The Service Manager from Adoption Tees Valley, Vicky Davison- Boyd will present the annual report to the Board.
The Board welcome Vicky- Davison Boyd, Service Manager from Adoption Tees Valley (ATV) who was in attendance to provide the Adoption Tees Valley Annual report 2020-21.
This Annual Report covered the period of 1.4.20 - 31.3.2021.
The Board were well aware that this period had been impacted by Covid-19 and the Service Manager advised that the year reported on has been characterised by adoption activity which has been conducted within the amended regulations and restrictions that have been imposed because of the public health emergency. One aspect that the ATV used was the ability to move adoptive parents onto Stage 2 of the adoption process without the medicals/ DBS being returned due to delays. However the Board were assured that no adoptive parents were approved without a medical or a DBS. Medicals were carried out by doctors/ medical advisors be that virtually.
In the main, despite some members being absent, Adoption Panels were held (virtually) and no adopters were approved without being presented to Panel; to ensure the quality assurance mechanism set in place.
The Service Manager stated that ATV continued to work in partnership with all 5 local authorities; however initially at the beginning of April 2020, moves for children to adoption placements were put on hold due to the virus and its health implications.
ATV worked closed with the National Adoption Agency National system and quite quickly looked at safe measures to move children on if that had been matched and not to have further unnecessary delay unduly by the pandemic. ATV operated a national risk assessment system (taking into account all issues associated with the pandemic) and there was excellent work undertaken by social workers; children services staff etc and these have been proven by the outcomes of some of the work undertaken in the year.
In terms of children being adopted, in the Tees Valley there were 82 children placed for adoption, but there were a further 17 children have been placed for early permanence, not yet “placed for adoption”.
In terms of Courts, they were very closely with ATV and heard adoption hearings, be that through challenging circumstances and there were 89 children adopted in the year.
The Service Manager advised that ATV had devised the Early Permanence Strategy; which set out to offer more opportunity for children to be cared for by their likely permanent family, at an earlier stage in their lives. This has been achieved through fostering for adoption, where the child’s plan is well developed before the Placement Order is granted, enabling a transparent, well planned placement, which reduces moves for children, and enables vital bonding and attachment with those likely to become parents to the child, at an earlier stage.
This was slightly affected by Covid, however this was put back on track and training was delivered to all 5 local authorities children’s services. ATV met with senior Managers and legal teams and key teams. Due to this we are seeing more children being moved onto early permanence.
In the latter part of the year, ATV worked on their moving onto adoption model which is a national researched programme and have begun to pilot in ATV and used in specific cases. Foster carers and adopters get to know each other better and all the focus is supporting the child with continued foster carer contact even when placed.
In terms of Middlesbrough’s performance, the Manager outlined that there had been some excellent work and one thing that was really embedded was the permanence monitoring group, which was tightly managed and this enabled a close track of all children with a permanence plan and particularly an adoption plan. The Permanence Monitoring group was chaired by Paula Jemson and attended my members of ATV and plans are done in a timely way and if there are any delays, these problems are resolved.
In terms of Middlesbrough’s numbers for 2020-21, there were:
· 25 Children adopted (compared to 16 in 2019-20) and there are several sibling groups.
· This year, there have been 10 children adopted
· 24 placements
· Timescales for children being adopted has improved in Middlesbrough, it was over 500 days from being looked after to moving in with adopters in 2019-20, but last year the average figure of 385 days.
· Increase in older children coming through for adoption
The Service Manager congratulated children’s services for their performance, but advised further improvement could be made, however ATV work closely with Middlesbrough to ensure the service continues to improve; however there has been vast improvement in terms of adoption and early permanence.
In terms of training, ATV have been involved in the programme for social workers, and ATV have been thrilled by the number of newly qualified social workers coming through and being able to have in depth discussion.
Following the presentation, the Board congratulated the service for the number of children and especially older children being adopted.
A Board member queried whether there was any update regarding the number of diverse groups seeking to become adoptive parents. The Service Manager advised that ATV had reached out to recruit to diverse communities and there had been a small increase- 3 families were currently coming through assessment. In terms of children from ethnic minority backgrounds, there are several, and it was hoped that they would be able to be placed with ethnic minority families if suitable. The Board learnt that there was no one prevalent ethnic background as most children from tended to be dual heritage.
The Head of Looked After Children and Corporate Parenting further added that to date Middlesbrough had secured:
· 14 adoption orders , with a further 2 hopefully being granted an order.
· 32 children who are subject to adoption orders; with 2 children not looked to adoptors.
Of those 32 children:
· 7 single children
· 5 sibling groups of 2
· 5 from ethnic minorities
· 6 children with significant health and additional needs
· 7 children over the age of 4 years old.
The Director of Children’s Services further wanted to stress that these improvements had been made during covid and social workers and the regional adoption agency has been working differently. Middlesbrough should be proud of the way it has performed during this period. She also outlined that she had the pleasure of being the adoption decision maker for Middlesbrough and was passionate about how our children find their forever home.
Lastly , the foster carer in attendance advised that historically, foster carers had little to do with the selection of foster carers and queried whether this could be developed. In terms of foster carer involvement, ATV have started to involve foster carers more in the meeting of prospective adopters, however the selection process was for social workers however should take into account feedback from foster carers; in terms of matching and selection and foster carers should have the opportunity to meet adopters and share stories or the child/ren. The Service Manager also outlined to the Board that it was National Adoption week and any support would be welcome.
The Chair thanked the service manager for her presentation and input.
AGREED- That the presentation be noted.