The University of Sunderland’s partnership work has been highlighted by Ofsted Inspectors in a report praising the work of a North East adoption service as ‘good’.
Together for Children (TfC), which provides children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council, was inspected during September with Ofsted grading the service as ‘good’ and praising the quality of work to support children and young people. The effectiveness of leadership and management within the adoption service was judged to be ‘outstanding’.
The partnership work between the University and TfC was highlighted as an example of “the creative, innovative and proactive ways to provide support to adoptive families and their children”.
In their first report, Ofsted Inspectors said: “The agency makes excellent use of the adoption support fund and develops highly beneficial relationships with a range of external professionals. This means that it is able to provide a wide range of adoption support either internally from its own staff team or via external arrangements. For example, the agency has close links with the local university and has benefited from training from university staff at adopter support groups.”
Stephanie Hunter, a senior lecturer in Childhood Studies in the University’s School of Social Sciences, who has collaborated on a range of work around child development and trauma with TfC, and produced an evaluation of the agency’s use of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), was delighted with the results.
“This is fantastic news for TfC, they fully deserve this grading from Ofsted and we’re delighted to be mentioned within that report,” she said.
“We believe the work we are doing is making a huge difference to the lives of young children who have already had to deal with the often traumatic experience of being parted from their birth family.
“TfC’s willingness to take on board feedback, put changes in place quickly, and a general openness and eagerness to learn has been absolutely fantastic to see. I truly believe the work we are doing in partnership is unlike anything happening in other areas of the country, and as a result, I believe young children and adoptive families in Sunderland are receiving some of the best after-care that is available anywhere in England.”
The partnership work between the two organisations includes seeing the adoption department’s social work staff take part in a rigorous training programme, provided by staff within the University’s Childhood Studies team, including Stephanie Hunter and Jan Grinstead, designed to equip them with the skills they need to support children through what can be hugely daunting phases of their life, as they move through the care system.
The university has also worked with TfC to organise regional adoption events on campus, which coincides with National Adoption Week, and see excellent attendance year on year, attracting keynote speakers within the sector and sharing its evidence-based work.
An evaluation was also carried by Stephanie Hunter, to give valuable feedback on what the city council is doing well in terms of its care for young children waiting to be adopted, as well as reviewing the after-care support that is given to families who do adopt.
Kathryn McCabe, lead manager for fostering and adoption at TfC, said: “Our teams link with a range of partners and of course children’s social workers and these inspection results are testimony to the hard work of all involved to ensure that children develop and thrive in their adoptive families.”
The Ofsted report for adoption states that:
- The agency recruits, assesses, prepares and trains prospective adopters well. This means that they are well equipped to parent the children they go on to adopt and to provide them with stable and nurturing homes.
- Adoptive families are provided with a wide range of training that is appropriate to their needs.
- The agency’s provision of adoption support, both for children before their adoption and for them and their families after adoption, is creative and proactive and of excellent quality.
- The leadership and management of the agency is innovative and inspirational.
Inspectors looked closely at the experiences of the children, young people and adults involved within fostering and adoption, talking to families and service users. The fostering report details that foster carers act as positive role models, noting in one case, that their work ethic had transferred to a particularly tenacious young person.
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services in Sunderland, said: “As Ofsted has said, these are very good reports. Earlier this year, Ofsted recognised significant progress and improvements in our city’s children services.
“These reports are an example of that progress and the council and its partners are all committed to continuing this good work. Ofsted’s finding of outstanding for management and leadership is a tribute to the staff who have led on providing the excellent support and services for adoptive parents and children.”
The adoption report praises creative, innovative and proactive ways in which support is provided to adoptive families and their children and how the agency is able to place children with their adoptive families in a timely manner with successful use of foster to adopt placements.