National Adoption Week 2016 -

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About National Adoption Week
National Adoption Week 2016 will take place from the 17th to 23rd October and the theme is embodied by the hashtag #SupportAdoption. As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. However, it is clear that a National Adoption Week that did not also address the difficult realities of adoption today would be doing a disservice to those children and the agencies working on their behalf. National Adoption Week 2016 will aim to encompass all aspects of adoption, to demystify and clarify the adoption process, reflect the challenges of adoptive parenting, share individual stories, showcase and signpost to best practice and invite anyone whose life or heart is touched by it to #SupportAdoption.

“A Good Clean Heart” by Alun Saunders

 

We are delighted to help promote an upcoming Welsh Tour of the magnificent play by award-winning playwright Alun Saunders, “A Good Clean Heart”.  Alun, a St. David’s Adopter, will be touring the play around Wales culminating in a week-long stand at the Wales Millennium Centre during National Adoption Week 2016.

A GOOD CLEAN HEART
Two brothers, raised apart in West Wales and South London, now reunited.
This dynamic, bilingual play in English & Welsh from award-winning playwright Alun Saunders is the rollercoaster story of HEFIN & JAY, where things go from brilliant to horrific in a heartbeat.

A GOOD CLEAN HEART
Dau frawd wedi’u magu ar wahan yng Ngorllewin Cymru a De Llundain, yn ailuno, ailgydio, ailgysylltu.
Dyma gynhyrchiad deinamig o ddrama doniol a theimladwy Alun Saunders mewn dwy iaith: stori HEFIN a JAY a noson mwyaf cyffrous – ac hunllefus – eu bywydau.

 

REVIEW: ARTS SCENE IN WALES – MIKE SMITH – 13/05/15

A Good Clean Heart, The Other Room


“…a face smackingly amazing evening…”

“Alun Saunders cleverly constructed and sharply written play A Good Clean Heart [takes] the tale of two brothers separated by adoption at a very early age as its focus but from there somehow manages to give a darned good look at identity, nationalism, race, social deprivation, class, growing up, insecurity, guilt, parenting, sacrifice…well that’s enough for now….in just over an hour. Phew. And he does it really, really well.”

“…the divisions contrast and values that are inherent in the bilingualism of Wales, the barriers and misunderstandings that exist (and not only from outside Wales) and the cultural shorthand our language creates adds a richness to the story.”

 

 

TICKET AND TOUR INFORMATION

UNDERBELLY, COWGATE – EDINBURGH FESTIVAL FRINGE
04 – 28/08/16 (no Monday performances)
http://www.underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/whats-on/a-good-clean-heart#select-a-performance-jump

THEATR CLWYD
07 – 09/09/16
https://www.theatrclwyd.com/en/whats-on/good-clean-heart/

CANOLFAN CELFYDDYDAU PONTARDAWE ARTS CENTRE
14/09/16
https://npttheatres.co.uk/pontardawe/events/a-good-clean-heart/

NEUADD DWYFOR, PWLLHELI
16/09/16
(no website) Swyddfa Docynnau / Box office. 01758 704 088

RIVERFRONT, NEWPORT
19&20/09/16
https://tickets.newportlive.co.uk/en-GB/shows/a%20good%20clean%20heart%20(age%20guide%2014+)/events

PONTIO, BANGOR
05&06/10/16
https://pontio.co.uk/Online/default.asp

TORCH THEATRE, MILFORD HAVEN
11/10/16
http://torchtheatre.co.uk/events/a-good-clean-heart/

WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE/CANOLFAN MILENIWM CYMRU, CAERDYDD
18-22/10/16
https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/WestonStudio/AGoodCleanHeart/?view=Standard

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 all those who work for St David’s Children’s Society and their partners.

It was wonderful to listen to the story Jenny, a local adoptive family who so movingly spoke about their experience of adoption, in particular, hearing of the immense joy of a vulnerable child entering and becoming part of their family. It was a privilege to listen and share in this journey and the important part that St David’s played in orchestrating it.

Since 1942 St. David’s Children Society has provided adoption services across all of Herefordshire and Wales. During that time the Society has placed over 2,000 children for adoption – a very significant contribution to children and family life. Perhaps, the quality of their services is most evident in their very low adoption breakdown rates – two disruptions in their last 100 placements. This is all the more remarkable given that the Society specialises in placing older children and sibling groups of children for adoption. It is also evidenced by the fact that BAAF (the British Agencies for Adoption & Fostering) has awarded St. David’s the accolade of being one of the top three outstanding voluntary adoption agencies in the UK.

