Why is this needed?
Understanding the lived experience of adopters is crucial to developing and delivering the most appropriate services, evaluating their quality and planning improvements.
We want to see local partnership that recognises and builds on parents’ expertise, where professionals and parents really listen to and learn from each other in ways that are valued and adopted children are supported and encouraged to contribute. Adoptive parents must be more than a sounding board, but influence the decision making of professionals. If adoptive parents are working in true partnership with organisations they need to be part of the decision-making processes that shape and build the services they access. (Adoption: A Vision for Change page 38)
Adopters are the experts on their children, so they’re uniquely placed to advise on the development of services. (AdoptionUK)
Adopter engagement takes place at a number of levels in the agencies which were surveyed:
Gathering adopter feedback after training events
Involving adopters in the delivery of information events and preparation groups
Holding specific events aimed at consulting adopters about existing and future services
A regular service user Group
Involving adopters in staff recruitment
Undertaking a survey of adopters on a regular basis
RAAs should have adopters on their governance boards and working groups, and it is usual for VAAs to have adopters on their Trustee Boards.
Adoption Counts also has adopter representatives on its Adoption Support Sub Board giving adopters the opportunity to engage with strategic decisions makers across social care, education and health services.
Both OAWY and Adoption Counts have engaged AdoptionUK to develop their Adopter Voice service across their respective regions to create a network of representation. This model includes:
Adopter Voice Champions (who are paid in OAWY) recruited, inducted and trained
Champions consult with their networks online or face to face
AdoptionUK hosts on-line forums and a closed Facebook group to post questions and promote, adopter voice activities with links to information, surveys or bulletins
Adopter Voice Champions attend Adopter Voice forums and RAA-led workshops (e.g. task and finish groups)
Feedback from Adopter Voice Forums is collated by an Adopter Advisory Board and reported back to the RAA
Adopter Voice Champions represent the views of adopters as members of the RAA Board and sub groups, creating a chain of communication and consultation between adopters and decision makers.
The Adopter Voice Group in Yorkshire and Humber has put together a timeline for an adoption journey and described some of the issues experienced by adopters and their families, what didn't work and recommendations for changes within the service.
The Adopter Advisory Board of Adoption Counts has produced a review of children’s mental health provision, the agency website, an options appraisal for a peer to peer support service and feedback on a recruitment strategy.
Possible future developments
Adoption Counts and OAWY have recently conducted adopter surveys across their region providing adopter feedback on services together with a profile of adoptive families and their needs. Electronic survey techniques should mean that every adoption agency undertakes this activity on a regular basis.
Adopter voice activity, which is facilitated by an organisation independent of the adoption agency itself, is likely to be seen as more authentic. At the same time, strong links into the agency are needed to ensure that consultation and engagement results in change.