Adoption Scorecards

11 May

According to statistics, there were some 65,520 children in the care system last year, of which 3050 were placed into adoptive homes.

There has been much talk in the press recently about the government’s plan to introduce a scorecard system, which aims to assess the performance and, primarily, assess how quickly individual local authorities place children for adoption. The ultimate goal is to tackle unnecessary delays in the process.

It currently takes an average of 21 months for a child to be placed with an adoptive family. The government is aiming to reduce this to a year and the approval process for prospective adopters to 6 months.

In principle, this seems like an effective approach. I of course would like to see an improvement and acceleration in the system. However, in speeding up the process, my fear would be that the quality of the placements may be adversely compromised, which in turn could lead to more adoption breakdowns. A points system which potentially consists of ticking boxes and meeting predefined targets, possibly over and above the needs of the child, could have a detrimental effect on the success of a placement. An adoption breakdown would have a devastating and damaging impact on a child.

My simple, layperson’s view – and I realise it isn’t as straightforward as this – would be to strike a much better balance between a more efficient system and the quality of the placement, taking account of other areas which affect the speed of the process, such as the difficulty in finding appropriate homes for the different types of children in the care system (sibling groups, ethnicity, special needs) as well as an improvement in the effectiveness of the family court process. I wonder whether performance indicators could create perverse incentives which may not always be in the interest of the child.

For me, adoption is about achieving a secure, permanent, loving base from which a child can grow. Any kind of conveyor belt approach of churning children out so that local authorities can stay in the government’s good books by attaining specified targets, makes me feel very uneasy. Children must not be deemed a commodity.

I wonder whether prospective adopters would be deterred if their local authority is underperforming?

Post-placement is a crucial time for adoptive parents. I wonder whether there should be increased focus on encouraging more prospective adopters to make the huge leap of faith by ensuring that they receive adequate support to guarantee a successful adoption outcome.  Would it not be better for the government to invest in this support and provide families with much needed help so that the risk of breakdown is minimised?

All the efficient processes in the world are surely futile if there is no after-care for the parents.

Would it not also be helpful to increase support and monitoring of social workers to reduce their pressure, rather than applying additional stresses in the form of government-set targets?

Or maybe I am talking utter twaddle.

What do you think? Is this points system an effective enough and uncompromising approach to shortening waiting times for children in care and for prospective adopters?

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12 Responses to “Adoption Scorecards”

  1. Ivavnuk May 12, 2012 at 00:18 #

    I agree with you. I also have concerns that attempts to speed up the process by targeting SW processes and timescales could lead to problems.

    I’m still somewhat naive to all the processes (just approved this week!) – but it seems that speeding up the court procedures would make a big impact on timescales without affecting the thoroughness of the assessment and matching process….

  2. Sally Strawberry (@ichigo84) May 12, 2012 at 00:20 #

    You have said many of the things that I thought when I saw this first touted in the press. At first glance, it seems good, but I too worry about what it means on the ground.
    Time will tell, but (already fragile) children are not a good thing to ‘experiment with’!

    • permanentlyinapickle May 12, 2012 at 15:48 #

      You’re quite right. Not sure what the answer is. Would hate to be the one making the decisions. Hope you’re well. 🙂

  3. thefamilyof5 May 12, 2012 at 08:25 #

    I’ve blogged lots about post adoption support recently. I think like you say, unless they ramp it up, anything else they do is pointless.

    • permanentlyinapickle May 12, 2012 at 15:46 #

      I have loads of your notifications sitting in my InBox. I am so behind with reading them. Look forward to catching up. Thanks.

  4. Jennifer Duncan (@LuvFoodCookFood) May 12, 2012 at 08:26 #

    My cousin adopted her two children. Both came from very troubled backgrounds and without a doubt, their lives would have turned out very differently had they not been taken into a warm and loving home. She and her husband were put through a tremendous amount of stress and worry to get both of their babies and yet any fertile female/male can have a baby without any questions being asked.

    Of course there has to be a system to protect the children and the prospective adoptive parents but does it need to be so stringent?However, I do agree with your concerns that a ticky boxy system is taking it to the extreme. One can’t help but think that these changes are more due to cut-backs than to speeding the system up to help the many, many children currently in care.

    • permanentlyinapickle May 12, 2012 at 15:45 #

      It’s a difficult one, Jen. Of course nobody wants children to remain in the system any longer than necessary. Imperative that the right match is found though. Personally I never had a problem with the waiting time, as I felt I needed that time to prepare myself. I had many ups and downs along the way. Entirely different for the hopeful kids awaiting their forever family.

  5. Suzy Norman Writes May 12, 2012 at 17:33 #

    An excellent point about breakdowns. Really this is worse for a child than no placement at all. When you’re being scrutinised as a potential adopter it’s too easy to forget this. I do think though, 6 months is still a lengthy period of time and enough to ween the idealists from the committed. Social workers can differentiate them very early in the process (as we found out).

  6. Sally Donovan May 13, 2012 at 08:14 #

    It is so easy to put measures in place and inadvertantly end up with unintended consequences. I feel that unless adoption breakdown/success is measured somehow, then there will never be a feel for the quality of placements, only the quantity. And you are right, post-adoption support is another crucial piece of the puzzle. Without it placements can come down like a house of cards.
    Great post.

  7. Adoptive Mommy May 15, 2012 at 22:27 #

    The longer our children in care the worse for them when they move on but on balance a delay would never be as bad as an adoption breakdown. If they shorten the procedures then they need to ramp up the already inadequate post adoption care. I have a friend who is currently fighting for help, she adopted from a different LA to the one where she lives and neither LA is interested in providing support which she desperately needs. I live in an area where the PAS seems to be excellent but I do wish it had been pushed more right from the beginning, far too much emphasis is placed on pre-adoption training but not nearly enough afterwards.

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