5.1.4 Adoption Support
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in January 2014. The above link was added to the Adoption passport: a support guide for adopters. Additional information was added into Section 2, Examples of Adoption Support.
This chapter is currently under review.
- What is 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
See also the Adoption 22 Consortium Guidance. Hard Copies of this guidance are available from Team Managers, Permanence and Adoption.
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.
Assessments carried out by social workers for the provision of adoption support will attend to the needs of adopted children, birth families and members of adoptive families and establish their entitlement to services.
Local authorities may arrange for the required services to be provided by appropriate voluntary organisations. In Lancashire, there are agreements with a number of different voluntary adoption agencies for this purpose.
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.
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 County Adoption Services Manager is the ASSA.
Adoption support must also be considered at a child’s reviews following the adoptive placement.
Local authorities must undertake assessments of need for adoption support at the request of the following groups. However the requirement to assess the need for support is limited to their entitlement to such services.
The adoption does not need to have been arranged by the local authority or an adoption agency in order to qualify for an assessment for adoption support. It is only where the adoption is by a step parent or partner that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information may 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 exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or support with financial implications and/or supporting 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.
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 4.1 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 the County Adoption Services Manager prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel. The assessment at the time of the child’s proposed placement with prospective adopters should be considered at the Matching Meeting and, if there are financial implications, have the approval of the County Adoption Services Manager prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report. If there are no financial implications, the assessment should have the approval of the Team Manager. 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 assessment considered necessary at an Adoption Review, as a result of which a change in the Adoption Support Plan is required which has financial implications should be referred to the County Adoption Services Manager for approval. Where the proposed change will involve increased costs, the County Adoption Services Manager will seek the budgetary authority, as necessary according to the amount.
Requests for assessment for adoption support under Paragraph 4.3 above should be passed to the County Adoption Services Manager/Post Adoption Support Administrator and, where necessary, the case will be passed to the relevant social work team for allocation. Where the request is passed to a children's fieldwork team, the allocated social worker should seek advice from the Permanence and Adoption Service 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 age, 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, a written report of the assessment should be produced on the Adoption 22 Assessment of Adoptive Family Form (for child and family) or a summary report (for the birth family). A Pro Forma for birth family assessments is being developed. The assessment will be agreed by the Team Manager and where there are no financial implications, the approval of the County Adoption Services Manager will be required. The County Adoption Services Manager will seek any necessary budgetary authority, according to the amount before giving approval.
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 9, 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 8, 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.
In Lancashire, the Adoption 22 Adoption Support Plan should be used as the Pro Forma.
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 Health Clinical Commissioning Group, CAMHS or education departments 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.
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 9, Financial Support).
Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the approval of the relevant Team Manager and, if there are financial implications, the County Adoption Services 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 County Adoption Services Manager, who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of the consideration.
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 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 relevant Team Manager or, if the proposed support involves a regular financial commitment, the County Adoption Services Manager who will obtain budgetary approval as necessary depending on the amount.
In these situations, a copy of the final Adoption Support Plan should always be sent to the County Adoption Services Manager.
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.
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 County Adoption Services Manager 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 9.7, Annual review of support).
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 County Adoption Services 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. A copy of the revised plan should then be sent to the County Adoption Services Manager.
Notice of the decision must then be sent to the person concerned with reasons and, where appropriate, a copy of the revised plan.
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.
This section should be read in conjunction with Lancashire's Adoption Allowances Scheme.
Financial support is intended to supplement existing means of support available to adoptive parents and the child or children being adopted. Adopters should be advised to seek appropriate advice from relevant agencies (e.g. Welfare Rights) regarding entitlements to 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).
9.3 Types of Payment
Payment to adoptive parents may be made in the following ways:
- Regular payments (previously referred to as Adoption Allowances) - 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 installments 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 installments and may end at a time specified by the local authority.
Information about the level of financial support available can be accessed via the Team Manager, Permanence and Adoption or from the Central Adoption Support Service. This includes information about settling-in-grants, Court fees, introductory costs etc.
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.
9.4 Assessment for Financial Support
Where regular financial support is considered appropriate under Section 9.2, 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 9.2, Criteria (v) and any other lump sum payment 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 Post Adoption Support Administrator, who will send it to the Financial 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.
9.6 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:
- 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 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.
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 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 and dealt with by the County Adoption Services Manager in accordance with the procedure set out in Section 8, The Adoption Support Plan. Any decision to vary or terminate 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.
9.8 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. boarding school, hospital, and respite care.
- The child dies.