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6.2.6 Adoption Support

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

See Adoption passport: a support guide for adopters.

Adoption Statutory Guidance 2013

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in February 2016 to reflect current practice relating to remuneration for former foster parents.


Contents

  1. What is Adoption Support?
  2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support
  3. Examples of Adoption Support
  4. When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support
  5. Adoption Support Service Advisor (ASSA)
  6. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?
  7. Which Local Authority Should Provide the Support?
  8. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support 
  9. The Adoption Support Plan
  10. Financial Support

    Appendices


1. What is Adoption Support?

Adoption Support includes any support likely to be required for an adoptive placement to endure through to adulthood and is applicable to both existing and new situations.

Blackburn with Darwen Adoption Service will provide a comprehensive package of adoption support services to children, birth parents and siblings, prospective adopters and adoptive parents(and their children), prior to placement, prior to adoption, and post adoption.

Local authorities do not have to provide the services themselves but must have made arrangements for services to be provided by voluntary or other agencies such as Health or Education.


2. Duty to Provide Information Concerning Adoption Support

Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (as amended by the Children and Families Act 2014) the local authority has a duty to provide information on adoption support services to:

  • Anyone contacting the authority to request information about adopting a child;
  • Anyone informing the authority that (s)he wishes to adopt a child;
  • Any parent of an adopted child within the authority’s area who requests the information;
  • Any parent of an adopted child within the authority’s area of whom the authority is/becomes aware (e.g. where a parent rings about an SEN assessment and it becomes clear that the child is adopted).

Information must be provided about:

  • The full range of adoption support services available in the local authority area. This includes, but is not limited to, therapeutic services, assistance in relation to contact arrangements, and financial support;
  • The right to request an assessment for adoption support services (at any time);
  • The address and telephone number of the authority’s Adoption Support Services Adviser;
  • The availability of assessments for adoption support services for persons outside the local authority area, so that parents understand which local authority is responsible for assessing their support needs;
  • Contact details for First4Adoption and the local web-based information service which provides information about adoption (See also Let's Adopt Website);
  • Priority school admissions (where relevant). Details can be found at School admission of children adopted from local authority care (GOV.UK Guidance);
  • Priority council housing and Discretionary Housing Payments;
  • The entitlement to early education from the age of two (from September 2014);
  • How to make a complaint, both under the local authority complaints procedure and to the Local Government Ombudsman;
  • Any other relevant services provided by the local authority;
  • Any other information that the local authority considers relevant.

The following information must also be provided to potential and prospective adopters:

  • Details of where to find information about adoption pay and leave. Details can be found at Adoption pay and leave (GOV.UK website);
  • Information about the right to receive a copy of the child’s permanence report, including a summary of the medical adviser’s report on the health of the child, before the child is placed with them for adoption;
  • The entitlement to a life story book. This should include who provides the life story book, what it includes and what it can be used for.

When a person requests information about a specific service, the local authority must ask whether they would like any of the other information as well.

Information does not need to be provided where:

  • The local authority has provided all the necessary information in the last 12 months and none of the information has changed substantively;
  • A person has informed the local authority that they do not wish to receive the information (unless the authority considers it appropriate to do so);
  • Where the information has already been sent, e.g. where the same person requests the information a number of times in a short period.
If the local authority refuses a person’s request for information, it should give reasons for the refusal and signpost the person to the website that holds the information.


3. Examples of Adoption Support

See also The adoption passport: a support guide for adopters.

Adoption support is defined as including:

  1. Financial support to adopters. This can include paid adoption leave at similar rates to maternity and paternity leave;
  2. Priority access to social housing, and access to additional support to cover a spare room whilst adopters wait for their child to arrive in their new home;
  3. Priority admission for school places, including academies and free schools;
  4. Services to enable groups of adoptive children, adoptive parents and birth parents to discuss matters relating to adoption;
  5. Assistance, including mediation, with contact arrangements between adopted children and their birth parents or others with whom they share a significant relationship;
  6. Therapeutic services for adoptive children;
  7. Assistance to adoptive parents and children to support the adoptive placement and enable it to continue, including respite care;
  8. Assistance to adoptive parents and children where a placement disrupts or is at risk of disruption;
  9. A range of adoption support services, including access to counselling, information and advice for both adoptive parents and their children, who may have complex needs;
  10. Assistance with cross boundary matters;
  11. Intermediary Services.

