This chapter was updated in December 2019 in line with the Children and Social Work Act 2017 and revised statutory guidance which require schools, through the Designated Teacher for Looked After Children, to offer support to previously looked after children.A previously looked-after child is one who is no longer looked after in England and Wales because subject of an Adoption, Special Guardianship or Child Arrangements Order which includes arrangements relating to with whom the child is to live, or when the child is to live with any person, or has been adopted from ‘state care’ outside England and Wales).
1. What is Adoption Support?
Adoption Support includes any support likely to be required for an adoptive placement.
Merton will 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.
2. Duty to Provide Information
Merton has a duty to provide information on adoption support services to anyone requesting information about adopting a child, anyone wishing to adopt a child, any parent of an adopted child within the borough, or any parent of an adopted child who becomes known to the council. This includes information about the full range of support, therapeutic, counselling, financial, contact arrangements, for example.
Information must also be given about:
- The right to ask for an assessment for support;
- The contact details of the Adoption Support Advisor;
- Which borough is responsible for support and contact details;
- Contact details about First4Adoption;
- Priority school admissions (where relevant). Details can be found in School Admissions Code (GOV.UK);
- Priority council housing and discretionary housing payments;
- Entitlement to early education from 2 years;
- How to make a complaint to the council or the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
Potential and prospective adopters should also be given information about:
- Accessing information from Adoption Pay and Leave (GOV.UK website);
- The right to receive a copy of the Child Permanence Report;
- The entitlement to a life story book.
3. Examples of Adoption Support
Adoption support is defined as including:
- Possible 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;
- The role of the designated teacher in offering support to previously looked after children and to their new school; see Education of Looked After and Previously Looked After Children Procedure;
- 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 adopted 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;
- Assistance with cross boundary matters;
- Intermediary Services - see Intermediary Services Procedure.
Support provided under 4) to 8) above may include cash assistance.
4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
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 step parent that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information may be offered as appropriate, through mainstream universal services under s17 Children Act 1989.
5. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
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|
|Child being Looked After and in respect of whom an adoption plan is being considered||The local authority looking after the child.|
|Child placed with or adopted by family living in the area of the local authority arranging the adoption||The local authority for the area where the child and adopters live.|
|Child placed with and/or adopted by family living outside the local authority area||
The placing local authority 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 live will have the responsibility.The exception is where there is an on-going financial package of support these financial agreements remain with the placing local authority.
|In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent adoptions)||The local authority where the requester lives must assess.|
6. Which Local Authority Should Provide Support?
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 supporting contact arrangements have been agreed by the placing authority before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with that authority for as long as eligibility for the service continues.
7. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support
In all cases where an assessment is required, the practitioners involved should conduct assessments by following the guidance set out in Working Together to Safeguard Children. 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 service and health trust should be consulted as necessary.
Assessments of need for adoption support under paragraph 4.1 (a) and (b) above should be carried out by the allocated social worker and/or the prospective adopters' social worker as appropriate prior to being presented to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel.
The assessment under paragraph 4.1.(c) at the time of the child's proposed placement with prospective adopters should be considered at the Matching Meeting and also have the approval Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements, prior to being presented to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel with the Adoption Placement Report.
At all stages, the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence 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 (under paragraph 4.2) considered necessary at an Adoption Review, as a result of which a change in the Adoption Support Plan is required, should be referred to the Head of Service for LAC, Permanency and Placements ADM for approval.
Requests for assessment for adoption support under paragraph 4.3 above will be allocated to a Adoption Social Worker to carry out an assessment. 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 circumstances 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 under paragraph 4.3, a written report of the assessment should be produced and agreed by the Team Manager, Adoption.
A copy of the assessment report, once approved, should be sent to the person assessed with notice of the outcome of the assessment, which should state:
- The person's 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 as set out in 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.
8. The Adoption Support Plan
8.1 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 no plan should exceed a 3 month duration.
The Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Trust, 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 agencies in that authority's area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for the adopters and the 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 instalments - 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 ).
8.2 Consultation with proposed recipients of adoption support
Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the approval of the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements 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, Adoption in consultation with the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency and Placements, who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of their considerations.
8.3 Approval of Adoption Support Plan
In relation to proposed agency adoptive placements, the proposed Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel when the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters is recommended. The final Adoption Support Plan will be approved, taking into account any advice given by the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.
In relation to other situations in which adoption support is proposed, the Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the ADM.
8.4 Distribution of Adoption Support Plan
A copy of the final plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult). Where the child has an Independent Reviewing Officer, a copy should be sent to them.
8.5 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 Reviews Procedure - or at any time if there is a significant change of circumstances, within 4 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 Head of Service (Adoption) 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 Team Manager, Adoption for approval, who, in the case of agency adoptive placements, may decide to refer the case back to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel for information and advice and then to the Chair for a decision to be made.
Once approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposed change, together with a copy of the revised Adoption Support Plan in draft. They must then be given 10 working days to make representations on the proposals.
Any such representations should be submitted to the Head of Service, LAC, Permanency & Placements whose 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.
8.6 Urgent Cases
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.
9. Financial Support
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.
Any financial support is assessed with regard to the needs of the child. This section must be read in conjunction with Part 8.3, Guidance on Adoption Allowances and Support, and Support Forms/Letters (found in the Local Resources).
Please refer also to the Adoption Support Service Regulations 2005 Chapter 8 'Provision of Financial Support Services' and 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;
- 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 they have 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 - 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.
9.4 Assessment for Financial Support
Where regular financial support is considered appropriate, the amount to be paid to adoptive parents will 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 (v) 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).
As part of this assessment, the adopters should be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form and the completed form should be forwarded to the Finance Department. The Head of Service (Adoption) will decide the level of support to be included in the draft Adoption Support Plan (see Section 7, The Adoption Support Plan), having regard to this assessment, and obtain budgetary approval as necessary depending on the amount.
In relation to proposed financial support for a new placement, the Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel with the Adoption Placement Report when a matching recommendation is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.
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.
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 enter into a contract which states their commitment 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 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 and seek to recover any over payments, if made.
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 dealt with by the Adoption Service 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 Remuneration for former foster parents
Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child's foster parent, the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of 2 years from the date of the adoption order. This can continue for longer than 2 years if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional.
The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the adoption order.
9.9 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.