Why is this needed?
Children and young people with a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) have often experienced trauma and disruption similar to those who remain in care or those who leave care through adoption. They therefore need a similar range of therapeutic services.
“24. Under section 14F of the Act, as amended, the local authority must make arrangements for the provision of special guardianship support services. Local authorities are required to make a range of support services available in their area to meet the needs of people affected by special guardianship. Special guardianship support services are defined as;
- therapeutic services for the child (regulation 3(1)(d))
- counselling, advice and information (section 14F(1)(a) of the Act).”
“Services planned to address the therapeutic, behavioural and educational needs of children had been less commonly included in support plans (or considered to have been necessary) at this stage and planned provision for respite or short breaks to provide relief for hard-pressed families was extremely rare.” (Wade et al 2014 p204)
“Over the follow-up period, a sizeable minority of children had accessed therapeutic (34 per cent), behavioural (25 per cent) or educational (32 per cent) support services at some stage. Guardians revealed that these services had most often been sought in response to children’s complex needs, combining physical and learning disabilities and/or in response to mental health and behavioural problems.” (Wade et al 2014 P240)
“Many had concerns about the young people’s low self-esteem (66%), anxiety (61%) and anger and aggression (53%). Carers also worried about the young people’s use of drugs (32%) or alcohol (24%). During adolescence just over half (53%) of the young people had truanted, 30% had been excluded at some point and a quarter had missed a lot of school.” (Grandparents Plus 2017a P7)
“The grandparents appeared to need a professional explanation about why the children were behaving the way they were when they displayed challenging or bizarre behaviour. It also appeared to help if they received a medical diagnosis.” (McGrath – in preparation)
“For special guardians the most frequently reported reason for being unable to access the ASF was not knowing about it, followed by professional obstruction and opinion. Emergent themes in terms of barriers to accessing and receiving support were:
Lack of information and bureaucratic delays; having bad experiences with children’s services previously that were a deterrent to further involvement with the agency; being told to return when children reached adolescence; being unable to access help until there was a crisis. Waiting for therapy, after assessments had been done.
“Nearly 20% of adopters considered the support that was received to have been beneficial to the point of it being lifesaving. 50% of special guardians reported that support was good or adequate but more than 60% of kinship carers had not found support to be helpful.” (Schroer & Samuels 2019)
“Whilst just over a quarter of the young people had gone into kinship care because a parent had died, by the interviews as many as 38% had lost one or both parents, often as the culmination of long-term alcohol and/or drugs misuse.” (Grandparents plus 2018 p7).
“Scores on the GHQ showed that the kinship young people had similar levels of probable mental health disorders (22%) as care leavers (25%). There was also little difference in the proportion of those with learning difficulties (60% vs. 68% of looked after children) or who became teenage mothers (26% vs. 22% of care leavers).” (Grandparents plus 2018 p10).
“More than half (56%) of the young people said that, as teenagers, they had received help usually from a therapist, counsellor or social worker. Some had valued this but a third thought that the assistance had been insufficient or not timely enough.” (Grandparents plus 2018 p12).
“The children felt that often social workers were there to judge them and their family rather than look after their wellbeing. Some children spoke about the social workers not believing them about the abuse that they suffered.” (Shuttleworth – in preparation).
Examples of approaches currently being taken
Several respondents referred to specialist services which are usually commissioned from the voluntary or private sectors and which are funded through the Adoption Support Fund, but only if the child has been previously looked after. These can include, sensory assessments and therapy, creative therapies, play therapy and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. Other therapeutic provision depended on local arrangements in their authority
Brighton and Hove
- Special guardians (SGs) are eligible for interventions from The Functional Family Therapy Team which provides support to children and their families when children are on the edge of care.
- Eligibility for funding from the ASF is referred to in every SGO Support Plan written at the point the SGO is made.
- Brighton and Hove accessed £96,000 of funding from the ASF in 2018/19 for Family and Friends carers.
Referrals for therapeutic support are made to the T.H.R.I.V.E Service (Trust, Hope, Respect, Inspiration, Vision and Empathy). The service offers a range of interventions such as: DDP, VIPP, Internalising Life Journey Work, Theraplay, Great Behavioural Breakdown (GBB). External therapeutic services are funded via the ASF. Carers also have access to emotional support from the service commissioned from Grandparents Plus.
North London Adoption and Fostering Consortium
Deliver a Therapeutic parenting course funded by the ASF called Love-based Parenting based on The Great Behaviour Breakdown (GBB) Parenting Model by Bryan Post.
Provide a fostering surgery which SGs can attend provided by Therapeutic Social Work Service.
- SGs can access an appointment with an in-house Clinical Psychologist following a referral by the Aspire support worker.
- Direct work is offered by the Aspire Support Worker or with a Theraplay practitioner.
- Has an in-house Emotional Wellbeing Clinic (EWC) which will see SG’s for consultation about the therapeutic needs of children, from which an application to the ASF may follow.
- ‘ChEWs’ (Children’s Emotional Well-Being Service delivered by CAMHS) can be used for counselling purposes
A local therapeutic service for looked after children and care leavers Dudley Lighthouse Links delivers – DDP life story work, the KEEP programme, Triple P etc. and has a large amount of information and resources available on its website. ASF Funding is available for therapeutic life story work.
Provide a comprehensive range of services to SGs and their families
- A Child to Parent Violence Service (CPV) on an individual, group based, peer to peer and SKYPE based format, co-delivered by therapists and parent consultants (trained adoptive parents who may have accessed a CPV group themselves).
- A therapeutic programme, Enhancing Adoptive Parenting (EAP) typically delivered to adopters on an individual basis. This could easily be adapted for SGs.
- Social and emotional support via individual based therapy.
It is significant that applications to the ASF on behalf of Special Guardians form only 8% of all applications. This may be due to a lack of appreciation of the needs of SGs, a lack of understanding about the ASF on the part of staff, and/or a lack of staff resources to complete assessments and make funding applications. It is also noteworthy that the involvement of the voluntary and private sector in supporting SGs is small (when say compared with adoption support). A strategic approach to commissioning services for SGs could substantially improve this situation (see section 15).
SGs consulted as part of the development of this document identified the following barriers to gaining access to the Adoption Support Fund:
- The legal status of some children (e.g. those on a Residence Order or those who have not previously been looked after) makes them ineligible
- Lack of available Social Workers to complete assessments leading to a postcode lottery
- SGs less likely to ask for assistance if their assessment process as SGs has been difficult/traumatic
- SGs living with the fear of negative Social Work intervention and the possible inference that they are unable to cope with the child(ren)
- Cultural issues – some SGs come from communities where the practice is to look internally for support first and there is little history of asking for external support. This is made even harder if the services available are not culturally appropriate or do not support the child’s culture or heritage.
- Local authorities often miss the opportunity to provide support when approached.
SGs also commented that they found support through Grandparents Plus was more accessible and culturally appropriate.