Support provided under 4) to 8) above may include cash assistance, for example to pay for help around the home, although this would not be regarded as financial support.


4.  When to Assess the Need for Adoption Support

4.1

In relation to adoptions arranged by the agency, practitioners must assess the need for adoption support at the following stages of care and permanence planning:

  1. When preparing the Child's Permanence Report for presentation to the Agency Decision Maker or Adoption Panel as to whether the child should be placed for adoption;
  2. When preparing the Prospective Adopter's Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel as to the suitability of prospective adoptive parents to adopt;
  3. When considering and preparing the Adoption Placement Report for presentation to the Adoption Panel in relation to the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters.
4.2

In relation to placements arranged by the agency, adoption support must also always be considered at a child's Adoption Reviews following the adoptive placement.

See Adoption Reviews Procedure

4.3

Local authorities must also undertake assessments of need for adoption support at the request of the following:

  1. Children who may be adopted, their parents or guardians;
  2. Persons wishing to adopt a child;
  3. Adopted persons, their parents, birth parents and former guardians;
  4. Other children of adoptive parents (whether or not they are adopted);
  5. Birth siblings of adopted children;
  6. Relatives of the adopted child or other persons with whom the child has a beneficial relationship.

The requirement to assess the need for support is limited to the entitlement to services of the person making the request.

As well as adoptions arranged by the local authority, children adopted from abroad are entitled to be assessed for therapeutic services and disruption support. It is only where the adoption is by a step parent that there is no requirement to carry out an assessment, although in such cases, counselling, advice and information may be offered as appropriate.


5. Adoption Support Service Advisor (ASSA)

This role will be held by the Service Leader responsible for Placement services. It is positioned at a strategic management level so as to assist with inter agency/authority negotiations if necessary.

The day-to-day adoption support services will be provided for within the adoption team and specifically by the adoption social workers.


6. Which Local Authority Should Carry out the Assessment?

The table below sets out which local authority has responsibility for carrying out the assessment of need for adoption support, and in what circumstances.

Circumstance Responsibility for Assessment
Child being Looked After and in respect of whom an adoption plan is being considered The local authority looking after the child
Child placed with or adopted by family living in the area of the local authority arranging the adoption The local authority for the area where the child and adopters live
Child placed with and/or adopted by family living outside the local authority area The placing local authority has responsibility at the time of the placement and for up to 3 years after the Adoption Order is made, and then the local authority where the adopters live will have the responsibility
In all other cases (i.e. non agency placements except step parent adoptions) The local authority where the requester lives must assess


7. Which Local Authority Should Provide the Support?

The local authority responsible for carrying out the assessment of need should provide support to meet the identified needs.

The exception to this is where ongoing financial support and/or supporting contact arrangements have been agreed by the placing authority before the Adoption Order was made, in which case the responsibility to provide such support will remain with that authority for as long as eligibility for the service continues.


8. Process of Assessment for Adoption Support

In all cases where an assessment is required, the practitioners involved should conduct assessments by following the guidance set out in the Working Together 2015. The assessment should take account of the adoption context and, where the assessment relates to the child, all the developmental needs of the child should be covered including health, education and emotional needs, and contact issues. The relevant education service and health trust should be consulted as necessary.

Assessments of need for adoption support under paragraph 4.1 (a) and (b) above should be carried out by the child's social worker and/or the prospective adopters' social worker as appropriate prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel. The assessment under paragraph 4.1.(c) at the time of the child's proposed placement with prospective adopters should be considered at the Shortlisting Meeting and also have the approval of the Service Leader prior to being presented to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report. At all stages, the Adoption Panel must consider and may give advice on the proposed adoption support and this advice will be considered by the Agency Decision Maker, before making a final decision on the contents of the Adoption Support Plan - see Placement for Adoption Procedure.

