MPs call on the Care Review to bring about “major shift” in adoption system

A cross-party group of MPs and Peers has published a new report calling for a significant shift in thinking about the adoption system to provide better support for some of England’s most vulnerable children.

14/09/21

MPs call on the Care Review to bring about “major shift” in adoption system

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adoption and Permanence (APPGAP) has published a report, which will feed into the current Review of Children’s Social Care in England, calling for more support for adopted children and their families.

The report, ‘Strengthening Families’, was launched at an event attended by Children’s Minister, Vicky Ford MP, and Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Government-commissioned Care Review.

Having received evidence from 200 adopted young people and adults, and around 500 adoptive parents, the report calls for a system-wide move from ‘family finding’, the initial stage of an adoption process, to ‘family building’, recognising the need for lifelong support for adoptive families. Most adopted children have experienced significant abuse, neglect or violence in their lives, with lasting effects on their relationships, learning and mental health.

One of the central conclusions of the inquiry is that the adoption sector needs a paradigm shift from ‘family finding’ to ‘family building’, the report found.

“While it is crucial that there is continued investment in recruiting adopters, ensuring children do not wait too long and making good matches, this must be seen as the start of the journey, not the end,” the report read.

Nearly nine in ten (87%) adoptive parents identified that matching plays a crucial role in enabling future stability for adoptive families. However, matching practices are all too often inconsistent, with adopters feeling ill-prepared for the process, the report said.

The inquiry also heard that more needs to be done for children who wait the longest for adoption, especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds who face additional barriers to finding an adoptive family.

The report also recommended that support for families be “proactively embedded and responsively provided” to meet their needs from the earliest days of adoption all the way through childhood, the report said, in recognition that the legacy of adverse experiences does not disappear once an adoptive family is established. It added that the long-term retention of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), as well as improvements in access and its operation, is “crucial” to enabling this to happen.
The inquiry also heard about the importance of cultivating lasting relationships, stressing that for adopted children, a continuity of relationship with former foster carers, social workers, birth family members, and their local community, can be critical to their experience of stability.

APPGAP Chair, Rachael Maskell MP, said the inquiry had heard many compelling stories about the experiences of adopted children and their families throughout this inquiry.

“It is crucial that there is continued investment in recruiting adopters, ensuring children do not wait too long in care and making good matches. But this must be seen as the start of the journey, not the end. Sticking with families over the long term is vital for providing the stability that these children need, given the tough start many of them have faced. There can be no greater investment than securing the future of children by enabling them to grow into confident and fulfilled adults,” Maskell said.

The report sets out a series of recommendations to enable what it calls a robust, stable adoption system, with members of the APPGAP urging the Review to ensure it takes a “truly holistic” view of the system, in which the needs of adopted children are firmly part of the analysis and recommendations.

The APPG’s recommendations include the provision of high-quality adoption support plans, a 10-year commitment to the Adoption Support Fund, and training for teachers in supporting children who have experienced early trauma.

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