County’s adoption service rated ‘satisfactory’

Nottinghamshire County Council’s adoption service has been rated as satisfactory by Ofsted, with some good and outstanding areas of service, following the latest inspection.

Overall, the service helped to ensure that good matches are made for children and young people which meet their needs, often with their siblings. This means that children are happy, settled and safe in their adoptive placements and benefit from outstanding opportunities to enjoy and achieve and maximise their potential.

The report indicated some good features of the service:

Ø The staff in the adoption team are suitably qualified and experienced and supported by a strong leadership team.

Ø Most adopters express high levels of satisfaction with the preparation, training and support and say that they are kept well informed.

Ø The adoption team is now fully staffed and enthusiastic, following a period of restructuring and staff turnover which has affected the development of the service over the last two years.

Ø A new manager has established a home finder post and a team of social workers specifically dedicated to adoption issues.

Ø The arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people and to keep them safe from harm are good.

Ø Children and young people enjoy healthy diets, regular and challenging physical activities such as kayaking, rock climbing and abseiling which promote their development and build confidence.

Ø The children are well prepared for adoption, with gradual introductions at the child’s pace which help to build familiarity and trust, helping them to settle quickly.

Ø The arrangements to help children achieve well and enjoy what they do are outstanding, with a range of leisure activities which the children thoroughly enjoy, while learning new skills and making new friends. These activities significantly boost the children’s sense of self worth.

Ø Children and young people who are adopted are given good opportunities to make a positive contribution to their own lives and also to the development of the service.

Ø Adopters are very well prepared and have exceptional ongoing support.

The previous Ofsted inspection in 2008 rated the Council’s adoption service as good, but since that time the number of children in care in Nottinghamshire has increased significantly, with the total reaching a record high last month (January 2012).

Coun Philip Owen, cabinet member for children and young people’s services said: “Across the county, we currently have 776 children in care - nearly double the number four years ago. This latest inspection follows the period since the case of Baby P when awareness of issues facing children in care grew substantially, bringing about a considerable increase in demand on our services.

“And whilst it’s slightly disappointing that our overall rating has changed, I am reassured that our provision is sound and by the major investment we’ve made into improving in this area.

“The service is responsible for finding well-matched, appropriate homes for children and young people who can no longer be cared for by their families. And after restructuring within the service, I am confident that it will improve further.

“The adoption team work hard to recruit and support adoptive parents and ensure that each child placed is safe, secure and healthy and they have every opportunity to flourish and fulfil their potential. They also work hard to ensure that children are adopted with their brothers and sisters so that the children can stay together, wherever possible. This is an important responsibility – one that can make an immense difference to a child’s life.”

The report highlights areas where improvements are needed to improve the service and to ensure that where there is good practice it is applied consistently across the whole service. These include ensuring that children’s files contain all the required information; staff and adoption panel members’ files contain the necessary information; the children’s guide is available in a range of formats; an effective recruitment strategy is in place; a written development plan is in place; annual appraisals take account of young people’s wishes on a consistent basis and that all records are monitored and reviewed by the manager.