Hereford City and the County of Herefordshire have a great tradition of positively responding to the needs of children waiting for adoption. It is good to see prospective adopters being offered greater choice as they explore and reflect on their decision to adopt. Securing permanence for children is a key consideration from the day the each child enters the care system. We are all aware that there are a number of routes to permanency: through reunification with the child’s family, through fostering, Special Guardianship Orders and ultimately through adoption. Across England, over 4,000 children wait for adoption placements. Against this backdrop, the opening of this office is wholeheartedly welcomed and can only be good for children.

It is great to welcome social work practitioners from our Hereford adoption team to this event, evidence of the ever greater collaborative working together between the public and voluntary sectors. All share the same aim, to secure loving family life for all of these children who wait for permanent families.

I applaud 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 lifelong services they need. You are very welcome to Hereford and we wish you every success in your vital work.

Mayor of Hereford, Cllr Len Tawn
3rd November 2014

ART COMPETITION: Didn’t everyone do well!!

A massive thank you to parents and children alike for helping to make our first art competition such an amazing success. We had no idea there was so much talent out there!!! There were some fantastic pictures, all exhibited and framed , and everyone was a winner. We had Spring flowers, Lambs frolicking, children playing and lots of action shots too. The children used all sorts of mediums, some pictures were painted, others were in pencil and crayons, and some used all three plus glitter, scraps of material and wax. ALL of our entries had a well -earned prize and our Judges had to work equally hard choosing the winner for the magnificent prize of tickets for Dogs don’t do Ballet! Many, many thanks, to all who helped make this such a marvellous event, and especially the children, parents and Judges … Rhian Kooy, Deborah Thomas and Craig Yates .

What a busy year and where has it gone? We have had a lot of changes here, including new staff: Joy, Lisa, Evelyne and Petra as well as lots more families. All this has taken place alongside what has been happening in the wider world of adoption.

It feels as though all of our horizons are broadening and as a nation we are seeking collectively to meet the challenge of achieving adoptive families for more and more children on a year by year basis. Let’s hope we can get there! The indicators in England are that it’s possible so let’s see what Wales can do!

To view the complete newsletter please click here

PRESS RELEASE – NATIONAL ADOPTION SERVICE:
“The announcement today by Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, AM, will transform the chances of children finding loving, permanent homes in adoptive families in Wales”, said Gerry Cooney, Chief Executive at St David’s Children Society.

“We fully support plans for a national adoption service. It could be the single, greatest vehicle to improve life chances for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. It will place Wales at the vanguard of adoption services in the UK and at the same time will deliver significant savings to child care budgets.”

The Minister made her announcement during her visit to the Jones family, a South Wales family who adopted two children via St. David’s Children Society.  She said: “I am proud today to say that Wales will move forward with plans to set up a national adoption service. We are determined to reduce delays for children who are being looked after, and to ensure all those who wish to adopt will find the best support to encourage them to come forward. This is a defining moment for adoption services and our intention is that Wales will become a beacon for others, but most of all, that our children will find permanence in loving families as soon as is practicably possible.”

The adoptive family’s evident joy is a spur to everyone engaged in securing permanent families for children in Wales.

Mr Cooney continued “The Minister’s announcement will change the face of adoption services if the opportunity is seized by all the parties involved, courts, local authorities and the voluntary sector. All of us recognise that delay has a very significant and negative effect on children. We believe that this initiative will be a major factor in eradicating the corrosive effect of delay in children’s lives.”

Speaking about the services St David’s offers, he added. “We recognise the deep desire of couples to be parents. We understand that support for them starts the very second they pick up the phone to us and can continue throughout the lifetime of the family. St. David’s has seen a significant increase in the number of potential adopters coming forward and encourages more families to contact their local authority or St. David’s to exploreadoption as a means of creating a family.”

“The national adoption service is a bold move from the Minister and heralds an exciting change. We will do everything in our power to help our local authority partners and all others involved, to make this a success for every child. ”

