One of the key changes in the recent plans to shake up the adoption process is ‘fostering for adoption’. In short, this provides for children to move in with foster carers as their potential adoptive families at a much earlier stage. The main aim is for the foster carers to permanently adopt that child. We take a look at the proposed changes, the impact of this and what employers can do to help employees who are planning to undertake a ‘fostering for adoption’ placement.
What is fostering for adoption?
‘Fostering for adoption’ places children with foster carers who are also approved prospective adopters under a temporary fostering arrangement, with the long term goal being to adopt the child. Local authorities are required to consider whether a ‘fostering for adoption’ placement is the most appropriate option at the same time it is considering adoption for the child. The hope is that this will reduce the length of time a child waits to be adopted and assist with quick and early placements of children for whom adoption is the best option.
How does this impact employers?
Ordinary adoption can be a lengthy process, often taking months, and as such employers are normally notified well in advance. At present, employers are required to provide statutory adoption leave and adoption pay.
In contrast, employees are not currently entitled to adoption pay or leave during the fostering phase. The government intends to amend this under the Children and Families Bill 2013, to allow people who undertake a ‘fostering for adoption’ placement to be eligible for adoption pay and leave when they start to foster the child. This is intended to be implemented by 2015.
‘Fostering for adoption’ placements should bring much quicker placements of children with foster carers. These placements are likely to happen at very short notice. Inevitably, this may affect employers’ staff levels and work patterns at short notice.
What can employers do?
Employers are encouraged to be flexible in their approach to employees looking to undertake a ‘fostering for adoption’ placement. Ideally, employers should have a section in their adoption policy on how they will support employees who are looking to ‘foster for adoption’. Some measures may be to:
• Provide opportunities for employees to discuss their intentions to foster at an early stage with their line manager to identify appropriate support
• Provide time off for employees to attend pre-approval training
• Allow employees to work flexibly or at home
• Plan for the unexpected – allow foster carers the same access to emergency leave as parents
• Provide a set amount of paid leave for foster carers
• Agree “keep in touch days” to facilitate a smooth return to work
• Consider providing information on ‘fostering for adoption’ on the staff intranet
If you’re reviewing your policies at the moment, consider covering this.
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