Managing Adoption Services to Achieve Financial Savings

OMFG. Yes, that is a legal-technical term. When I read the following extracts from Martin Narey's review of adoption services in Kent, sent to me by a legal friend who often suggests material for the blog, OMFG seemed to be an apposite response:

"Adoption should never be pursued simply because it saves money. But there is no doubt that were adoption managed more energetically in Kent there would be a financial pay off as the increase in the numbers of children being taken into care would be ameliorated, if only in part, by those leaving care for adoption.

KPMG were invited to conduct an independent audit of the financial savings achieved through the increased number of adoptions and guardianships in Harrow (and the consequent reduction in the number of children in care) and have confirmed that in 2010/11 alone, that Authority saved £440,000. So it is clear that were Kent to increase adoptions, not only would it be transforming the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Kent, it would, simultaneously achieve potentially very significant financial savings.

In the immediate term, urgent discussions should be held with external organisations with a view to bringing in a team of managers who, while remaining in the employment of the external organisation, would manage the Adoption team in Kent.

I am satisfied that there would be interest from voluntary sector and private sector organisations in this management only compromise. It may be that with the stimulus of external management, the current directly managed arrangements can succeed.But the more radical option of outsourcing needs to be carefully considered. The potential gains in securing and maintaining a higher number of adoptions, and the potential financial savings which would accompany that are too great to be ignored."

Alright. That's pretty stark isn't it? Sort of plays into the hands of the adoption targets, incentive to baby snatchers lobby? The kind of distasteful alignment between money and babies that gets even reasonable sorts like me in a bit of an acronymically sweary tizzy.

But a good lawyer never relies on the case summary. You gotta read the source material. The whole report is here:

http://democracy.kent.gov.uk/documents/s28170/Item%20B1%20adoption%20cpp%20Dec2011%20V2.pdf

Those quotes above are accurate. And they still make me twitch and shift in my chair. I think adoption is a delicate political issue (Narey of all people ought to know this), and the handling of the forced adoption, budgetary control and efficiency in one public report is a tricky affair. I think Narey could have chosen his words more carefully, but based on past performance this is no surprise.

But it is important to put the quotes above into context. The context is this: Kent wanted to know why the numbers of adoptions were dropping in their area and commissioned the Czar to troubleshoot. As you do. And remember the report is not about WHETHER babies should be adopted, its about how efficient an adoption service is for children whose approved plan is for adoption. For children who need to be adopted they need it to happen quickly and efficiently and if it isn't I would not criticise any LA for trying to reverse that trend. And whilst I'm no management consultant it seems to me Narey makes some sensible observations and suggestions about what appear to be some material inefficiencies that are really impacting on the effectiveness of their adoption service. It's important that our adoption services are efficient and effective, making good and durable placements and doing it quickly. And it's important that a LA should be publicly accountable for failures in that regard and that it should publish material concerning its efforts to right problems.

But I can't leave a report like this without making the following points:

I think that there is a danger that the report will inadvertently promote the simplistic embrace of the idea that adoption is the prize to be aimed for with all children who cannot be at home (as with adoption targets and indeed current government policy of promoting adoption per se). I think there is a false comparison in the suggestion of a potential financial pay off from a more "energetic" approach to adoption. Firstly, it appears that the suggestion is that the LA should be more energetic about adoption in part by more vigorously issuing applications (see reference above to increase in numbers of children being taken into care).

Secondly, the report talks about "financial savings" without taking into the reckoning broader potential costs to the LA that arise from the promotion of adoption over (say) SGO, rehabilitation or long term foster care. Although the cost in connection with the care of an individual child may be reduced over the long term by adoption as opposed to foster care or other options, what this leaves out of the equation is the cost of repeat performances by the parents with child 2, child 3, child 4... As DJ Crichton said in relation to the FDAC, there is an:

 "intergenerational cycle" of self-destructive behaviour. He referred to one psychiatric report where the mother said "every time they remove a child, the only way that I can deal with the pain of the loss is to get pregnant again".

"I've had women scream at me across the court: 'If you take this one away from me I'll go on having children until you let me keep one,'"

Adoption may break the cycle for that child but it doesn't break the cycle for the parent. You can't ignore bigger picture that if you want to save either children or money.

So, whilst I'm grateful for the tip off, I think this post will be disappointing to anyone hoping for 10 entertaining reasons why Martin Narey is a ****. It's a valuable, if imperfect report.

I suspect this post is also imperfect, since I have been stop-starting it for about ten days, have lost part of it (thank you wordpress), and have now tried to rewrite it whilst missing part of my brain (thank you flu).

 

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