Why are these needed?

It is now widely recognised that some adoption support services need to be available from the point of placement (beforehand in more complex cases) and that adopters should not feel left alone to manage until family-life becomes difficult or a crisis arises. Provision of easy-to-access universal services, particularly those which enable peer-to-peer engagement, can prevent the need to access more intensive services later. They also help to ensure that, if and when, more intensive help is required, trust and communication are already in place. This is likely to encourage an earlier request for help.

Adopter Perspective

Adopters have often complained that support services can come to an abrupt end once the Adoption Order has been made. This communicates to adopters that they are expected to cope on their own and that to seek help in the future is a sign of failure. Equally, there are some adopters who (understandably) wish to get on with their new family life free from the presence of Social Workers.

Exemplar Approaches

The following services are commonly available to all adopters from the agencies which were surveyed:

  • Adoption Duty Line including guidance and advice, referrals for assessment
  • Letterbox service
  • Adopter Support Groups/Stay and Play groups
  • Adopter led Activity Clubs
    • OAWY guides adopters as to how they can get funding for these activities
    • OAWY provides training to adopters enabling them to run courses etc
  • Children’s and Young People’s Groups, including groups run for teenagers which may be ‘talk’ or activity-based 
  • Family or Children’s Fun/Activity days - structured activities for children & networking opportunity for parents, sometimes run by Peer Mentors and specially trained adopters
  • Celebration Events – for festivals, anniversaries etc.
  • Adoption UK Membership with access to e-learning sets
  • Pupil Premium Plus consultation (e.g. with an education worker and now increasingly with Virtual Schools)
  • Workshops covering core issues such as:
    • Managing educational transitions (to nursery, to secondary school etc)
    • What to tell, when to tell (approaches to Life Story work)
    • Managing contact with birth families
    • Self-Care for Adopters
    • Early Childhood Trauma and Brain Development 
    • Online Safety - Keeping your child safe online
    • Promoting Children’s Development through Play
    • Working with your Child’s School or Nursery
    • Introduction to therapeutic parenting 
       

Some services have established ‘drop-in consultation’ sessions for adopters who can book a one to two-hour time-slot with a Social Worker at very little notice and with no prior assessment. This kind of timely response, together with the opportunity to discuss an issue with a knowledgeable professional, has been positively evaluated27and can be helpful in preventing situations escalating to crisis level. It may lead onto a longer programme of support or be a one-off intervention.

A range of resources are available to adopters online from a variety of sources and agencies are increasingly incorporating online approaches e.g.

AdoptionUK reports that nearly 50,000 adopters have registered with their forums since 2010.

AdoptionUK is developing a new digital partnership with Link Maker. This includes:

  • Safe online space for adoptive families across the UK to find each other and build lifelong support networks
  • A forum
  • Live chat between adopters
  • A ‘playdate finder’, which helps families link up with others who live locally.
  • Other developments will include live chat with experts and new functionality to support local groups.  

PACT has recently established The Adopter Hub which hosts a suite of tools, information and learning opportunities designed to support and empower adoptive parents, practitioners and schools.  Adoptive parents have the opportunity to join webinars and moderated chat forums or to communicate online with an adopter.  

Services specific to supporting adopted children in education settings have been developed in some areas:

One Adoption West Yorkshire has reached an agreement with the six Virtual Schools Head Teachers to deliver their new statutory duty to provide advice and guidance to adopted children.

Aspire Adoption has a dedicated education specialist who is line managed by the Virtual School Head in one of the local authorities.

In development

A universal offer of parenting development to all families with recently placed children, using the following approaches, is being implemented in both OAWY and Adoption Counts, including:

  • A Theraplay group for all newly placed children (AC)
  • The AdOpt programme (an established feature in OAWY )
  • SafeBase
  • Foundations for Attachment

Comment

The realisation that early access to support is the most likely way of preventing the need for more intensive and expensive services in later years has taken far too long to become established thinking in adoption support.  It is perverse that in too many agencies, it is still easier to get funding for therapeutic provision than for comprehensive adopter-sensitive early support, see section 9b.