Any assessment (under paragraph 4.2) considered necessary at an Adoption Review, as a result of which a change in the Adoption Support Plan is required, should be referred to the Head of Service for approval who will consider whether the case should be referred back to the Adoption Panel and the Agency Decision Maker.

An assessment will not be required before providing advice and information.

Where an assessment is carried out as a result of a request under paragraph 4.3, a written report of the assessment should be produced and agreed by the Service Leader.

A copy of the assessment report, once approved, should be sent to the person assessed with notice of the outcome of the assessment, which should state:

  1. The person's assessed needs for support;
  2. Whether the local authority proposes to provide adoption support services and if so, what the proposed services are;
  3. Where the assessment relates to the need for financial support, how this has been determined and calculated and the conditions to be attached, (see Section 10, Financial Support).

Where the person assessed is a child, and it is not appropriate to send the notice to the child, notices should be sent to the adoptive parent or the most appropriate adult.

Where services are proposed, a draft Adoption Support Plan should usually be attached to the notice and those assessed should be allowed time to consider and make representations on the proposal as set out in Section 9, The Adoption Support Plan.

Where the service proposed is one-off, the notice of the outcome of the assessment will be sufficient to outline what is proposed and a draft plan will not be required.


9. The Adoption Support Plan

9.1 Contents of Adoption Support Plan

An Adoption Support Plan should set out clearly:

  1. The objectives of the plan and the key services to be provided;
  2. The timescales for achieving the plan;
  3. Those responsible for implementing the plan and the respective roles of others; what should be provided, when and by whom;
  4. The criteria that will be used to evaluate the success of the plan;
  5. The procedures that will be put in place to review the services to be provided and the plan.

The Adoption Support Plan will need to be completed after consultation with the appropriate Health Trust, CAMHS or education service where any special arrangements may need to be made. Where the child is placed in the area of another local authority, the agencies in that authority's area will need to be consulted as to what services may be available for the adopters and the adopted children. In these circumstances, the prospective adopters should be assisted with any cross-boundary issues that may arise.

The Adoption Support Plan should include any proposed financial support, how the amount has been calculated, where it is to be paid in instalments - the frequency of payment, the period over which it will be paid and when the first payment is to be made, the conditions and the consequences of failing to meet them and the arrangements for review, variation and termination, (see Section 10, Financial Support).

9.2 Consultation with Proposed Recipients of Adoption Support

Once a proposed Adoption Support Plan has the approval of the Service Leader, a copy should be sent to the proposed recipients of the support, as well as to any party involved in the delivery of the plan.

The recipients of the proposed support should be given 10 working days to consider the proposals and make representations to the local authority about the proposed plan. Any representations made should be considered by the Service Leader, who will amend the draft plan as appropriate and inform the recipients of the outcome of his or her consideration.

9.3 Approval of Adoption Support Plan

In relation to proposed agency adoptive placements, the proposed Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption Panel when the proposed placement of a child with particular prospective adopters is recommended. The final Adoption Support Plan will be approved, taking into account any advice given by the Adoption Panel. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

In relation to other situations in which adoption support is proposed, the Adoption Support Plan will be approved by the Head of Service.

9.4 Distribution of Adoption Support Plan

A copy of the final plan should go to all those involved in implementing it, and to the recipients of services (or appropriate adult). Where the child has an Independent Reviewing Officer, a copy should be sent to him or her.

9.5 Reviews of Adoption Support Plan

Where adoption support is in place prior to an Adoption Order, the Adoption Support Plan should be reviewed at the reviews of the adoptive placement - see Adoption Reviews Procedure - or at any time if there is a significant change of circumstances, within four weeks of the notification of the change.

After the Adoption Order has been made, the Adoption Support Plan will be reviewed if a change in circumstances is brought to the notice of the local authority. The Adoption Service Manager will decide on the format and content of any such review, which will depend on the circumstances of the case. It may refer to only one element of the Plan or be relatively minor in which case an exchange of correspondence may be sufficient. (For annual reviews of financial support, see Section 10.7, Annual review of support).

