Considered but timely decision making is vital for children
Author: Stephen Small
St Andrew’s Children’s SocietyStephen Small, Director, St Andrew’s Children’s Society, explains how the voluntary adoption and fostering agency has worked with West Lothian Council to deliver a concurrent planning model to achieve early permanence for children, and the impact this has made in the last five years.
Adoption Week in Scotland (16 – 23 November) sees all of us who work in adoption and permanence taking the opportunity to highlight the importance of early planning for children. We all know that there is no time to wait for adults to dither over progressing the best permanency plan when children need a stable, secure home in which they can be cared for. The Concurrent Care Project, which has now been running since 2014, puts early planning at the forefront of permanency, and offers some significant learning.
How does the Concurrent Care Project work?
Typically, birth parents who are at risk of having their children removed from their care at birth or soon after are encouraged to engage with social work and other child care services. Engaging with services means they are able to receive the right help to support them to provide the appropriate care to meet the needs of the child. In such circumstances, often parents may have experienced neglectful, and possibly abusive, parenting as children themselves. Some often have already had children permanently removed from their care because their circumstances meant they were not able to meet their physical and emotional needs.
St. Andrew’s Children’s Society has specially trained concurrent carers who are able to offer a foster home when vulnerable babies are born. Their role is to provide for the needs of the child while an intensive sixteen week assessment is carried out, working with the parents. West Lothian Council have specially trained workers who supervise and support a high level of contact (often three times per week) between the parent and child. From this assessment, there will be two possible outcomes: parents demonstrate that they have the skills and empathy needed to parent their child successfully so their child is returned to their care from the foster carer; or the assessment gives meaningful evidence that the parent is unable to provide a level of care that is safe for the child. If there is clear evidence that a child will not be able to be returned to the care of their parent, the concurrent carers are then in a position to apply to adopt the child.
The best interests of the child
It will always be the case that concurrent care will only be appropriate for a very a small number of children in the care system. Through this project, eight children have been placed on a concurrent care basis, with these children gone on to be adopted or being in the process of being adopted.
Crucially, we have been able to avoid changes in the primary care giver for these children, reducing the experience of broken emotional attachments with primary care givers, which can often happen.
We know how much likelier it is that, as a result, they will have better outcomes in terms of their physical and mental health. Our hope is that this approach means that the children will have a significantly higher chance of succeeding in education and employment and most importantly of having healthy and fulfilling emotional relationships with others.
Having formally reviewed this Concurrent Care Project St. Andrew’s Children’s Society and West Lothian are currently looking to develop a more focussed approach to supporting birth families who need help to come to terms with the loss of a child to adoption following a concurrent care assessment.
At the St. Andrew’s Children’s Society we would encourage anyone who thinks that they could promote a child’s permanent care needs by offering a Concurrent Care Project to get in touch to find out more
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.
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