NEWS

Journal explores the benefits of international studies

The March edition of Adoption & Fostering is now available online, with printed copies having recently gone out to members.

In the period 2016‒2018, just under one-quarter of the articles in Adoption & Fostering came from overseas ‒ a significant rise in numbers since the launch of our partnership with Sage in 2013. With this in mind, and at a time of unprecedented division and uncertainty in the UK, Roger Bullock’s March 2019 editorial focuses on the value of international studies. He outlines the benefits of cross-country comparisons in helping to ‘explain problems and their resolution in terms of wider social factors rather than local legislation or influential individuals’. He argues that reading articles from such diverse countries as Finland, Egypt, South Africa, France, Australia and the USA increases our understanding of the diversity of children’s cultural heritage in relation to the delivery of appropriate child welfare services – for instance, how best to foster unaccompanied young asylum seekers in the UK.

Furthermore, international studies offer new information and ideas, as each country has positive and negative experiences to report: ‘The US leads the world on matters of race, gender and sexuality, the UK has pioneered alternatives to residential care, Sweden and Holland can tell us how to divert juveniles from custody, Denmark is sympathetic to single parents, while Israel must be the most immigrated society in the world.’

Due to popular demand, Roger’s latest editorial is available for everyone to read on the CoramBAAF website homepage. CoramBAAF and AFA Scotland members can also access the editorial in the members’ area of the CoramBAAF website.

DfE withdraws “myth-busting” guidance under pressure from the sector

The Department for Education’s (DfE) publication of their “myth-busting” guidance in 2018 was intended as a review of the current statutory framework for looked after children. The guidance was not new, but represented a clarification of the framework to enable the sector to have a better understanding of what was required and what was optional.

The guidance was received with a significant degree of uncertainty by many in the sector, as requirements that had been considered to be fundamental came to be defined as optional. Some of this was seen to create confusion when the issues were focused on the rights and protection of children.

There was significant discussion among a wide range of sector organisations, and this came to be led by Carolyn Willow from Article 39, a charity that works to uphold the rights of children living in state and privately run institutions. As a result, questions were raised with the DfE about the origins and authority of the guidance. The responses continued to raise further questions, and eventually a challenge was made to the DfE earlier this year in the form of an application for a Judicial Review, with a significant number of sector organisations supporting this. The recent response by the DfE has been to withdraw the guidance and pay Article 39’s incurred legal expenses.

There is no doubt that where there is uncertainty about the statutory framework, this needs to be urgently clarified – after all, children are at the centre of these issues. It is also important that where there are potential changes that might improve service delivery, then these should be explored. But the sector needs to be properly consulted and expert views obtained – including those of young people themselves. There is no doubt of the sector’s wish to be engaged in such processes. But the sector needs to be confident that what is being explored is robust, evidence-informed and in children’s best interests – and in this recent example, it was not.

John Simmonds discusses adoption in the digital age at European Parliament

John Simmonds recently gave a presentation at the European Parliament in Brussels on the state of adoption in the UK and what impact digital technology has had.

In his speech, he explored how various online platforms have influenced the adoption process both negatively and positively. Birth family contact for adopted children has been the main area of impact, as he outlined:

The current arrangements about contact are subject to debate. There are concerns about this limited form of contact, with the focus continuing to be the safety of the family and child, the absence of direct contact where this is safe and appropriate and the construction of a life story for the child. The emergence of the digital world has undoubtedly had a major impact on this process. The loss of control and the challenge of keeping the child and adopters safe is another.

Evolution is rapid, a significant part is out of the control of adoption agencies and it is particularly so when adopted children find and make contact with their birth parents, birth families and siblings without discussing this with anybody. Adoption has been transformed by the digital age, but it is a problematic balance between what has been helpful and what is not.

CoramBAAF has significant experience in this area, through our publication of a number of guides on the subject, (visit the website for more information), through our advice given to members and through discussion of this trend at our practice forums. Having the opportunity to share this experience in such an important forum is testament to our influence and standing in the field, and our ability to ensure our members’ voices are heard in the wider sector. 

After Adoption closes

After Adoption, a long-standing member of CoramBAAF and one of the leading voluntary adoption agencies, which provided a wide range of services including lifelong support to those affected by adoption, has been forced to close. The charity reports that the closure is due to a combination of difficulties caused by recent reform of adoption, changes to the adoption support system, and the current local authority economic climate. 

Over the 30 years of its operation, After Adoption was known for its pioneering and innovative work, including the introduction of services for birth parents, and initiatives such as TalkAdoption, a support service for young people, and the flagship SafeBase programme, a therapeutic parenting programme delivered to 70 local authorities. 

The charity has commented, ‘We are exceptionally proud of the service we have provided and of the impact we have had on the lives of all those affected by adoption’.

For more information about the charity’s closure and arrangements for current service users and the transfer of the adoption agency functions, visit the After Adoption website.  