Where the change of circumstances is substantial, such as a serious change in the behaviour of the child, it may be appropriate to conduct a new assessment of needs involving other parties.

If as a result of a review, whether before or after an Adoption Order has been made, it is proposed to vary or terminate the support, the proposed change must be referred to the Head of Service for approval, who, in the case of agency adoptive placements, may decide to refer the case back to the Adoption Panel for information and advice and then to the Agency Decision Maker for a decision to be made.

Once approved, the person concerned must be notified of the proposed change, together with a copy of the revised Adoption Support Plan in draft. He or she must then be given 10 working days to make representations on the proposals.

Any such representations should be submitted to the Head of Service whose decision as to the final contents of the revised Adoption Support Plan should take into account any representations made.

Notice of the decision must then be sent to the person concerned with reasons and, where appropriate, a copy of the revised plan.

9.6 Urgent Cases

Where there is an urgent need for support, the support can be provided before a Plan is drawn up but the above procedure should then be followed as soon as possible.

9.7 Adoption Mailbox

9.7.1 An Adoption Mailbox is maintained by Blackburn with Darwen Children's Services Department to support an information exchange in adoption placements. It provides details of agreements between birth parents (or other birth family member) and adoptive parents, of how indirect contact will take place. Information exchanged may include letters, cards, photographs, cd's or children's artwork.

9.7.2

Making the Agreement:

 

Each of the parties will be given a Mailbox Information leaflet, which explains how to send information, and the basic principles underpinning a mailbox exchange.

Prospective adoptive parents must be fully apprised of the expectations upon them regarding contact, prior to matching and placement. Their commitment to the mailbox agreement over time is most likely to be obtained if the prospective adopters fully appreciate the reasons for decisions made regarding contact arrangements.

Birth family members should be given details of the dates and intended contents of the exchange. The particular wishes of the birth family members may need to be discussed with the prospective adopters. Birth parents will need to be advised on how to write 'emotionally neutral' information about themselves, and how to address cards or letters, and how to sign themselves off. Details of exchange dates must be clearly indicated on Mailbox Agreement forms when they are completed.

It is the responsibility of the child's social worker to ensure that separate agreements are completed with the parties to the exchange, and that information leaflets are given prior to the making of an Adoption Order. This will normally be after the child has been placed with the adoptive family.

The Adoption Mailbox agreement forms are distinguished from each other by colour:- birth family - pink, and adoptive family - white. They are to be witnessed by the person who assists in their completion.

The child's social worker may need to enlist the help of the link worker for the adoptive family in completing the agreements.

During this process birth parents need to be reminded about After Adoption's Birth Ties service, who can assist them in dealing with the emotional impact of losing a child through adoption. Birth parents/relatives would have been referred for independent counselling through Birth Ties following the child's 'Should be Placed' recommendation at adoption panel.  A re-referral can be made either by the person themselves or by the adoption social worker, with their agreement.

Mailbox agreements should also be established for siblings, and mailbox agreements made between their carers. Where siblings of adopted children are placed with birth family members; the agreements should be made in the same way as for other birth family members.

Agreements between carers for children in adoptive families, with siblings also placed for adoption are completed on the adoptive family form when these are necessary, however whenever possible adopters will be supported to facilitate this contact between themselves without use of the Mailbox.

Where Mailbox contact is between an adopted child and a child placed with birth family members, care must be taken to protect the confidentiality of the adoptive family. The birth family form is to be used for the birth family members concerned.

Completed agreements should be given to the mailbox administrator to input onto the Mailbox spread sheet and to be made into a mailbox file.

The child's social worker retains responsibility for ensuring that mailbox agreements from all parties are completed. The mailbox co-ordinator will not accept agreements and set up a mailbox file until all agreements have been completed and signed by all parties. Where there are difficulties in engaging birth parents and reasonable efforts have been made by the child’s social worker, support can be requested from the Post Adoption Support Team.

