Memorandum submitted by After Adoption
After Adoption is to be a National Organisation
also operating internationally and offering user led services
to all that want to use them.
After Adoption's purpose is to enable people
to deal with the difference adoption brings to their lives.
to provide independent adoption related
services in partnership with other agencies;
to develop innovative adoption projects;
to raise awareness and create a better
understanding of adoption to help remove the stigma and secrecy.
We believe that the impact of adoption
is lifelong, and services need to be provided acknowledging this;
we believe adoption is a social structure
devised to care for children who are unable to be brought up in
their birth family, and acknowledge that loss for all parties;
we believe the stigma attached to
adoption is potentially harmful to the health of all concerned;
we recognise the inequalities that
exist in society and aim to address those within this organisation;
we recognise that within adoption,
discrimination has occurred especially on the basis of race, class
and disability; and
we value the contribution of those
who have personal experience of adoption to design the services
We believe that the need to maintain connections
is an essential part of family life.
1.2 The History and Work of After Adoption
The 1975 Adoption Act introduced a statutory
responsibility for a fully comprehensive adoption service, but
did not define this. Consequently, support for those touched by
adoption has been very limited. This lack of services prompted
the formation of Post Adoption Services, Manchester in 1990, with
small rented premises, a part-time Co-ordinator and part-time
assigned staff from both local authorities and voluntary adoption
The charity changed its name to After Adoption
in 1992. After Adoption has continued to develop its services,
and in 1996 developed service level agreements with most Local
Authorities in the North West. With help from a grant from the
National Lotteries Charities Board, the services were delivered
in local areas. After Adoption tries to help people in the way
that is most appropriate to them. This development has continued
and we now deliver services in the North East, North West, Merseyside
and Wales. After Adoption now has 68 paid staff and 100 volunteers.
After Adoption has continued to grow organically
and has responded to need as we have identified this.
To deliver our services we use Social Workers,
professional counsellors or volunteers, many with experience of
adoption. We offer advice, information, counselling and family
work, individually or in self help groups. The service can be
offered face to face, by telephone, letter or e-mail.
The knowledge and experience of After Adoption
staff, users and volunteers is appreciated not only by those who
need our services directly, but also by other professionals and
volunteers who work in the field of adoption. After Adoption provides
highly valued training packages. Its unique expertise has been
involved in National and International conferences. After Adoption
provides information for local and central government on Post
Adoption and Post Placement issues.
After Adoption is now recognised throughout
the UK as the leading agency in post adoption and post placement
services. We are represented on a variety of government bodies
such as the new Adoption Task Force and the National Adoption
standards working party.
After Adoption has recently been inspected by
the Social Services Inspectorate and has been approved by the
Department of Health as an Adoption Agency.
1.3 After Adoption is presently working
in partnership with 48 local authorities in England and Wales
providing a range of Post Adoption and Post Placement Support.
We also run a free-phone and online help-line for young people
throughout the UK called TALK ADOPTION.
2.1 After Adoption welcomes the introduction
of this Bill which certainly raises the awareness of the need
for Post Adoption services in line with the aims of our organisation.
2.2 We welcome the stated intention to improve
Post Adoption Services for Children and Families but we would
like a clearer statement that this may be a lifelong need.
2.3 After Adoption would wish the Bill to
be clearer in making it an explicit duty of local authorities
to provide support and therapeutic services where needed for all
parties to Adoption.
2.4 After Adoption feels that there needs
to be clarity about how these services will be financially supported.
We believe that the Quality Protects and Children First (in Wales)
monies available will not prove to be sufficient.
2.5 After Adoption feels that the wording
suggested for "consent" needs to be altered. This would
allow the statutory form to be re-worded.
2.6 After Adoption understands the need
for some decisions about adoption to be made without consent but
believe that "thresholds" need to be clearly defined.
At present these differ from area to area and sometimes within
2.7 After Adoption remains concerned about
who can and who cannot adopt and feels that a more open approach
reflecting the variety of families in our society should be encompassed.
2.8 After Adoption is very concerned about
the lack of commitment to services for Birth Parents and we feel
that this Bill goes no further than the 1976 Act.
2.9 After Adoption feels that there is a
need for clarity for which ie which local authority has the responsibility
to fund services Post Adoption.
2.10 After Adoption welcomes the replacement
of "freeing for adoption" placement orders. This we
hope will avoid children being left in limbo.
2.11 Contact for Adopted children. We welcome
the positive comments and clarity of planning for contact under
Clause 23 and would hope that a framework for assessment and support
of such contact will follow.
2.12 After Adoption is concerned about the
absence of a national framework for Post Adoption allowances.
2.13 After Adoption welcomes the special
guardianship orders. We feel that this is a very positive step
for a variety of situations and this type of order has been very
successful in other countries.
3. A PROVISION
It is clear from the Bill in Clauses 3, 4 and
5 that there is an acceptance of the importance of support for
children and their adoptive families. We however feel that a great
deal is left to regulation and that it would be extremely helpful
if the Government could support in their wording the complexity
of Adoption and the need for services for these children and both
their birth and adoptive families.
We would wish the Government to be clearer in
detail about the requirement of local authorities to provide support
services not just to access for services when difficulties arrive.