NSPCC stops prospective foster carer/adopter checking service

For many years, the NSPCC has provided a checking service for agencies assessing prospective foster carers and adopters. However, it ceased this service on 1 April and has not accepted any new requests for checks received on or after 1 March 2019 – see their message below:

IMPORTANT: Local Authority/Private Foster/Adoption Agencies:
The NSPCC Helpline conducts foster check searches for local authorities and private fostering agencies. In order to free up capacity to respond to concerns for children, the Helpline will cease to provide a foster check service from 1 April 2019 and will not be accepting any further foster check search requests from 1 March 2019. Any checks received by us before 1 March will still be processed. If you have any queries regarding other checks sent to us, please contact us at [email protected]

NSPCC checks are not required by fostering or adoption legislation and have not been undertaken by all agencies; however, CoramBAAF is aware that a number of agencies routinely use the NSPCC checking service as part of their assessments. These agencies may wish to review their policy on local authority checks, as it should be the case that information held by the NSPCC will also be held by the local authority where the applicant lived at the time of any incident. CoramBAAF will update our publications to reflect this change in due course. 

Data Protection Act 2018 – change to references in fostering assessments

There has been a significant change under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA18) regarding references for jobs or other situations such as fostering where a personal reference is required. Previously, a fostering provider could not guarantee that the information provided by a referee would remain confidential. An applicant or foster carer could make a subject access request (SAR) to see documents on their case file and this may have included seeing any personal references. Now, as the result of the changes in the DPA18, the applicant or approved foster carer does not have the right to see a reference given in confidence to the fostering provider. The key point is whether the personal referee gives it on the understanding that it will be kept confidential. If so, it is exempt from a SAR made to the Data Controller of the reference.

CoramBAAF’s recent Good Practice Guide, Complying with the GDPR and DPA 2018, by Paul Adams and Leonie Jordan, provides more information for fostering services about this complex subject. To find out more about this publication, visit our online bookshop 

FREE FOR MEMBERS

(All attendees must be in current membership of CoramBAAF on the date of these events.)

Free masterclass for full member agencies!

VIPP-SD in family placement practice 1
6 May, London

Video-feedback Intervention to promote Positive Parenting and Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD) in family placement practice is the original video-feedback intervention for parents. It was developed by some of the world’s leading attachment researchers and is a preventative intervention aimed at increasing parental sensitivity. It has an excellent evidence base for preventing or reducing behavioural problems in young children.

This CoramBAAF Masterclass, developed in partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, will explore the rationale, evidence and details of the VIPP-SD. Presentations will be made by the Tavistock and Portman VIPP team with opportunities for discussion, reflection and challenge about the intervention and its contribution to effective, evidence based interventions in family placement.

One allocated place per agency (maximum of 40 places available), on a first come, first served basis. Booking is essential. Light refreshments (tea, coffee, biscuits) will be provided.

For more information, visit the website

Free workshops for agency members!

An introduction to the Secure Base Model for CoramBAAF members

Two free workshops providing an introduction to the Secure Base Model for CoramBAAF members have been announced, with the following dates and locations:

•    16 July, London 
•    27 November, Exeter

The Secure Base Model, devised by Gillian Schofield and Mary Beek (UEA), focuses on the interactions that occur between caregivers and children, through the provision of a positive framework for therapeutic caregiving, which helps infants, children and young people to move towards greater security and builds resilience.

With children firmly in focus, these workshops provide an introduction to the Secure Base Model framework and specific related tools that enable social work practitioners to assess prospective foster carers’ and adopters’ parenting capacities and ongoing support needs.

One allocated place is available per member agency (maximum of 20 places available per workshop), on a first come, first served basis. Booking is essential: contact the Workshops team on 020 7520 2043/41 or [email protected] to book your place! 

For more information, visit the website.  

GET INVOLVED

Are you an adoption panel Chair? Join our forum for advice and support!

At our Adoption Panel Chairs Practice Forum in March, we said goodbye to two Chairs who, like several other experienced members recently, have taken the decision to retire – a feature in our meetings over the last couple of years! It was particularly poignant that one of them, Claire Samson, together with Jenny Lord from BAAF and a few other Chairs, had been a founding member of this group and initiated its first meeting in June 1998. 

One of the benefits of being a member of the Adoption Panel Chairs Practice Forum is the opportunity to discuss and share issues with others with a breadth of experience as Panel Chairs, as social work and related professionals, and from their personal experience of adoption. 

We are keen to ensure that when new Chairs are appointed to adoption panels for regional adoption agencies, local authorities or voluntary adoption agencies, they are given information about our London and South East Adoption Panel Chairs Forum so they can join the mailing list and be invited to future meetings. The forum provides a valuable opportunity for members to discuss difficult issues, explore practice innovations and network with fellow Chairs. At our next meeting, we are also inviting Vice Chairs to join us so that they can feel more confident about deputising for their Chair when they cannot attend a meeting. 

For more information about this forum and the other practice forums that CoramBAAF organises, or to join any of these groups, visit the website or contact Erica Bond at [email protected]

Learn, share and network with our Practice Forums

CoramBAAF’s practice forums provide a unique opportunity to discuss professional practice and share knowledge and expertise with colleagues in your local region. The forums will help you to keep up-to-date about national policy and law, contribute to policy development, and refer topics and examples of good practice to CoramBAAF’s advisory committees.
 