9.7.3

Procedure for the mailbox exchange:

 

On receipt of all the agreements from birth parents/relatives and adoptive families a new file will be created with the child's adoptive name and exchange date(s) displayed on labels on the front of the file. A mailbox file will NOT be set up and exchanges will NOT commence until all signed agreements have been returned to the mailbox administrator by the child's social worker.

On receipt of all agreements the mailbox administrator will input detail of birth and adoptive family onto the Mailbox Database.

The administrative officer will update information on the database whenever they become aware of or have been informed of a change of address, or of the details of the exchange takes place. The same changes will be recorded on the mailbox file in the Adoption cabinet.

When an item is received it will be dealt with in line with the attached flowchart. All items are read by the Mailbox Administrator or Adoption Support social worker prior to sending to ensure that content is appropriate and not identifiable information/photographs are sent.

In the event of there being a need for discussion with any of the parties, the Adoption Support social worker will be informed of the reason for this. The Adoption Support social worker will take appropriate action to resolve the issue raised, and record the outcome in the Mailbox file.

All items are to be sent by RECORDED DELIVERY.

The Mailbox administrator will check the mailbox database on a monthly basis. If information is not received by the Mailbox two months after the agreed time, a written reminder will need to be sent. A copy of the reminder letter will be placed on the file. The Mailbox administrator will also send out a reminder letter following contact from birth family/adoptive family chasing up contact letters. A second reminder will be sent when necessary if requested by the birth family or adoptive family.  If there is no response within 4 weeks the other party will be informed and the file will be closed.  The enquiring party will be advised to seek legal advice should they wish to pursue contact further.

9.7.4

Review:

 

Reviews will be sent out annually, usually one month before an exchange of letters is due. It will also include a reminder. A further reminder will be sent out two months after the due date or if mail is received from one party and the other has not responded.

The mailbox administrator will send out a review form and a SAE to birth family and adoptive family.

A review will not be sent out before the first exchange.

Should amendments be made to the Mailbox Exchange, consultation must take place with all the parties. It will be the role of the Adoption Support social worker to mediate between the parties and record the outcome of this process on the Review form. The completed Review form will be placed on the Mailbox file and amendments recorded on the Mailbox spread sheet by the administrative officer.
 

See also:

9.8 Support for Birth Parents

9.8.1 Services to birth families will be provided sensitively and will ensure that birth parents have access to all relevant information and records that form part of the adoption process and that they can choose to be involved in gathering information for their child.
9.8.2 Birth Parents will receive counselling and other services from Blackburn with Darwen Adoption Service usually via the Birth Ties service and will be helped by the agency to understand the emotional and legal effects of adoption and of the alternatives to adoption.
9.8.3 Birth parents will be informed about their right to make representations and complaints and advised who can help with this. This will usually be done by the child's social worker.
9.8.4 Wherever possible, Blackburn with Darwen Adoption Service will provide birth parents with access to a social worker with specialist skills and knowledge who is not the social worker for the child. Birth parents will be provided with information at all stages of the process about access to independent support from Birth Ties Support and counselling service provided by After Adoption and commissioned by Blackburn with Darwen BC.
9.8.5 Birth parents will be helped to record their views or to have someone speak on their behalf. When their views differ from the plan for the child, these views will be recorded accurately and in full. Wherever possible, Blackburn with Darwen Adoption Service will take account of birth parents' views in the choice of a new family, the child's religious and cultural upbringing; and their views on the placing of the child's brothers and sisters or the nature of contact between them.
9.8.6 Blackburn with Darwen Adoption Service will ensure that birth parents' wishes are taken into account when contact arrangements are made. Birth parents will be provided with written contact arrangements following placement of the child in their adoptive placement. This will detail what information is to be available, how it is to be exchanged and the nature of future contact.
9.8.7 Blackburn with Darwen adoption service will ensure that, if it is consistent with the best interests of the child, and agreed by the adoptive parents, birth parents are provided with written information about the child's progress regularly, at intervals agreed in advance with the adopters.


