I am delighted to have been invited to the official opening of these new offices and to be part of such an important day for St David’s Children’s Society and their collaborators.
It heartens me to listen to the story Seren has to tell about her experience of going through the adoption process, finding her forever family and the truly important part St David’s played in orchestrating it. It is important that we listen to the children and young people as their own experiences can help us to shape our policy agenda.
Achieving permanence for a child is a key consideration from the day the child becomes looked after, we are all aware that there are a number of options to help achieve this through reunification with the child’s family, through long term foster care and ultimately through adoption.
It is imperative that throughout every stage of the process the child’s views are taken into consideration where possible.
The care system is fluid and requires continuous improvement to ensure children and young people have the right opportunities for permanency.
We have in place some significant drivers that strengthen permanency through;
• Children and Young Persons Act 2008
• Children and Families Measure and the implementation of the Integrated Family Support Services teams
• Children and Young People Committee – who have focussed heavily on the placement of looked after children
• The Adoption and Foster Care Advisory Group- of which St Davids and ADSS are members; these are to name just a few.
With an increase of a further 500 children entering the looked after population, there is a need now more than ever for collaborative working between the voluntary, private and public sectors. We all have the same aim to provide emotional, physical and legal stability for the children of Wales, so it is time that we embrace the situation and break down any barriers that may exist and work in partnership for the best interest of the child.
I applaud and recognise the commitment and energy St David’s has in securing adoptive placements for some of our older children who have been let down for whatever reason and find themselves within the care system, and also for providing the specialised services they need.
In the economic climate that we find ourselves in I commend their decision and determination to continue to offer these services throughout Wales, they are truly an important resource in Wales.
We all agree that adoption is a service for children and not a service for adults but people tell me that the adoption process has become increasingly more burdensome and intrusive; on occasions the bureaucracy has become a deterrent – we need to strike a balance whilst ensuring the safeguards of the child not to provide too many obstacles for the prospective adopter.
These are interesting times and the whole environment of work in the social care field is changing, early next year we will consult on a White Paper on the future of social services. Providing professional excellence for qualitative care to the children of Wales is central to the agenda.
Although there are challenges ahead I hope we can strive towards better partnership working and continue to help provide the best start for children in the care system.
I would like to close in paying tribute to Kevin, Gerry, their team and to all of you who work together to champion the rights and entitlements of looked after children and young people in Wales.