The concept of the Adoption Guardian has come about through discussions with Adopters Together and Ofsted registered adoption support agency Catchpoint.

The set up costs for this national service are outlined below. For the cost of just two adopted children being returned to care, and accommodated in a residential care home for 1 year (this level of support is often needed when adopted children re enter care), the UK would have a national service of independent specialists to support adoptive children and families.

The Adoption Guardian is the child’s adoption guardian – but works with the family as a whole. These Guardians will support the child or infant, and the family, building a positive relationship and providing continuity of care from the moment a child is matched and placed.

The Adoption Guardian will attend all meetings about the child, regardless of whether the child lives with the adoptive family or re enters care. The support of families where children are looked after by Kinship Carers and Special Guardians will be included in this role.

The Adoption Guardian: a new approach to safeguarding

The Adoption Guardian will herald a new approach to safeguarding that is more suited to the needs of families living with the impact of trauma, abuse and neglect. The safeguarding approach taken will be one of crisis prevention, rather than ‘risk management’ – with the parents or carers viewed as part of the risk to a child. Such risk management approaches can lead to blame instead of support for the parents, family, or carers. In the event of a crisis occurring, the Adoption Guardian will be informed and involved as soon as possible to oversee a critical response that enables families to survive the crisis.

Adoption Guardians

Adoption Guardians are people who have a specialist understanding of the support needs of adoptive families, both children and parents.

Adoption Guardians believe that children who have experienced early trauma and can’t live in their birth family, need stable and secure families, and families caring for traumatised children need support. Supporting the child means supporting the family.

An Adoption Guardian is a guide, a signpost, an advocate and an instigator. This person may come from a range of professions and may have personal experience of Adoption.

An Adoption Guardian Service can make the difference for families to care for adopted children with a range of difficulties, preventing need to return to care, thus saving the subsequent care costs, helping to prevent introduction to crime, helping support children and young people with mental health problems and helping to enable adopted children to reach their education potential and become confident responsible and respectful young adults.

The Adoption Guardian role will be to identify the resources, guidance and support each adoptive family needs, taking into account the fact that no two families will be the same, and no one support system or therapy fits all adoptive families. An Adoption Guardian will be a link between what is available and the families who need the support. The Adoption Guardian will have an advisory role at multidisciplinary meetings called when an adoptive family are in crisis or if their child is in care. The Adoption Guardian will have the role of making sure everything is considered to reunite a family where a child is admitted to care, voluntarily or by court order.

Adoption Guardians can be managed by existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies, Registered Adoption Support Agencies or Regional Post Adoption Teams, but they will need to be independent of Children’s Services in the same way that an IRO is independent for LAC.

This expertise will include:

  • Knowledge of Adoption law including:
    • Care sections,
    • Education plans for adopted children EPAC
    • EHC Plans
    • Pupil premiums,
    • Contact orders
  • Understanding of issues relating to adoptive families
    • The impact of trauma on an infant, and on the developing child – Birth Trauma and Developmental Trauma
    • The short and long term neurological effects of a toxic pre-birth environment on the child. FASD, Drug use and Domestic Violence. The language of babies.
    • Secondary trauma for parents and other members of the family
    • Recognition of ‘Blocked Care’
    • The need for a informal support network of people around a family
    • The need for adopters to meet other adopters – people who do not make assumptions that ‘all children are like that’
    • The effect on a family of child on parent violence
    • That Developmental Trauma is not solved using behaviourist methods
    • The need for long term stabilising and integrating services for each adoptive family
    • The Therapies that work with the family to develop positive attachment patterns
  • Awareness of and links with:
    • Adoption Support Agencies in their area
    • Agencies offering assessments
    • Outdoor and Sporting Activities in their area which understand the needs of children suffering from Developmental Trauma or Complex Trauma.
    • National resources for Adoption Support e.g Adoption UK, Adopters Together
    • Independent adoption specialist social workers
    • Clinical psychologists who are specialist in the field of PTSD, RAD, Developmental or Complex Trauma, Dissociation, Attachment difficulties. A psychologist who is not a specialist in this field can cause harm to the family.
    • Organisations which run conferences and training including current research.

Training

An Adoption Guardian will need to supplement his or her professional qualifications with specialist training in the field of Adoption before starting. A certificate for Adoption Guardians may be devised. This would need to include courses that are level 3 or 4 in the following: (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • Child protection and safeguarding (renewed biannually)
  • Attachment and Brain development
  • Understanding Trauma
  • Secondary Trauma
  • Children’s Rights
  • Effects of Domestic Violence
  • Foetal Exposure to Alcohol
  • Multi-disciplinary Working
  • Attachment awareness in schools
  • Self-harming behaviours
  • Sexualised behaviours
  • Building Resilience

These courses are all available as e-learning courses through KCA. kca.training. They could be adapted to group learning.

Costs of setting up an Adoption Guardian National Service

A 3 year salary for a project manager to set up the service and facilitate the training.  £120,000

Admin support salary for the project: £75,000

Equipment, support and travel costs £100,000

Publicity and advertising and Information £60,000

Training costs. £750 per Adoption Guardian. For initial 50 AGs £37,500

Supervision for Adoption Guardians £36,000

Draft total set up costs (to be scrutinised). £488,500

We hope to gain support for this new role in children’s care from voluntary agencies and charities involved in adoption support, and in making recommendations for social care. These organisations include: SCIE; PAC- UK Adoption UK; Coram BAAF. We hope the Adoption Leadership Board will be fully supportive of this scheme and help us to bring this vitally important child and family support role into reality.

The Adoption Guardian role is discussed on the Victoria Derbyshire programme

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