10. Financial Support

10.1 Introduction

Financial support is intended to supplement existing means of support available to adoptive parents and the child or children being adopted. Adopters must be given advice of entitlements to employee's rights to leave and pay, benefits, tax credits and allowances, and these should be taken into account when considering amounts of financial support.

10.2 Criteria

The circumstances in which provision of financial support may be paid are as follows:

  1. Where it is necessary to ensure that adoptive parents can look after a child;
  2. Where the child needs special care which requires a greater expenditure of resources by reason of illness, disability, emotional or behavioural difficulties or the continuing consequences of neglect - and the child's condition is serious and long-term;
  3. Where it is necessary for the local authority to make any special arrangements to facilitate the placement or the adoption by reason of the age or ethnic origin of the child or the desirability of the child being placed with siblings or a child with whom he/she has previously shared a home;
  4. Where such support is to meet the recurring costs of travel for visits for the child to members of the birth family/significant others;
  5. Where the local authority considers it appropriate to contribute towards expenditure on legal costs, including Court fees (in cases where the adoption is supported by the local authority), or expenses associated with the child's introduction to adoptive parents or expenditure on accommodating the child (e.g. adaptations to the home, furniture, clothing or transport).

10.3 Types of Payment

An Initial Placement Grant - This is a standard, non-means tested grant which is payable for all children who meet the eligibility criteria moving into new placements. It may also be paid for a child who does not meet the eligibility criteria, but who is to be placed with a single person receiving Income Support/Jobseeker’s Allowance, or a couple where both receive either Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance. Consideration may also be given to those on similarly low incomes.

The initial placement grant is not payable for children who are being adopted by their former foster carers.

Regular Financial Support - is only payable for children who meet the eligibility criteria and payment of regular financial support is subject to a means test.

Adopters who wish to be assessed for regular financial support must complete an application form QUERY (see Appendix 1: Financial Support Application Form) and provide proof of all income and expenditure. Failure to do so will result in a delay in processing the application and could affect the start date of any financial support.

All income available to the family and the child will be taken into account. Foster children (and any associated payments) are not regarded as part of the family for the purposes of the means test, nor are any adoption or special guardianship allowances which have already been paid to the family.

Expenditure for the family and the adoptive child will be taken into account.

The financial assessment will be undertaken based on the income available to the family when the child is placed. Adopters can be reassessed three months after the placement is made if there is uncertainty about their benefit entitlement at the time of placement.

All benefits available to adopters must be claimed. If adopters do not claim available benefits despite reminders and offers of advice from Welfare Rights, their financial support will be reduced

All payments will be made by BACS. A form will be sent to the adopters with the application form.

All cases will be reviewed annually. An application form will be sent out 28 days before the review date, and must be returned with all proofs of income and expenditure by the deadline date. Financial support will be reassessed with effect from the date of review. If the form is not returned by the deadline, financial support may cease and may not be backdated to the review date.

Where a change in the adopters’ financial circumstances occurs at any time which may affect the level of financial support, the adopters must notify the Finance Team in writing, with the necessary proofs, and the financial support will be re-assessed accordingly. Any over-payments made as a result of failure to report changes in financial circumstances will be recovered.

Additional Assessed Needs - Such payments are available only for eligible children and are means tested. All additional financial support for adopters must be authorised by the Head of Service.

The criteria for assessment are as follows:

The case is clearly made that the proposed provision is essential to making the placement possible or to prevent its breakdown.

Additional needs are directly beneficial to the child as part of the adoption support package.

An up-to-date Welfare Rights assessment is available, addressing the family’s financial situation. As part of this, alternatives for funding and support are considered and described (e.g. health or education funding, voluntary support groups, disabled facilities or other grants etc). Reasons must be given for why they are not accessible.

Additional assessed needs which fall into the following categories will be assessed:

Changes to Property (more than £10,000)

Capital in the names of the adoptive family and adopted child will be taken into account. Proof of capital must be provided. £16,000 will be disregarded for each person holding capital, and 75% of the remaining capital will be treated as their contribution to the cost of the additional need.