In order not to pathologise parties touched by Adoption support
services need to be there as a matter of right, not as assessment.
After Adoption has provided Post Placement services from the point
of placement for families in two local authorities. Early research
into these services shows a significant lower breakdown rate and
a higher satisfaction rate for both children and families.
5. FUNDING POST
We are unclear about how these services will
be funded. We do not feel that the Quality Protects and Children
First money is sufficient to achieve this. Therapeutic services
specialising in Adoption are very costly and could be in the excess
of £20,000 per child. We believe that more therapists are
needed which may well reduce these costs.
6. CONSENT TO
We are concerned about Clause 44(3)(a) where
consent is defined as consent given freely and conditionally and
with full understanding into what is involved. We understood from
the White Paper that there were concerns about this wording and
we at After Adoption from our work with Birth Parents recognise
that they often believe that adoption is in the best interest
of their child but struggle with the wording on the form. We would
hope that the statutory form could be re-worded to reflect this.
We at After Adoption do understand the need
for decisions about Adoption to be made without consent but believe
that there needs to be clearly defined "thresholds".
Working across a range of local authorities we find differing
interpretations of the existing law. Birth Parents coming together
at After Adoption are rightly concerned about the differing treatment
by Courts and Local Authorities.
8. WHO CAN
After Adoption is concerned that there is no
proposal in the Bill to allow two adults in a stable long-term
relationship to adopt a child jointly. In our changing society
where so many children are born to unmarried parents and a number
of other children are successfully parented in same sex relationships
we feel that it is important that these relationships are acknowledged
and the commitment of both adults respected. It appears that two
adults living together can jointly apply for a special guardianship.
This lends itself to a situation where adoption is the right and
proper order for a child but will not be applied for.
9. SERVICES TO
After Adoption welcomes Clause 3 where it makes
it clear the duty to provide Adoption services to extend to natural
parents and former guardians. At present the provision of services
to Birth Parents/Relatives is very patchy. After Adoption has
come into contact with local authorities who openly refuse to
offer any services whatsoever. The Department of Health guidelines
issued in August 2000 for intermediary services for Birth Relatives
has been implemented by very few Local Authorities therefore it
is a postcode lottery as to whether a Birth Parent or any other
Birth relative will receive a service.
10. POST ADOPTION
At After Adoption there is an ongoing confusion
about which local authority or in fact which voluntary Adoption
agency is responsible for providing Post Adoption services. Voluntary
Adoption agencies provide some Post Adoption work but often go
back to the Local Authority for funding of specialist services.
The arguments and the passing of responsibility often leaves families
without support until sadly the placement breaks down. This too
is the position for birth families. We feel that the Bill needs
to clarify which local authority has the responsibility to provide.
After Adoption welcomes the replacement of Freeing
for Adoption with placement orders. We have experience from both
children and birth families where a freeing order is in place
and sadly no family is found. Children in this position have needed
years of therapeutic input to help deal with this situation. We
believe there needs to be more clarity however about the placement
order and who has parental responsibility for the child before
the adoption order is made.
12. CONTACT FOR
We welcome the positive comments about contact
and know from our experience from After Adoption that there is
no doubt that the birth family remains important to adopted children
and adopted adults. Regular support groups run at After Adoption
for all ages of children and it is clear that a great many of
these children would wish to be able to have regular news and
information of their Birth Family members. This is particularly
around Siblings and Birth Mothers. After Adoption is regularly
involved in supporting adoptive families re-opening a closed adoption
in order that their children will be reassured about the health
and welfare of their Birth Family.
After Adoption does approximately 300 section
51 counselling sessions per year on behalf of a variety of local
authorities. The majorities of these adults believes that their
Adoption is successful, but still want access to their birth information
and believe that their Birth Family is still significant to them.
The wording of Clause 51 that an adopted child is to be treated
as if he or she has been born as a child of that marriage is not
a helpful statement. We believe that adoptive families have additional
tasks in relation to their children and accepting their past and
the need to know about it is one of these tasks.
After Adoption is concerned about the absence
of a national framework for Post Adoption allowances. We regularly
see discrepancies from one area to another. We also are aware
that generous allowances in the United States following President
Clinton's Adoption initiative saw a 66 per cent increase in step-parent
adoption, a 16 per cent increase in stranger adoption and a 14
per cent increase in kinship adoption. The American initiative
is on line to exceed its targets and we have no doubt that the
financial package has helped this enormously.
14. SPECIAL GUARDIANSHIP
After Adoption welcomes the introduction of
special guardianship orders in Clause 96. We feel this will provide
a valuable option for some children for whom adoption is inappropriate.
Many children placed with grandparents or other extended families
will be able to have the security of this order. Some children
do not want to sever their legal link with their birth family
and do not want to change their names. We feel that this order
will be right for these children.
After Adoption welcomes the Adoption and Children
Bill, but is clear that there is a need for the Bill to address
gaps and confusion about responsibilities which exists at present.
We are happy that the Government has introduced this Bill in a
consultative way and hope that we will be able to present to the
Select Committee our particular experiences that may help improve
the detail of the Bill. We hope that this Committee will afford
us the opportunity to represent our users who are all parties
to adoption in inviting us to report to them.