Author Topic: Improving the adoption system and services for looked-after children  (Read 926 times)


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Improving the adoption system and services for looked-after children

From: Department for Education, The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP and Edward Timpson MP
First published: 25 February 2013
Last updated:  1 July 2014, see all updates
Part of: Children and young people
Applies to: England


The number of children in care stands at 68,000 and continues to rise. At the end of March 2013, there were around 6,000 children with a placement order waiting to move in with a new family. Our adoption reforms are simplifying the adoption system to encourage more people to adopt and make sure children are placed swiftly with a family where this is in their best interests.

We also want to improve the quality of care and the stability of placements for looked-after children, be they in residential care homes or with a foster family, so that all children can succeed in life.


To encourage more people to adopt and to reduce the time it takes for children to be placed with a loving family, as well as to make sure adoptive families get the support they need, we are:

introducing the £19.3 million Adoption Support Fund from spring 2015 to help adoptive families access high-quality support services
testing proposals to give approved adopters access to the Adoption Register so they can seek out their own matches with children waiting to be adopted, rather than waiting for a social worker to identify a suitable match
making sure that, from 2015, employed adopters are entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents
providing £16 million of funding to the voluntary adoption sector and £50 million to local authorities over the next 2 years to help them expand and recruit more adopters
working with local authorities and the voluntary sector through the adoption leadership board, chaired by Sir Martin Narey, to reduce delay for children and recruit more adopters
making sure children adopted from care get the attention they need at school by:
extending the pupil premium
giving them priority in school admissions
giving access to early education from age 2 to children adopted from care

Looked-after children

To make sure all looked-after children receive high-quality care, we will:

maintain the current programme of evidence-based early interventions for looked-after children and for those on the edge of care
ensure the virtual school head (VSH) in every council arranges for children in care to get the support they need to succeed at school
hold quarterly meetings between children in care and ministers to make sure our policies take their views into account

To improve the stability and quality of long-term foster placements, we will:

give foster carers the training and support they need
monitor the stability of foster placements by improving the way we collect data from local authorities

To improve the quality of care in children’s homes, we will:

hold local authorities and residential care providers to account by gathering data on their performance and making it available to the public
explore new ways of commissioning care placements, for example, through the Innovation Programme

To support children and young people who have left care, we will give young people in foster care the possibility of staying with their foster carers until the age of 21.


On 14 March 2012 we published ‘An action plan for adoption: tackling delay’, setting out the changes we will introduce to the adoption and care systems. It included proposals to cut the time it takes to become an approved adopter to 6 months and set up a national gateway for adoption that provides a first point of contact for anyone interested in adopting.

On 24 January 2013, we published ‘Further action on adoption: finding more loving homes’. It set out our proposals to attract adopters and to improve the support available to adoptive families.

The measures we have introduced to encourage more people to adopt and place children with loving families more quickly include:

introducing a simplified 2-stage process for people who want to adopt a child or children
establishing First4Adoption, a first point of contact for anyone interested in adopting
introducing adoption scorecards that allow a comparison of the delay for placement of children in care in each local authority
producing an ‘adoption passport’ that allows adopters to see exactly what support is available to them
publishing adoption maps that show the number of children waiting to be adopted in different areas across the country

Foster children

To improve the quality of foster care, we developed a programme of work through discussions with over 300 foster carers, social workers, managers and professionals about what works, what doesn’t, and how things can be improved. Our work concentrates on improving 7 areas:

    recruitment and retention of foster carers
    commissioning of fostering services
    the assessment and approval of foster carers
    delegation of authority to foster carers
    long-term foster placements
    supporting children returning home from foster care
    training and support for foster carers and social workers

Children’s residential care

On 3 July 2012, we announced our plan to reform children’s residential care.

In September 2013 we published the children’s homes datapack, which for the first time set out the geographic distribution of children’s homes and provided information on Ofsted inspection judgments of large providers (ie those responsible for 16 or more homes). Between them, the 9 largest providers run 385 children’s homes.

In January 2014, we introduced changes to the regulations around safeguarding in residential care settings to increase the accountability for placements outside of the local authority and to improve the qualifications of those working in residential care homes.