The meetings are for managers or their chosen representative from voluntary adoption agencies, independent fostering providers, local authorities and regional adoption agencies that are members of CoramBAAF (practitioners may be invited by their agency representative to attend practice seminar sessions). Local authority permanency services and fostering and adoption services in CoramBAAF membership can send up to three representatives to each meeting.

The forums offer a great opportunity for practitioners to learn from each other and keep in touch with the work CoramBAAF is doing nationally. If you are interested in joining any of these forums, contact the relevant people for further details (see below).

Contact
England: Erica Bond, [email protected]
Northern Ireland: Catherine Mullin, Facilitator, email Rosie Hankin, rosie.hankin@corambaaf.org.uk
North West: [email protected]
Black Workers: [email protected] 

May and June 2019 Practice Forum Dates
13 May: South East Counties (Adoption) (morning)
13 May: South East Counties (Fostering) (afternoon)
17 May: Black Workers – Southern England
 7 June: Health, London and South East – Speaker tbc
14 June: Panel Chairs/Vice Chairs – a one-off joint meeting for Chairs and Vice Chairs
18 June: North East
18 June: North West (fostering)
28 June: Black Workers – Midlands and Northern England

Practice ForumDates
Black Workers Practice Forum Northern & Midlands (Adoption and Fostering) 28 June,  25 October 
Black Workers Practice Forum London & South East            
(Adoption and Fostering):
7 May,  13 September
Health – London & South East   7 June, 11 October
Independent Adoption Panel Chairs – London and the South East  14 June, 
27 September (joint meeting with Panel Advisers) 
13 December
London & Eastern Regional (Adoption and Fostering)8  July, 28 October 
North West (Fostering)18 June, 16 September, 9 December
North East (Adoption and Fostering)18 June, 19 November
South East Counties (Adoption - morning)13 May, 7 October
South East Counties (Fostering - afternoon)13 May, 7 October
Yorkshire & Humberside (Adoption and Fostering)10 December


EVENTS

Forthcoming conferences on contact in adoption, FASD and annual Health Conference

CoramBAAF conference: Contact in adoption in the digital age: where do we go from here?
10 May, London


EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT AVAILABLE UNTIL 23 APRIL – CORAMBAAF MEMBERS CAN BOOK THEIR PLACE FOR AS LITTLE AS £95!

Keynote address by Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division
The adoption sector needs to establish a coherent, evidence-based model for contact in adoption that is relevant and meaningful to those involved, and contact needs to be firmly embedded within the strategy and operation of regional adoption agencies. The success or not of contact arrangements rests upon a complex network of relationships between adopters, their children and the birth relatives. These will shift and change over  time. Children’s needs must be held at the centre. 

This conference will begin to identify what a sector-wide child-centred model of post-adoption contact could look like, and explores several key questions, including: how can we balance the child’s need to be safe and to belong in their new family while answering core questions about their life story and identity? How can we assess the benefits and risks in different arrangements? What types of contact are most suitable in the digital age? 

Presentations will be made by key sector leaders including Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division; Professor Beth Neil, Director of Research at the University of East Anglia; and Dr John Simmonds OBE, Director of Policy, Research & Development at CoramBAAF. Other presenters will include those with direct experience of contact in adoption. 

For more information, visit the website.  

CoramBAAF conference: Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD)  – what works for children?
23 May, London

SPECIAL HALF PRICE OFFER FOR MEMBERS, ADOPTIVE PARENTS AND FOSTER CARERS! 

There is a growing recognition that many children and young people in adoptive families, foster care and special guardianship are affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Estimates suggest that about one-third of children in care are likely to be affected, and FASD has a significant impact on these children and their families. It is therefore essential that practitioners have a good understanding of this condition. This conference is an opportunity to look at “what works” for children with FASD. It aims to bring together people who are actively involved in parenting, caring for, and working with children with FASD to explore how they might best meet the needs of those children in the context of their specific roles. 

For more information, visit the website.  

CoramBAAF Annual Health Group conference: Working together to improve outcomes for looked after and adopted children
1 July, Birmingham

CPD points:
CME: 6 hours  
RCPCH: applied for

CoramBAAF’s one-day Health Group conference provides a day to reflect on outcomes-based practice.

Achieving positive outcomes requires planning, provision of care and commitment from multiple partners/agencies. During this conference, we will look at how different parts of the health, legal, education and social care systems evaluate outcomes. We will explore how combined efforts and interactions are key in a whole-system approach and reflect on the multiple factors that affect outcomes for looked after and adopted children.

It is important to evaluate practice and interventions, and health professionals should be able to describe their service provision in terms of performance, quality and outcomes. Performance is not synonymous with outcome: we need to be able to describe how we identify, define and measure outcomes.

There will be presentations from new areas of research, including using SDQs (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires). We will consider a model for outcomes-based practice and reflect on how health professionals work within the multiagency team.

For more information, visit the website.   

To book or for more information on any of these events, contact the conference team on 020 7520 7520 or at [email protected]