Why is this needed?
As noted in section 4, some agencies in this sample are developing a partnership approach between services which are accountable to different agencies or lines of management. An Adoption Support ‘Partnership’ is more likely to engage agencies at a strategic level to coordinate and develop services, develop staff, join up systems and processes, and jointly commission from third sector providers.
The Act (Section 4) clearly anticipates the involvement of other agencies in adoption support.
Adoption: A Vision for Change (2016) advocates, strong partnership working with local health commissioners and providers, including delivering local transformation plans to implement proposals set out in the Future in Mind report (2015).
Adoption Counts has attempted to set up an Adoption Support Partnership (see make-up and structure at appendix one). However, whilst this has operated successfully at practitioner level, it has not gained ownership within key agencies at governance level. The Adoption Support Sub Board focuses exclusively on adoption support. The Sub Board includes adopter, health, education, virtual school and social care representatives. Whilst this has not been entirely successful, it has created additional capacity to focus on the development of the Adoption Support Centre of Excellence and has held specific meetings focusing on education and children’s mental health issues.
OAWY is experimenting with similar arrangements and has been successful in engaging with health commissioners from the region’s Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Possible future developments
Given the right level of resources, RAAs should exercise a strategic commissioning role which will fund and co-ordinate relevant services from education and health providers. However, agencies need to ensure that their own mainstream services are responsive to the needs of adopters and work cooperatively with each other.
Whilst the Adoption Counts Adoption Support Sub Board is a step towards a multi-agency approach to adoption support, it has also highlighted the challenges of co-ordinating multi-agency services in a regional context. Ideally the partnership would bring together all five LAs, five virtual schools, five clinical commissioning groups, LA commissioners and the three health provider trusts. However, bringing this number of services together with a common purpose is extremely challenging and probably unrealistic.
The guidance to Virtual Schools (Department for Education 2018, section 57) on their responsibilities to Previously Looked After Children, outlines the agencies with which they need to establish relationships and is a good example of how government guidance can help to promote closer interagency working in the interests of adoptive families.