In all cases the adopters would be expected to take out a new mortgage or increase an existing mortgage, and be responsible for paying any additional charges due. In the event that they are not successful and can prove this, Blackburn with Darwen Council will consider underwriting the mortgage. The adopter will still be responsible for paying the charges due. Blackburn with Darwen Council will put a charge on the property for the mortgage amount for the term of the mortgage.

Blackburn with Darwen Council will consider making a capital grant to the adopters in order to fund the changes to their property. The council will place a charge on the property the amount of which will reduce by equal annual amounts over a period of five years.

Changes to Property or Other One-Off Payments (less than £10,000)

Capital in the names of the adoptive family and adopted child will be taken into account. Proof of capital must be provided. £16,000 will be disregarded for each person holding capital, and 75% of the remaining capital will be treated as their contribution to the cost of the additional need.

If the excess capital covers the whole cost of the additional need, the adopter will be responsible for making the payment. If it does not, Blackburn with Darwen Council will make a payment for the remaining amount, providing it has been authorised in advance. If the adopter’s capital has reduced as a result, their financial supports will be reassessed.

Other Identified Needs

These payments will only be made in exceptional circumstances. The adopters’ contribution calculated as part of the means test will be considered to be available to pay for additional needs.  All payments will be time limited and the identified need must be reassessed regularly. If the need no longer exists, the payment must stop.

Expenses During Introductions

Travelling expenses for adopters during the period of introductions will be paid using public transport rates. If it is necessary for adopters to incur accommodation costs to facilitate the process, reasonable costs will be met in full.

Statutory Adoption Pay

Where an adopter is ineligible for Statutory Adoption Pay we will consider making a payment of financial support equivalent to Maternity Allowance where adopters:

“have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks up to and including the week before the child is placed with them for adoption (the test period), and have earned on average at least the minimum earnings required to qualify for Maternity Allowance. The average earnings are worked out using earnings from any 13 weeks in the test period”.

Contact Expenses

Adopted children may need to maintain face-to-face contact with important people from their past, such as birth relatives. Where this contact includes significant travel and other costs, financial assistance may be given. All expenses for contact must be negotiated with the adoption service in advance. Adoptive families who have to make a round trip of 80 miles or more will be able to claim for the following, using the appropriate form and on production of the necessary receipts:

  • Travel costs: use of own vehicle at public transport rates, or use of standard class public transport;
  • Accommodation: up to equivalent of Travel Lodge rates;
  • Food/activities: up to £25 per person per day (to include all members of the household involved in the visit);
  • Financial support cannot generally include the "reward" element which may be payable to foster carers and neither will payments be made so as to provide an income. However, payments may be paid above the usual level where it is regarded as necessary to ease the transition from foster care to adoption. Generally such additional payments can be paid for a period of two years although in exceptional circumstances, additional payments may be paid for a longer period.

Foster Carer Adopters - Special transitional arrangements are in place for foster carers who become adoptive parents. This is to allow for a period of adjustment in their financial situation.

  • Payment of financial support is dependent upon the child meeting the eligibility criteria;
  • Initial placement grants are not payable to foster carer adopters as the child is already in placement with them;
  • Foster carers transfer from fostering allowances to adoption financial support from the date of the agency decision approving them as adopters to the child in question;
  • From that date up until 2 years after the Adoption Order is made, the (foster carer) adopters will receive a payment which is equivalent to the fostering allowance less any benefit they are entitled to claim as a result of adopting;
  • Foster carer adopters will be offered a Welfare Rights check and should apply for all benefits to which they are entitled. If they choose not to apply, after reminders, financial support will be reduced;
  • Twelve months after the child is placed for adoption the foster carer adopters will complete a financial assessment review form and the payment will be based on this assessment. They will be reviewed annually thereafter unless they have a change in circumstances. At this point, foster carer adopters fall within the same process as all adopters;
  • For foster carers whose remuneration for a particular child includes a fee or reward elements, the financial assessment may determine that the adoption allowance should include the fee or reward element equivalent for a period of up to two years in order to ease the transition to standardised adoption;
  • In exceptional circumstances, including the exceptional needs of the child the fee or reward element may be paid for a longer period. To qualify for these exceptions, the decision to pay ongoing financial support must have been taken before the making of the adoption.

