What does Ofsted say about Devon Adoption?

Placements: Measured against the 2011 to 2014 adoption scorecard, the local authority’s performance is good, and shows that children in Devon move quickly into their permanent families. The average time between a child entering care and being placed with their adoptive families is 545 days; this is 83 days quicker than the England average, and continues to improve. Once the court has agreed that a child can be placed for adoption, a family is found within 153 days on average; this is 64 days quicker than the England average and on a par with the comparable authorities. While the average time over a three-year period had improved, it was longer in 2014 than in 2013 for this indicator.

Family Finding: Children in Devon receive a timely and comprehensive family finding service. This includes consideration of a significant number of in-house approved adopters; immediate referral to the adoption register; use of the South West Adoption Consortium; Voluntary Adoption Agencies and other linking services; DVD evenings; profiling events, where the foster carer was asked to attend to speak directly about the child; and regular use of adoption activity days and foster to adopt. Children’s profiles seen were high quality, child centred and demonstrated the wide range of children that Devon aims to place for adoption. This included children over the age of five and placements for brothers and sisters together.

Foster to adopt placements: The local authority has been particularly proactive and successful in its development and use of foster to adopt placements, and has progressed 13 of these. Of the 13, only one child went home and one was turned down by the court. There have already been eight orders granted since national implementation of the scheme in 2013, resulting in continued placements for children and a quicker process. Assessments undertaken to provide interim approval to adopters for the scheme are of good quality. Foster to adopt was considered in all adopter assessments.

Delay: The adoption service makes good efforts in family finding for disabled children, brothers and sisters together, older children and for children with complex needs and developmental uncertainty. This commitment does, however, impact on scorecard performance. Some children were adopted before their first birthday, and recently an adoption order application has been submitted for a child who is only seven months old. A small number of children have been waiting too long for an adoptive family. The reasons for this vary, with some delays being due to extensive efforts to find a family for children with complex needs. However, for a very small number of children, avoidable delay was evident. Of five such cases seen, permanency had since been secured for three children but not yet for two. The local authority is aware of this and is working to ensure that it offers a timely adoptive outcome for all children who require it.

 

Recruitment: The local authority is successful in recruiting adopters, with the 2011-14 adoption scorecard showing a considerably better performance than the comparable authority average (75 compared with 42 as of 31 March 2014). A clear marketing strategy is in place for adopters, as is an up-to-date and robust statement of purpose to steer this area of work. The service is on track to reach its target of recruiting 60 adopters in 2014–15, with 55 already recruited by February 2015. All adopters spoken with were very happy with their recruitment, preparation and assessment; a number had already recommended the service to friends interested in adoption. They were equally positive about the matching process, including comments such as, ‘… couldn’t have been matched any better and I didn’t think they would get it so right’ and ‘had I known it was so easy, I would have done it sooner’. However, some cases showed that the initial experience of first contacting the adoption service was not universally positive.

Assessments: All prospective adopter reports seen were of a very high quality; they were succinct, well evidenced and analytical. The use of theory and research in assessments was particularly impressive. The local authority is seeking to improve timeliness in preparation at stage 1 of the recruitment process, with the stage 2 assessment timescales being met in the majority of cases. All adopters spoken with said the pace had been the right one, and they did not consider that there had been any delay other than when this was needed or purposeful. The inspection found mixed feedback about how well the transition from foster carer to adopter is working for children, and this is an area that the local authority should review to ensure that it is getting it right consistently.

 

Training: Training for staff, adopters and adoption panel members is excellent. An annual conference is held which focuses on current issues in adoption practice and research issues. Adopter feedback directly informs the programme for the following year.

Post-adoption services: The adoption support service manages a high volume of work: 1,575 indirect letterbox support and 57 direct contact arrangements with families. The service has completed 125 assessments for adoption support in the past 12 months and has no waiting list. A wide range of services is offered, including advice and support from a participation worker and an educational psychologist, and the established therapeutic parenting course. Adopters spoken with who are currently in receipt of the post-adoption service were very positive about the service, describing it as ‘without fault’ and saying that therapeutic parenting had ‘saved their family’. All adopters spoken with were aware of their entitlements regarding support, both now and in the future.

Life story work: All children aged over two or with a complex history have a child appreciation day and 30 such days have taken place since 1 April 2014. Life story work materials are innovative and sensitive, and ensure that all people in the child’s network are considered and that the child’s needs are considered at different stages in their development. This includes two forms of life story books and later life letters that have been informed by input from adopted young people. In one case, the local authority had paid for a similar approach for voluntary agency adopters who were identified for a Devon child.

 

Supporting adopted young people: The adoption service has a participation worker who focuses on supporting and undertaking direct work with adopted young people. These young people have contributed to the development of the service by sitting on recruitment interviews; advising on materials, including later life letters; and through the creation of the ‘stand up, speak up’ website, which includes a young person’s guide to adoption. Adopted young people can meet others in a group setting for advice and support or have individual direct work. The first summer activities day for all adoptive families, planned this year, will enable adopted young people to take part in a range of activities, while adopters meet separately for support.