Educational attainment of looked-after children

Following the publication of annual statistics on the educational attainment of children in care in December 2012, we announced measures to help looked-after children get better grades at school.

Ofsted has emphasised the significant impact that strong VSH leadership can have on the attainment of looked-after children. As a result, we have introduced a requirement for all local authorities to have a VSH, making sure children in care get the support they need to succeed at school.

We are also supporting looked-after children at school through the pupil premium. The pupil premium for looked-after children is managed by the VSH.

Who we’ve consulted

The consultation ‘Adoption and fostering: tackling delay’ ran from 18 September to 7 December 2012. It was aimed at parents, people who want to adopt or foster, local authorities, adoption and fostering agencies, and the judiciary and legal sectors.

Between 28 February and 11 April 2014 we ran the consultation ‘Adoption: getting it right, making it work’. It invited views on proposed changes to adoption regulations and statutory guidance in England as a result of Part 1 of the Children and Families Act 2014.

Between 10 April and 29 May 2014 we ran a consultation on:

proposals to extend access to intermediary services to the children, grandchildren and other relatives of people adopted before 30 December 2005, so they can contact their birth relatives more easily
whether people who were adopted before 30 December 2005 should have the right to make an absolute or qualified veto for their children, grandchildren and other relatives to make contact with their birth relatives

Looked-after children

We have carried out a number of consultations to improve the care of looked-after children. We have asked views on:

changes to the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991, which relate to 12  to 17 year olds who have been placed on remand in local authority accommodation
changes to regulation 7 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (Registration) (England) Regulations 2010 to allow Ofsted to share the names and addresses of children’s homes on their register with the police and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner
proposals to change the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review Regulations 2010, so that they take the circumstances of children who have been remanded into either local authority or youth detention accommodation into account

Between 25 June and 17 September 2013 we ran another 3 consultations on proposals to:

amend the children’s homes regulations, to improve collaboration so that children who live in children’s homes are protected effectively
amend the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010, to improve how local authorities arrange placements for children in distant out of authority placements
revise the statutory guidance on children who run away and go missing

Between 20 September and 29 November 2013, we ran a consultation on improving the security and stability of placements for looked-after children.

Bills and legislation

On Thursday 13 March 2014 the Children and Families Bill received royal assent and became the Children and Families Act 2014. The act mentions many of the reforms we are introducing to the adoption process to reduce delay and encourage more adopters, including:

making sure court hearings on children in care last no longer than 26 weeks, except in exceptional circumstances
encouraging ‘fostering for adoption’, ie placing children with approved adopters who will foster the child while they wait for court approval to adopt
giving adoptive parents the same pay and leave rights as birth parents from 2015
reducing delay due to adoption agencies seeking a perfect or partial ethnic match
allowing prospective adopters to access the Adoption Register directly

Looked-after children

The Children and Families Act received royal assent on 13 March 2014.

The act:

provides greater protection for looked-after children
requires local authorities to support children in foster care placements who wish to continue living with their foster families when they leave care from the age of 18 until the age of 21
made VSHs statutory for all local councils
introduced new quality standards for residential children’s homes

The reformed process for assessing and approving foster carers is set out in the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013.These regulations also cover local authorities’ duties relating to the delegation of authority to foster carers.

Who we’re working with

We are working with a number of organisations in the development and implementation of our adoption reforms, including:

    the British Association of Adoption and Fostering
    Adoption UK
    the Association of Directors of Children’s Services Ltd (ADCS)
    the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies

We are also working with the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) to fund the Adoption Register, whose main purpose is to help agencies find adoptive homes for children in cases where local authorities cannot find a home for them locally.

Looked-after children

We are working with a number of organisations to improve support for children in care and care leavers, including:

    The Fostering Network
    The Who Cares Trust
    Nationwide Association of Fostering Providers
    Local Government Association
    the National Care Advisory Service
    Catch 22
    the National Children’s Bureau
    Children’s Society
    Rees Centre

Case studies

Non-completion of TSD standards workbook
How Staffordshire County Council deals with foster carers who fail to complete their training, standards and development workbook.

Foster care standards: filling in the workbook
Foster care supervisors share their experience of helping foster carers to fill in the training, support and development standards workbook.