Paragraph 177 of Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006 (as amended) lists adoption is a reserved matter. However, the list of exceptions includes “services and facilities relating to adoption, adoption agencies and their functions” and therefore adoption services, which include local authority adoption services, are a devolved matter.
Part 1 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 requires local authorities in Wales to maintain a service in their area to meet the needs of children for whom adoption placements may be sought, to meet the needs of persons wishing to adopt a child and to meet the needs of the parents and guardians of children to be adopted, those who have been adopted in the past, their natural parents and their adoptive parents.
Local authority duties span the adoption process from initial application for assessment by prospective adopters and subsequent assessment, recommendations by adoption panel, the decision that a child is suitable for adoption, matching and placing a child with prospective adopters and the provision of adoption support for specified persons affected by the adoption process. The local authorities duties in respect of these matters are found in the Adoption Agencies (Wales) Regulations 2005 ( S.I. 2005/1313) and the Adoption Support Services (Local Authorities) (Wales) Regulations 2005 ( S.I. 2005/1512).
The local authority’s duty is to provide both a domestic and intercountry adoption service. Specific requirements on local authorities in respect of intercountry adoptions are found in the Adoption Agencies (Wales) Regulations 2005 and the Adoptions with a Foreign Element Regulations 2005 (S.I. 2005/392). The processes which local authorities need to follow in intercountry adoption cases will depend on whether or not the case relates to an adoption pursuant to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption 1993. The Welsh Government’s Adoption Guidance and associated Intercountry Adoption Guidance is an important reference point.
The Local Authority Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/291) provide a regulatory framework for the organisation, management and conduct of the local authority adoption service – including such matters as staff fitness, fitness of premises and quality assurance. Local authority adoption services in Wales are inspected by the Care Inspectorate Wales, exercising its functions under Part 8 (social services functions) of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014.
In Wales, local authorities are grouped into five regional collaboratives. Within these collaboratives, the local authorities enter partnership arrangements through which they fulfil their statutory adoption duties. The local authorities also work in conjunction with voluntary adoption agencies, local education departments, local health boards and NHS Trusts. These collaborative arrangements take place under the auspices of the National Adoption Service, launched on 5th November 2014. The National Adoption Service oversees the maintenance and development of adoption services in each regional collaborative and across Wales. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 came into force on 13th March 2015 to underpin the National Adoption Service.