SUBMISSION OF ST. DAVID’S CHILDREN SOCIETY. – 1ST FEB. 2012.
Situation:
There are four Local Authority (LA) adoption consortia operating across Wales. The consortia in SE & SW Wales (a total of 6 LAs), are meeting their internal demand for adoption placements, sometimes by purchasing from St. David’s. These LAs service relatively small populations.
There are a significant number of children within the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium (SWAAC – 9 authorities) and the N. Wales Adoption Consortium (6 authorities) with an adoption plan but without an available adoption placement resource.
As the regionalisation agenda gathers pace, there will inevitably be some restructuring of consortia arrangements.
No national data is recorded in Wales on the number of children currently waiting for an adoption placement.
Background:
The Welsh Government has set out its aims in Sustainable Social Services for Wales, A Framework for Action, to develop a National Adoption Agency.
Improving permanency through greater placement choice is a key part of the Sustainable Wales programme.
WLGA & ADSS are exploring greater collaboration including moving towards regional services and a national adoption service. There remains the critical question of timescales in achieving all of this.
These past 5 years have witnessed a 20% increase in the looked after childcare population. *1
LAs are burdened by the critical mass of child protection. Partly driven by the Baby P case.
Workforce issues: recent years have witnessed a decrease in number of qualified social workers.
St. David’s Assessment:
Adoption Works
The legislation, processes & structures are fit for purpose.
All approved prospective adopters within St. David’s Children Society complete their training, checks, assessment & are approved within the 8 month guideline.
If prospective adopters face delays, children face delays and as a consequence are disadvantaged before they reach an adoption placement.
Yes we can always improve systems, but the critical issues that impact on children are to do with delays, adoption agency capacity, service delivery, low outputs and a limited understanding of the true costs of providing adoption services.
Adoption works: Outcomes for children placed for adoption with a St. David’s approved adopter far exceed the national average. In our last 100 placements we experienced a breakdown rate of 3% compared to a national disruption rate of 20%. *2.
EMOTIONAL COST TO THE CHILD:
BAAF estimate that 1 in 4 children available for adoption will not be placed primarily due to the lack of an adoptive parent resource.
Where children experience delays in being placed for adoption, this has a detrimental effect on their life chances. The chances of being adopted reduced by nearly 20% for every year of delay. *3.
Successful adoptions reduce the likelihood of an over representation of the adoption population dependant on mental health services, in prisons, etc. *4.
Financial cost to the public purse:
DCSF (2010) estimate that the cost for a local authority to secure an internal adoption placement is £36,000. *5
The cost of an interagency fee for a single adoption placement with a St. David’s approved adopter is £27,000. This includes life long support to the placement.
The core cost of placing and keeping children in care is very expensive and represents an ongoing cost for many years. *7.
The more instability there is in the child’s care journey, including multiple fostering placements or residential care, the greater the financial impact. The equivalent annual cost for such a care journey has been estimated at £56,225 per annum. *6.
Swifter family finding by LAs & VAAs leads to reduced care costs per child resulting in substantial costs savings to local authorities including reduced fostering & residential care costs, legal challenges, reviews, etc.
Efficient, effective adoption services enable children to exit care in a timely manner and help to stabilise a rising looked after childcare population.
6 Recommendations:
1: Partnership:
We suggest that the Welsh Government consider spearheading the exploration of partnership arrangements between LAs and St. David’s as we work together to achieve high quality adoption placements for children.
The highly successful Coram & London Borough of Harrow partnership provides a bench mark for such working: this partnership delivered a 100% success rate in placing all children with an adoption placement order with all children being placed within the recommended 6 month timescale. *7.
2:  Effective Financial Governance:
Service commissioners should develop a greater understanding of the social value that adoption provides including the contribution of St. David’s to reduce the LAs current & future spending costs.
We suggest that the Audit Commission conduct a study into the financial costs of providing adoption services within Wales: for example:
Last year an English Council reported that its adoption team of 41 social workers achieved 43 placements.
While adoption teams in Wales have lower staffing numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests that greater efficiencies can be achieved in staffing to placement activity ratios.
By contrast, five St. David’s social work staff will achieve 35 adoption placements this year.
Efficient auditing of services should measure inputs, outputs and outcomes.
We acknowledge that local authorities’ adoption budgets are at times under resourced. It is imperative that we change rigid structures to one that is cost effective and delivers a future for children requiring adoption.
Currently, the adoption VAA Interagency Fee is paid in two lump sums over a period of a year. We propose that this fee be paid on a monthly basis out of the fostering budget.
3: Practice:
We suggest that each local authority set itself a timescale of 2 months, after which if it is unable to identify a suitable family for a child within its own resources or consortia arrangements, that authority must look further afield including the voluntary sector to achieve a placement irrespective of the age of the child.
Where an adoption agency is unable to progress an adoption enquiry within 2 month of first contact, that agency must refer the enquirer to another adoption agency with the capacity to immediately progress the application.
4: Establish a disruption register for Wales:
Adoption UK reported that as many as 1 in 5 adoptions in Wales breakdown (11th Oct 2010).
Need to record accurate disruption statistics across Wales and to urgently agree a standard format for recording and reporting this data.
5: Establish a National Register within Wales for:
All children with a placement order whose assessed need is adoption.
All prospective adopters waiting for a placement.
Given BAAF’s experience of managing the National Adoption Register in England & Wales, we suggest that BAAF be considered for this task.
6: Establish a National Adoption Helpline for Adoptive Enquiries:
Supported by an effective adoption recruitment campaign.
This should be managed by professionals &
Part staffed by service user volunteers.
Offered as a localised free phone service.
BAAF, Adoption UK & St. David’s could pilot this service.
We believe that all 6 of these recommendations are consistent with the vision of a National Adoption Agency for Wales.

