As any adoptive parent knows all too well, adoption is only the start of a journey throughout which our children often require professional support to help them to make sense of their past and develop strategies to deal with the implications of their early life experiences. The stories unfold slowly for adopted children, and while belonging to a loving family is important, adoptive families also need to know that they can call on specialist support when times are hard. The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) has, since 2015, been the source of funding to enable adoptive families to access such support. We Are Family members often tell us that the future of post-adoption support is a key concern, and an issue on which they would like us to advocate on their behalf.
There are three key challenges relating to the ASF which we know to be affecting our members across London and beyond, so we’re starting to develop our plans for addressing them:
The future of the ASF remains uncertain, with Government having committed to the funding only until the end of the 2021-2022 financial year with no information about what will follow. We want to see a long-term commitment from Government which will give adoptive families the confidence they need to embark on what may need to become long-term therapeutic interventions. This may not be straightforward, due to the economic pressures which the Government is currently navigating.
We Are Family will identify opportunities to make the case for a long-term commitment from the Government to funding post-adoption support for adoptive children up to at least the age of 18. We will use evidence gathered from our members to demonstrate why this funding is so important and to call for the scope of the ASF to be reviewed to ensure that it adequately meets the varied and complex needs of adoptive families. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care which was launched in January provides an opportunity for us to do this, and we will look to others in the sector to see how we can work with them to build a compelling case for continued support based on the lived experiences of adoptive families.
Many adopters find that the information available about the ASF (e.g. how you access it; what is covered and what is not; how funding runs over financial years etc) lacks clarity. Time is of the essence when putting in place the right support for our kids, but the complexity of the ASF can cause delays and frustration which can have knock on effects on family life, education, social integration and other childhood experiences.
We Are Family will work with our contacts in the Regional Adoption Agencies to encourage them to provide improved clarity on the operation of the ASF through their own resources, and we will consider how best to use the full range of We Are Family’s support to demystify the process and help our members to navigate a smooth route to support.
3. Comprehensive information and services
While local authorities have post-adoption support teams who should be available to support adopters in finding the right therapeutic interventions to meet the needs of their children and their families as they evolve over the years following placement for adoption, these post-adoption support services vary in quality and levels of engagement. There are concerns that the ASF can sometimes fall short of meeting the needs of families, with certain specialist support not covered by the current scope of the ASF. Further, due to the lack of information provided by some local authorities who do not sign-post well, adoptive families can be left without access to the valuable services to which they are entitled, or must commit their own limited time to finding the answers for themselves. Even where information is available from the local authority, this may not be particularly useful where, during the first three years post-adoption, the local authority with responsibility for arranging post-adoption support is different from the one in which the adoptive family lives.
We Are Family will call on the Regional Adoption Agencies to develop improved and comprehensive information on the services available to aid decision-making by adoptive parents. We will also draw on the knowledge and experiences of our members, and those of others across the sector, to develop information and resources to support our members in making choices about the professional services available to them and their children.
How can you help?
Please do get in touch with us if you would like to be involved in helping us to shape the work set out above. We’d also love to hear from you if you have experiences of using the ASF which demonstrate why the continued funding of post-adoption support is so important, and/or why improved clarity about the process and comprehensive information about available services would be valuable. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was written by We Are Family’s Advocacy Working Group.