New Devon scheme to put infants' needs first is one of first in country

A SCHEME being introduced by Devon County Council to provide significant long-term security to vulnerable infants is one of the first to be introduced in the UK.

A SCHEME being introduced by Devon County Council to provide significant long-term security to vulnerable infants is one of the first to be introduced in the UK.

Concurrency care is a scheme being introduced by the council for some of the most vulnerable young children in its care, following two successful pilots.

Through concurrency care, newborn babies and toddlers up to two-years-old will be placed with foster carers, who are also approved adoptive parents, who will help them return to their birth family. If they are unable to return home they will be adopted by the carers they have known from a very early age, and who are familiar with their birth family and background.

The aim of the scheme is to ensure the child will be spared the distress of moves and unnecessary delays and will have consistency of care while its birth family is assessed, and a recommendation made to court about their suitability to care for the child. Once the court has made a decision about the child's future, they will either return to their birth family or be adopted by the concurrent carer.

People are now being sought who might be suitable to become concurrency carers, and who are willing to undergo the process of assessments and training needed.

Concurrency carers are recruited and approved as both foster carers and adoptive parents. They are trained and supported by the Council to foster children while the birth parents are being assessed, and they enable the child to have regular contact with their birth families in a safe environment.

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Councillor John Smith, Devon County Council's Executive Member for Children and Young People's Services, said: "It will take a very special kind of family to provide the care and support needed for these highly vulnerable infants, and who are willing to put the child's needs first at all times, whether that means helping the child bond with - and return to - its birth parents or becoming their adoptive family.

"The initial process can be highly emotional, and we need people who can provide these children with the enduring love, support and stability they will need above all else.

"I would encourage anyone interested in finding out more about this scheme to contact our Concurrency Care Team."

Brenda Thomas, Devon County Council's Adoption Practice Manager, said: "Concurrency carers have the immense satisfaction of providing stability and security for a baby or toddler at a crucial stage of development - with the possibility that, if appropriate, the infant may become their legally adopted child.

"At the same time, they have the opportunity to get to know the birth parents, and if the parents made the necessary changes resulting in the return of the child, the satisfaction of having played a part in making this possible."

Concurrency carers are specially selected, assessed and prepared for this challenging role. They go through the usual procedure for prospective adopters and, after being approved by the Adoption Panel, go through a concurrency selection process, involving further training and assessment as foster carers.

The Council has already trialled the scheme with one concurrency care family, who were matched with an 11-week old baby. They underwent the process of contact with the birth parents, and have since become the child's legally adoptive family.

The family said: "From the beginning of our journey to adoption, the concurrency scheme attracted us because the emotional and developmental wellbeing of the child was at the centre of it.

"The first contact was quite tough emotionally but the way it was handled by social services made it easier than expected. Contact is demanding, but forms a core part of the scheme to enable the birth parents to be assessed in their interactions with their child.

"After six months, our child was placed with us for adoption. She will always know she is adopted but has suffered none of the emotional hurt and trauma which can so often be part of an older adopted child's experience.

"We have a wonderful daughter we have loved from the day she came to us and who is as much one of our family as our birth children. We feel privileged to have been on the concurrency scheme."

If approved by the panel they are registered as concurrency carers which means they are not available for other types of fostering or adoption.

Anyone who would like more information can contact Brenda Thomas on 01392 384979, e-mail, or Clare Warner on 01392 384961, e-mail