Adoption is a serious business for children… Because of the complex processes involved in adoption, young children quickly become older with more demanding needs and are considered harder to place.

Adoption works. It is the structures that are failing children. New approaches work as is clearly evident by the Coram Harrow model. Until we get past decisions that are driven by short term financial considerations, children will not succeed.

The ‘Social Return on Investment’ report (2011), concluded that for every successful adoption from care, where the adopter is able to support the child in resolving the issues from their past, there is a social return of over £1m per placement. *8.

References
1: Personal Social Services Statistics Wales 2010–11 www.statswales.wales.gov.uk

2: Adoption UK ‘Disruption Report.’  11th Oct. 2010. + PM Review of Adoption 2000. (Performance & Innovation Unit).

3: Selwyn, J., Frazer, L. and Quinton, D. (2006) ‘Paved with good intentions: The pathway to adoption and the costs of delay’, British Journal of Social Work, 36, pp. 561–76

4: “Handle with Care” by the Centre for Policy Studies (Sept 2006).

5: DCSF: Selwyn, J. Sempik, J. Thurston, P. & Wijedasa, D.  “Adoption & the Interagency Fee,” 2010.

6: Hannon, C, Wood, C, Bazalgette, L,In Loco Parentis (2010), Demos

 

7: A report on the partnership between Coram and Harrow Council to increase quality and reduce cost of care in Children’s Services

Gerry Cooney – St David’s Children Society – 1st Feb 2012

‘Adopters, like children come in all different shapes and sizes’
Adopoters of all shapes and sizes article.

Every child should have a right to the security of family life, but a lack of adopters mean that one in every four children up for adoption will never know what it is like to have a loving mum and dad. Cathy Owen visited a charity trying to make a difference…..

To read the full South Wales Echo article please click here.

Children must come first – Deputy Minister urges local authorities to continue adoption work in partnership with voluntary sector adoption agencies

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM has today praised those local authorities who work in closer partnership with voluntary sector adoption agencies. She urged them to continue to grow those relationships to ensure they enhance the life chances of more children, by helping them to secure places in loving, family homes.

The Deputy Minister was speaking today as she officially opened the new offices of St David’s Children Society, the only voluntary adoption agency in Wales approved by the Assembly to provide a comprehensive range of adoption services across Wales. She said:

“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….”

“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.”

Chair of Trustees, Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, thanked her for her strong support for the work of St David’s which places about 10% of all

children placed in Wales annually. He said: “I know we can do more. We already work with a considerable number of local authorities but if all of the services across Wales could see us as the important resource we are, we can, together, create many more opportunities for children who are otherwise left behind in the search for a family. We can help so many of those couples who approach us to become the wonderful adopters they can be. I echo the Deputy Minister’s words –‘ to break down barriers and ensure that not one child should wait one day longer in care than necessary.’

Gerry Cooney Chief Executive of St David’s Children Society said: “We are delighted that the Deputy Minister could take the time to meet with us, and today, to open our new offices in Park Place here in Cardiff. In recognising that the services provided by voluntary adoption agencies are of excellent quality, we also acknowledge the work of our dedicated staff. These specialists offer an exceptionally high degree of support to adoptive families and children at all stage of the adoption process. Voluntary adoption agencies have been at the forefront of developing and offering new ideas and approaches to the provision of adoption services. We hope to take forward this excellent and innovative work in new partnerships with local authorities, and that our new offices will provide the springboard for us to continue to grow our core commitment – to support the adoptive family and child for life.”

“We are very pleased that the Minister is meeting with us today and agreed to open our new offices here in Park Place. Thank you for affording us this time and for recognising and applauding the Society’s contribution towards adoption services in Wales. We hope to take forward this excellent and innovative work in new partnerships with Local Authorities, and that our new offices will provide the springboard for us to grow our core commitment – “to support the adoptive family and child for life.”

St. David’s is the longest serving adoption agency in Wales. In our 68 year history, we have placed over 2,000 children for adoption, a very significant contribution to Welsh children and Welsh family life.

