Comments on the Practitioner's report

Comments on the Practitioner’s Report:

Dermot Slevin, Assistant Principal Social Worker in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, said:

“This report will provide practitioners and academics with information which, at the very least, should elicit discussion, and should also influence practice within the areas of Care Planning and Care Pathways.   As this study examines the total population of children in the care system aged under five on a specific date (31.3.00) then the reliability and validity of this study is likely to be high.  Any study which provides information that would assist the decision making process regarding the long-term placements of young children in care, and help towards ensuring that every child achieves the best possible long-term placement, must be welcomed.   Statistics such as the significant variations across the four Trust areas in relation to adoption rates will certainly elicit discussion.  Why should there be so much of a variation within a relatively small area such as Northern Ireland?

Relationships with social workers, for adoptive parents, birth parents and foster carers, "often determined" these people's experiences of the care system.  Why these "relationship experiences" are so different for some of the above groups is another area of interest to both practitioners and academics. These are just a few of the many findings within this study.

As an Independent Chair of Looked After Children's Reviews I would certainly encourage all social workers involved in the care system to read this report.  I would also encourage policy makers and "policy influencers" to examine the report and assess how policy and procedures could be influenced by this study.”

Ms Frances Nicholson from BAAF Northern Ireland said:

“It is really encouraging to see the increase in adoption for young children in care in Northern Ireland. We know the importance of permanence for children and young people and adoption is one of the best ways to provide this. Adoptive parents often tell us how rewarding adopting can be, and this report backs up those claims, with all of those surveyed saying that they bonded with their adopted child.

“We are delighted also to hear about the particular progress in the numbers of children being adopted in the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trust areas. Their use of specific organisational structures and specialist staff to help with adoption is welcomed by BAAF.”

John Toner, Assistant Director Safeguarding Children, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said:

“I have no doubt that the report and the ongoing research will contribute greatly to our knowledge of the outcomes for children in our care.    This research work must contribute to and inform how we plan and shape services for children who require to be Looked After in the future.”

Alicia Toal, Project Co-ordinator of Voice of Young People in Care, said:

“Voice Of Young People In Care warmly welcomes the first publication from the Care Pathways and Outcomes Study by the Institute of child Care Research.  It is vital that policy makers here in Northern Ireland have access to good quality locally based research into the needs of this vulnerable group of children.   Given current restructuring within Health and Social Care, targets to reduce the numbers of children coming into care, and recent media coverage of failings within Children’s Service,s this report contains a number of important findings which policy makers must now consider when making decisions about the long term care of younger children.

Whilst the research highlights positive and innovative developments within the system, for example, LAC reviews held in family homes and post adoptive contact, sadly some messages have not changed over recent years.  Families still undergo multiple changes of social worker, and children, even in long term foster care, experience instability and placement moves.

It is also worth noting the disparity in practice and decision making processes across the HSC Trusts in relation to permanency planning, and whether children are adopted, remain in foster care or are returned home to their birth parents.” 

 Response from Adoption UK

"The charity Adoption UK welcomes the report ‘From Care to Where?’ and, in particular, its findings in relation to adoptive families. It welcomes the evidence in the report that adoption is a beneficial outcome for children who cannot live in their birth families. Adoption UK is pleased to see evidence that backs its call for a regionalised adoption service along with support services available to adoptive families after, as well as before, adoption. It strongly reiterates the statement by the report’s authors that “The love and security on offer in an adoptive home will often need to be supplemented with accessible post-adoption services.”

Adoption UK is a self help organisation made up of adopters. It offers support to adoptive families before, during and after adoption."

Ms Joan Coulter, Adoption Manager in the Eastern Health and Social Services Board, said:

“This report must be considered highly important for policy and practice in Northern Ireland given its breadth, the similarity of the groups and the variations in decision making.”

Mr Peter Reynolds from the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency (NIGALA) said:

“This is a well structured and easy booklet to read. Practitioners and those involved in child care work will find this an extremely illuminating and thought provoking piece of work, not least because it profiles a group of children under 5 years who were in care in Northern Ireland in 2000. The particular strength of this work is that it represents a range of perspectives and experiences. It helps demonstrate the importance of 'getting it right' for children who come into the care system. Whether it is the Trust or someone else holding parental responsibility, there is a heavy responsibility to act as a 'good parent' and to pursue a positive and proactive approach to meeting every child's physical, educational and emotional needs. This booklet is extremely relevant to social work practitioners, solicitors and the courts and an essential addition when considering the children of today”.

Mr Pat Armstrong, Head of Services in the Western Health and Social Services Board, said:

“This is a timely and important report for both policy makers and practitioners.   The Report highlights key themes and issues relating to decision-making and critically, the relationships which underpin the Care Planning process for Looked After Children.   To promote the outcomes that we desire for our Looked After Children and Young People, it is important that we take on board the key messages emanating from this report.”

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