Efforts to place children in care with extended family members could stall if government plans to speed up adoption go ahead, social workers have claimed.
In an assessment of the forthcoming Children and Families Bill, the College of Social Work claims that the ‘fostering for adoption’ plans are ‘unworkable’.
Fostering for adoption would see children placed with adopters who have already been approved. These would then foster the youngsters while awaiting approval for full adoption. But this could, the College claims, interfere with efforts to find extended family members who might be able to look after the children – an arrangement known as ‘kinship care’.
“It is critical [to] support relatives and friends to come forward at an early stage so that they can be assessed as potential carers. The current foster-for-adopt proposals could squeeze out such family placements, while the speeding up of care proceedings could mean that it’s too late for family members to be assessed within the court timescales, once proceedings are under way.”
Local authorities should have a statutory duty to explore the possibility of family placements before adoption, the College believes.
“…if there is a suitable and willing member of the family, such as a grandparent, wishing to raise a child in care, this should continue to be prioritised over placing the child for adoption. Such family placements offer the same stability and continuity for a child as placing them quickly with a potential adopter. They promote positive outcomes for children into adulthood, children state they feel happy and secure.”
The College also criticises the 26 week timetable for family proceedings included in the bill, saying:
“There is a genuine risk that the [timetable] could result in too much focus on procedure and not enough on the welfare of the child.”