Our work continues. Since 1st April 2010, working in partnerships with Welsh local authorities, 17 children have been placed for adoption. Our adoption team are currently undertaking adoption assessments on 20 families, with over half of these applicants being assessed for sibling groups of children.

I would like to thank our adoption team for the exceptionally high degree of support they provide to adoptive families and children at all stage of the adoption process. In particular a very sincere thank you to Joan Price, our adoption manager, whose leadership, commitment and professionalism has been instrumental in securing the quality of these services.

The quality of the team’s work is not just evidenced in their high outputs, but by the fact that we have one of the lowest disruption rates for adoption breakdown rates in the country; a rate of 4%, compared with local authority disruption rates across England & Wales averaging between 15% & 20%.

There are a considerable number of representatives from SWAC (South Wales Adoption Consortium) present today. SWAC is a partnership of 9 local authorities and 2 voluntary adoption agencies. In working together we have achieve many great outcomes for children awaiting adoption.

It would be fair to say that St David’s has been a significant contributor of approved adopters to SWAC. The statistics demonstrate that in past five years, St. David’s not only referred more approved adopters to SWAC than any other member agency, but has consistently referred more approved adopters for placements for sibling groups of children and children over 5 years of age than any other agency.

The Minister advised that with the increase in the numbers of children entering into the looked after system, it was important that all of us break down operational barriers that negatively impact upon partnership arrangements for the best interest of the child. One such operational barrier is the interagency fee.

Recently the DCSF, after consultation with BAAF, ADSS & CVAA, jointly commissioned Julie Selwyn at the Hadley Centre and Loughborough University to consider whether the interagency fee was value for money. Selwyn reported :

The average cost to the local authority making an adoption placement to one of its own approved adopters was just under £36,000.
Selwyn: evidenced that local authority adoption teams consistently omitted the financial costs of running their offices, their legal costs, pensions, governance, buildings costs, utilities, maintenance, etc. In local authorities, these costs are arbitrarily attributed to other budgets, whereas are allocated on a proportional basis to each placement made by voluntary adoption agencies.
Those local authorities who made use of the interagency fee not only created greater choice of prospective adopters for children but more importantly created better outcomes for children; as is evident by the lower breakdown statistics.
Selwyn demonstrated that those authorities that used voluntary adoption agencies made significant savings across their child care budgets, reducing the need for foster carers, respite carers, frontline staff & management, costs for ongoing legal challenges, Independent Reviewing Officers, etc.
Selwyn’s research raises the question as to whether the child’s placement is determined by local authority budgetary constraints rather than the assessed needs of the child.
This (DCSF approved) research, suggests that it is not the interagency fee that is a barrier to achieving adoption placements, rather the structure of local authority adoption budgets.

Various reports have evidenced that the true cost of keeping a child in care from 3 to 18 years totals in excess of £750,000. It truly is a false economy if there is not an external fee (currently £25,000) for a child who could be placed through a voluntary adoption agency

The cost of external fees are met by a small adoption budget with immediate and for the most part non-transferable savings made to the substantitive fostering budget and district budgets. As social workers, adoption managers and senior managers, our duty is not just to be an advocate for the child, but to understand and develop structures that ensure best outcomes for children. There is a duty upon us all to understand how one budget relieves another and a responsibility to ensure that our financial structures are fit for purpose. Audit calculations must start taking into account the social return on the investment in adoption services.

The Assembly Government for Wales has invested enormous energy in developing legislation to ensure qualitative outcomes for children. The Adoption & Children Act sits alongside the Human Rights Act guaranteeing every child the right to family life. As custodians of the Human Rights Act we have a duty to ensure that the most vulnerable children in our society are afforded every possible opportunity to secure family life. Our Equal Opportunity Policies are meaningless if they create good outcomes for staff, but deny children in care the right to the widest possible placement choice when it comes to finding a forever family.

Ultimately the argument for interagency fees is not just about significant savings for the local authority, or about best value to ratepayers, but one in which, as the Minister said that we break down all barriers to achieve best possible outcomes for children.

As social work agencies, we constantly focus on meeting the assessed needs of the child. Yet we would achieve very little by way of successful outcomes for these children without the support of people in our communities who will consider adoption. We have a considerable number of adoptive families here today, including Arfon & Rachel who adopted two children, including ‘S’ who spoke so beautifully about her positive experience of adoption. In particular I would like to offer a very big thank you to all of our adoptive families, whose enduring love, endless energy and overwhelming commitment has been the prime mover in creating new families and new worlds for these children.

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