Agenda item

FOSTERING AND ADOPTION SERVICES IN ENFIELD- ANNUAL REPORT

To receive a report from Debbie Michael, Service Manager Fostering Adoption and SG Service.

Minutes:

Shirley Gounder (Head of Service for Looked After and Vulnerable Young People) and Morris Linton (Team Manager Adoption & Special Guardianship Service) presented a report on the work of the Fostering and Adoption Services since September 2018.

 

Reports had been circulated with the agenda -

  • Annual Panel Report of the LB Enfield Adoption Service April 2018 – March 2019 and
  • LB Enfield Fostering Panel Annual Report April 2018 – March 2019

 

The comments from the March 2019 Ofsted report for Enfield’s fostering and adoption services, which were very positive, were noted.

 

The following points were highlighted:

  1. There are currently 15 children placed with prospective adopters awaiting Adoption Orders
  2. We have 134 foster families (including family and friends and Reg 24 (temporary approval carers) and 141 looked after children placed. 43.5% of all our looked after children are placed with in house foster carers
  3. The Fostering and Adoption services are based at Triangle House. Proximity to the Looked after Children’s Team is helpful in promoting good planning for children in care
  4. Enfield is part of the North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium (NLAFC) made up of Enfield, Barnet, Camden, Hackney Haringey and Islington. The boroughs work together in areas such as sharing of training and recruitment activities.
  5. The Adoption and Special Guardianship (SG) Service is situated in the same area as the Fostering Service. They recruit and assess prospective adopters, to family find and match suitable adopters and to support adoptive families.  The SG service has responsibility for assessing and supporting Special Guardian carers.
  6. The independent fostering and adoption panels consider and agree recommendations on the suitability of applicants wishing to foster or adopt.
  7. Regionalisation of Adoption Agencies (RAA) is going ahead throughout the country and the six boroughs, of which Enfield is part, in the current consortium have joined together to become the Regional Adoption Agency for North London. A structure for the RAA has now been put in place and will start from 1 October 2019. There will therefore no longer be an adoption service based in Enfield from that date although we will continue to have the Special Guardianship Service.
  8. There has been an increase in the number of SG Orders granted over the last 2 – 3 years.  In 2016-17, 42 SGOs were granted. In 2017-18, 32 SGO’s were granted and for this year up to August 21 SGO’s had already been granted and it is estimated that there would be 45 to 50 for the year. In 2018-19 13 Adoption Orders were granted. It is anticipated that there would be a similar number of Adoption Orders for 2019 -20.
  9. The aim is to increase the pool of foster carers and adopters to meet the demand of children in need of fostering and children where adoption is the plan.  The RAA will result in a larger pool of adopters. Marketing is continuing and recent adverts have been put on local buses. The aim is to recruit 15 or more foster carers for 2019/20 targeting older children and sibling groups
  10.  226 SG Allowances are currently being paid. Adoption allowances are paid for those harder to place and where there is a sibling group of 3 – it is not being paid for those who no longer have a link to Enfield.

 

 

The following issues were raised

  • It was asked how the matching of adopters and children take place and how this is tackled for BAME children. It was stated that historically there was a view that adopters of BAME children should also be of  BAME, but priorities now are not just based on ethnic matching. The RAA will be carrying out this process in future.  A lot of work behind the scenes goes into looking for potential matches. Shirley Gounder said we have targeted local communities including single sex and the LGBT communities for potential foster carers.
  • When asked if it is preferential for children to be placed with foster carers outside the borough it was stated that children are usually placed outside the borough especially if families are at risk.
  • Three members of staff would be moving to the new RAA and there are uncertainties about how many adopters will be recruited.
  • Members commented that good fostering for the most complex vulnerable children can give children real life chances and in response to the following question - How many children are currently fostered out of the borough?  The following information was provided – of 381 looked after children – 274 are placed within 20 miles of their home address so local links can be maintained for them.
  • It was asked why some children change placements.  An answer was given that this may be due to a variety of issues such as challenging behaviour or because of safeguarding issues.  Shirley Gounder intends to introduce exit placement interviews using KRATOS to help provide further information, for example as to whether adequate support had been provided.
  • Members said councillors could be contacted if it assists with recruitment campaigns for foster carers.
  • There have been challenges in the past for the team because of the number of SG assessments needed. Morris Linton said he had been fully staffed to date and some work has been commissioned. However, three members of staff would be moving over to the RAA.  Morris stated that there would be an additional member of staff recruited to his team.
  • Concern was expressed that the adoption service would be moving out of Enfield, as the existing system works well. It was stated that the Adoption Panel will continue in Enfield till November.
  • A concern was expressed about whether there would be sufficient number of social workers in post to cover the number of foster carers visits etc.
  • Morris Linton said courts appear to be more reluctant to agree placement orders and prefer to use SG Orders instead, this can be different to the Local Authority’s preference and would appear to be because of the aspiration to keep children within the family.

 

AGREED

Members asked that their concerns regarding the changes to the Fostering and Adoption Service be communicated to the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and for an update report to come back to a future meeting of Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Supporting documents: