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Joined-up mental health approach piloted to support Sheffield adopted children

Children in care’s mental health problems are being proactively addressed before potential adoptions under a pilot scheme.

The Pre-Adoption Service, introduced last year by Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, allows social workers, foster carers and adoptive parents to meet a clinical psychologist before the child’s placement to discuss their mental health needs.

The scheme, which cost £85,000, has allowed almost 50 children to be successfully placed in adoptive homes and is intended to save money by reducing the need for therapeutic interventions later.

Dr Alex Espejo, consultant clinical psychologist, said: “We have been so successful because we have very good working relationship with the local authority. They let us know the complete list of children, then we’ve been able to make sure the meeting to discuss their needs and transition plans happen.

“It’s all about relationships and improving the relationships between the foster carers, the child, the social worker, and the adopters. We want to get families off on the right foot.”

Feedback on the programme showed that 99.5% of carers and 100% of professionals felt listened to, 97% and 98% of carers and professionals felt able to talk about what they wanted to in the consultation meetings, and 99% of carers and 100% of professionals understood the meetings.

The scheme also provided training to staff and prospective adopters around attachment, trauma and therapeutic re-parenting. It will run again next year and further evaluation will be done to monitor children who have been through the first year.

Dr Jackie Cornish, national clinical director for children, young people and transition to adulthood, praised the scheme, saying: “This exciting initiative shows how we can work together to meet the needs of vulnerable children and young people, intervening early to give them the best chance in life.

“Sheffield’s joined-up approach shows what can be achieved with a modest investment to deliver a huge impact for individual children, their future families and services.”

A recent survey by The Fostering Network found foster parents felt they were bearing the brunt of local government cuts despite the number of children in care being at the highest since 1985.

Under legal changes introduced last year, all councils will be required to join regional adoption agencies by 2017 to increase the number of adoptions.

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