Report by the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning.
The report updates the Committee on developments in the Children First Programme since its last meeting in December.
59.1 The Committee considered a report by the Executive Director of Children, Young People and Learning (copy appended to the signed minutes) which was introduced by Mrs Russell, Cabinet Member for Children & Young People who told the Committee: -
· The letter from OFSTED reporting on its monitoring visit to the Council was in line with the Council’s self-assessment. It noted tentative improvements in social work with children and the expanded senior leadership team’s progressing of plans for children in need whilst acknowledging areas of weakness remain
· The Cabinet Member thanked the staff of schools she had visited in the north of the county where she had learnt about relationships between the schools and social workers
59.2 Garath Symonds, Senior Improvement Lead, highlighted the following from the report: -
· The monitoring visit reported a clear vision and workforce stability with fewer social worker changes and caseloads more manageable
· Key areas of development included oversight and quality of social work specific to the designated officer function
· There were concerns over private fostering
· Service improvements included recruiting a permanent director for children, young people and learning, the number of leavers reducing and permanency planning
59.3 Jackie Wood, Assistant Director - Corporate Parenting, told the Committee: -
· Permanency was planning for children when they entered the care system regardless of their length of stay and supported them into early adulthood
· The Council was part of the regional adoption agency which had a large pool of adopters
· Permanency could be permanent fostering, adoption, living with family or friends or special guardianship
· The number of West Sussex children being placed with family was increasing with special guardianship parents getting the same services as adopters
59.4 Sarah Foster, Service Lead Fostering and Adoption, Jill Seeney, Advanced Practitioner (Fostering) and Melissa Paton, Adoption Practice manager, talked through a presentation (copy appended to the signed minutes) and showed two videos available online at https://youtu.be/CCobHATEEDY and https://youtu.be/8hHsy1b9kFo.
59.5 The Committee heard from an adopter who said: -
· 10 years ago transitions were set for 2.5 weeks and were well planned and structured, but there was no opportunity to meet the child before adoption
· Phone calls were allowed with the child’s foster family
· More recently when adopting a second child there had been a ten day transition and the adopter had met the foster family
· Now adopters can glimpse children before they go to the adoption panel and have play days with them so they get to know each other
· Contact is kept with the foster family for the children’s sake
59.6 Summary of responses to Members questions and comments: -
· Adopted children were placed in 38 households in West Sussex
· There was a pool of 300 adopters across the four authorities in the regional adoption agency, but there were still more children in need of adoption than adopters
· The wishes of the children were taken into account when considering adoption placements
· 17 children were known to be in private fostering arrangements
· The home moves experienced by children in care could be for any reason
· If a child was unhappy in care, meetings were held and assessments carried out to see if the situation could be stabilised or the child allowed home
· Contract arrangements as part of permanence plans allowed for contact between birth parents and adopted children via letters, cards, photos
· Some preferences/views of birth parents were considered when looking for adopters
· Social workers and other experts worked with families who were providing children with special guardianship
59.7 Resolved – that the Committee notes the report.