10.4 Assessment for Financial Support

Where regular financial support is considered appropriate, the amount to be paid to adoptive parents may be determined by an assessment of their means. This will take account of the adopters' income and resources (excluding their home), reasonable outgoings and commitments, and the financial needs and resources of the child. (N.B. Support provided under Section 9.2 (v) to assist with legal costs or expenses associated with the child's introduction to the placement will not be subject to an assessment of means).

As part of this assessment, the adopters should be asked to complete a Financial Assessment Form and the completed form should be forwarded to the Finance Department. The Adoption Service Manager will decide the level of support to be included in the draft Adoption Support Plan (see Section 9, The Adoption Support Plan), having regard to this assessment, and obtain budgetary approval as necessary depending on the amount.

In relation to proposed financial support for a new placement, the Adoption Support Plan will be submitted to the Adoption Panel with the Adoption Placement Report when a matching recommendation is being considered. See Placement for Adoption Procedure.

10.5 Notification

The adopters will be sent written confirmation of the decision to provide financial support. This will include the amount and terms of the support and information about annual reviews.

10.6 Terms and Conditions

If it is decided that financial support should be given to adoptive parents, payment may be subject to conditions and a date specified by which the condition is to be met.

Prior to making financial support available to prospective or adoptive parents, they will be required to inform the adoption service:

  1. Of changes to their home address;
  2. If the child (for any reason) no longer lives with them;
  3. If there are any changes to their financial situation/the resources of the child.

Where information is given orally, adoptive parents must confirm this in writing within 7 days.

Should adoptive parents fail to comply with the requirements, the authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.

10.7 Annual Review of Support

Adoptive parents must also agree to complete and supply the authority with an annual statement of their circumstances for the annual review.

The adopters should specify the following in the statement:

  1. Their financial circumstances;
  2. The financial needs and resources of the child or children;
  3. Their home address and whether or not the child or children live at home with them;
  4. If there have been any changes to their own or the child/children's circumstances.

The Adoption Service will carry out an annual review of the financial support, taking into account the information given. Any proposed variation or termination of the financial support must be notified to the person(s) concerned and dealt with by the Adoption Service in accordance with the procedure set out in Section 9, The Adoption Support Plan. Any decision to vary or terminate should also consider whether it is appropriate to seek to recover all or any of the financial support already paid.

Should adoptive parents fail to supply an annual statement, the authority must send a written reminder and give 28 days to comply. If they fail to comply, the authority may suspend payment of the financial support provided.

Remuneration for former foster parents

Where the adopter previously fostered the child they are adopting, and they received remuneration in the financial support paid to them as the child’s foster parent, the local authority may continue to pay remuneration for a transitional period of two years from the date of the Adoption Order. This can continue for longer than two years if the local authority considers the case to be exceptional. The decision to include remuneration must have been taken before the making of the Adoption Order.

10.8 Ending of Financial Support

Financial support will end in the following circumstances:

  • When a child reaches age 18, unless he/she continues in full time education or training when support may continue until the end of the course of education or training being undertaken, subject to any other financial support the child may be entitled to receive;
  • Where a child ceases full-time education or training and commences employment;
  • Where a child qualifies for income support or job seekers allowance in his/her own right;
  • Where circumstances have changed significantly and the criteria are no longer met;
  • If a child leaves the adoptive home and this is regarded as a permanent departure. Temporary absences do not apply, e.g. boarding school, hospital, and respite care;
  • The child dies.


Appendices

Appendix 1: 'Financial Support Application Form'.

Appendix 2: Adoption Support Application Form

Appendix 3: Assessment of Adoptive Family Support Needs Report

End