:
- The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
- The timescales for achieving the plan;
- Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom;
- The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan;
- The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.
The Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Clinical Commissioning Group, CAMHS or education service where any special arrangements may need to be made.
Where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the Adoption Support Services Adviser for 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, how the amount has been calculated, where it is to be paid in installments - 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 10, Financial Support).
9.2 Consultation with Proposed Recipients of Adoption Support
Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the approval of the relevant Team Manager a copy should be sent to the proposed recipients of the support, as well as to any party involved in the delivery of the plan.
The recipients of the proposed support should be given 10 working days to consider the proposals and make representations to the local authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Team Manager or, if there are financial implications, the relevant Senior Manager, who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of the consideration.
9.3 Approval of Adoption Support Plan
In relation to proposed agency adoptive placements, the proposed Adoption Support Plan should then be submitted to the Adoption Panel when a matching recommendation is being considered. The final Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the Agency Decision Maker, taking into account any advice given by the Adoption and Permanence Panel. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.
In relation to other situations in which adoption support is proposed, the Adoption Support Plan can be approved by the Team Manager, Post Adoption Support.
9.4 Distribution of Adoption Support Plan
In all cases 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). Where the plan relates to a child Looked After, a copy should be sent to the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.
9.5 Reviews of Adoption Support Plan
Where adoption support is in place prior to an Adoption Order, 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 if a change in circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority. The Team Manager, Adoption Support will decide on the format and content of any such review, which 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 annual reviews of financial support, see Section 10.7, Reviews).
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, whether before or after an Adoption Order has been made, it is proposed to vary or terminate the support, the proposed change must be referred to the relevant Team Manager for approval. In any case, where the change will involve the authority in additional regular financial costs, the relevant Senior Manager must approve the change and will obtain budgetary approval as necessary depending on the amount.
Once approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposed change, together with a copy of the revised Adoption Support Plan in draft. He or she must then be given 10 working days to make representations on the proposals.
Any such representations should be submitted to the relevant Team Manager for consideration. The decision as to the final contents of the revised Adoption Support Plan should take into account any representations made.
Notice of the decision must then be sent to the person concerned with reasons and, where appropriate, a copy of the revised plan.
9.6 Urgent Case
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.
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 or 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.
The circumstances in which provision of financial support may be paid are as follows:
- Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child, e.g. where the proposed adopters have a pre-existing relationship with the child and could not otherwise afford to adopt;
- 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;
- 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;
- Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others;
- 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).
10.3 Types of Payment
Payment to adoptive parents may be made in the following ways:
- Regular payments - which will be based upon the 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 individuals 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 two years although in exceptional circumstances, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.
10.4 Assessment for Financial Support
Where regular financial support is considered appropriate under Section 10.2, Criteria (i) to (iv) above, the actual amount to be paid to adoptive parents may 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 10.2, Criteria (v) will not be subject to an assessment of means. However, payments in special circumstances may be means tested.
As part of this assessment, the adopters should be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form (Adal 1) and the completed form should be forwarded to the Central Business Support Team, who will send it to the Finance Department to calculate the level of financial support.
The adopters will be sent written notification setting out the decision to provide financial support. This will include the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews.
10.6 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 an Agreement signifying they agree to inform the adoption service of the following:
- Of changes to their home address;
- If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them;
- If there are any changes to their financial situations/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.
All adopters receiving an adoption allowance or periodic payment will be subject to an annual review. The 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:
- Their financial circumstances;
- The financial needs and resources of the child or children;
- Their home address and whether or not the child or children live at home with them;
- If there have been any changes to their own or the child/children’s circumstances.
The adoption service 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 and they will be given the opportunity to make representations within a 28 day period. Any decision to vary or terminate should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any part in the event of an overpayment being made.
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.
10.8 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. hospital, and respite care.
- The child dies.