Chris Hogan, Assistant Director Specialist Services, gave a presentation to the Board on the adoptions process. She was joined by Sallie Mercer, Head of Corporate Parenting, and Veronica Johannesen, Team Manager Social Services Department.
Ms Hogan informed the Board that adoption was one of a number of permanence options, including the return of the child to its home, placing the child with a relative, long-term foster care, issuing a Residence Order that conveyed parental responsibility on the child’s carers in association with the child’s parents and finally Special Guardianship, where the child retained contact with its birth family.
The Board heard about the ‘adoption triangle’ made up of the child, adopters and birth parents. Consideration had to be given to a number of factors including the reasons the child had been put up for adoption, the motivation of those wishing to adopt and the provision of grief counselling - independent of the Local Authority - to the birth parents up until the child’s 18th birthday.
Sallie Mercer explained that the number of children classed as ‘relinquished’ children - being put up for adoption by their families - had dropped to only one or two children per year in this borough, whereas most children entering the adoption process were classified as Looked After Children. Prospective adopters approached the Local Authority and were fully assessed before being deemed suitable for adoption. The Independent Adoption Panel then made a recommendation to the agency decision maker, Chris Hogan.
The Board was informed that the government’s Action Plan for Adoption explained the way the process would be redesigned to make it more clear and effective with the view that the sooner a child was in a permanent placement the better. Local authorities would be compared against each other and against other adoption agencies. If they were deemed to be ineffective, they could lose the right to act as an adoption agency.
In response to a question on the percentage of children who were returned into care due to the breakdown of the adoption Sallie Mercer assured the Board that, whilst it was acknowledged that this could happen, no adoptions had failed in Hounslow to date. Post adoption support was recognised as a critical factor in securing the success of an adoption.
Michael Marks indicated that Hounslow Council rarely recruited adopters from within the borough, primarily for child protection reasons, but used a large proportion of families from the suburbs and areas such as Brighton, Reading, Wales and the north of England and made use of a national adoption register. Ms Mercer added that the government’s aim was to raise awareness of adoption and of the children waiting, including the number older children and sibling groups that were more difficult to place.
When asked whether matching ethnicity and religion was still an issue, Chris Hogan assured the Board that Hounslow would not hold up the placement of a child where it was unable to fully match all the criteria, particularly in trans-racial placements. Instead the adoptive family were asked to promote – but not necessarily to practice - certain areas of the child’s birth family’s background.