Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Ofsted and Adoption

It is regrettable that the children's services regulator, Ofsted, appears to be introducing what seems to be a crude performance measure for local authority adoption services in England. Local authorities are being told that they will not secure an "outstanding" rating from Ofsted in an inspection unless they have placed all children identified for adoption within 12 months. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-17156982

I strongly support minimising all unnecessary delays in the adoption process, but the type of target setting proposed by Ofsted is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is the ‘law of unintended consequences’ *. At worst local authorities may be tempted to identify fewer children for adoption in the first place, in order to ensure that they can all be placed within the twelve months deadline, thus achieving the opposite of what is intended.

I think Nushra Mansuri, BASW’s professional officer, quoted by Children and Young People Now, has it about right. She said that she wants to see Ofsted highlighting good practice, which can be shared between local authorities, rather than fostering a negative competitive culture.

* ‘The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action', Robert K. Merton, American Sociological Review, Vol. 1, No. 6 (Dec., 1936), pp. 894-904