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Address the gaps in the care review – CVAA’s message to government ahead of its formal response

It is anticipated that the government in England will make its formal response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care final report (published in May 2022) in early 2023. Ahead of this response being published, the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) is sharing its own response to the final report, reflecting the views of voluntary adoption agencies across the country, urging Government to address the gaps in the report concerning adoption.

CVAA’s statement, published on 13th January 2023, can be found here.

The 2-page section on adoption in the Review’s final report (‘4.3 Modernising Adoption’, pages 109-110) certainly reflects important themes which CVAA has long advocated for, including the need for all children – those adopted and in care – to have much greater support to maintain significant relationships in their lives, alongside far better support for birth families. [1] These are vital recommendations and change in this respect is essential to the flourishing of all children who cannot live in their families of origin. This is both a responsibility for the adoption sector which must improve its practice, and the government which must properly fund services to adapt and grow.

Very welcome too was the recognition given to kinship carers who invariably make significant life changes to care for the children they take responsibility for, and love as their own. Kinship carers, like adopters, parent children who have had the toughest early life experiences and have high levels of need, therefore it is only right that these carers get parity of support and training with adopters.

However, CVAA remains perplexed that the final report failed to address a number of the most serious issues facing the adoption sector right now, which impact on adopted children and families day in, day out. In fact, the report gave the strong impression that the current adoption system is serving children well, save for better contact; a message reinforced by positive references to the Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) programme and the establishment of the Adoption Support Fund.

The dramatic decline in numbers of children being adopted in recent years, the greater proportion of children waiting over 18 months to be matched with adopters, and the crisis in adoption support are all absent in the Review’s final report, despite being major challenges threatening the entire future of adoption. This lack of attention leads us to question who is taking responsibility for robustly interrogating how the adoption system is meeting the needs of children? A question which is even more salient now than when the Care Review was published, given the abolition of the ASGLB at the end of December 2022. The report defers to the government’s recent Adoption Strategy, although this was not independent, and fails to note that evaluations of the RAA programme have been inconclusive. The lack of scrutiny is alarming not just for adopted children and families, but because trends in adoption have implications for the decisions made for children across all forms of care. Moreover, if the Review’s recommendation about the regionalisation of all care services is accepted by the government and modelled on regional adoption agencies (RAAs), the current adoption system will have implications for the structures which support all children in care across the UK.

In the statement we summarise three core issues which demonstrate why adopted children (and those with the potential to be adopted) should not be overlooked in the government’s response to the care review. We present them alongside suggestions of how the government and the sector can tackle them, aided by the knowledge and support of the voluntary sector.