Why is this needed?
A vision statement with measurable goals/objectives:
- Ensures that services are focused on achieving outcomes rather than just activity
- Helps to engage a wide range of services (beyond the adoption support team) in meeting the needs of adoptive families. E.g. Education Support Services, Schools and Health
- Underpins the measurement and evaluation of impact
- Enables improvements in service delivery to take place in a managed way
- Is a powerful message to staff, adoptive families and service providers
The government’s vision for adoption support services:
Legally, as set out in the Children and Adoption 2002 (the act), adoption support is the entitlement to an assessment of need for specific groups of people affected by adoption. However, the stated vision for adoption support services in Adoption: A Vision for Change is that:
Every adoptive family has access to an ongoing package of appropriate support with a right to a high quality, specialist assessment of need. This support is delivered from day one and continues throughout childhood whenever it is required. Adoptive families have a supportive relationship with their local agency and know they can turn to them for additional support at any time, without judgment. (Department for Education 2016 p7)
In respect of regionalisation, the government’s vision is for, “enough high-quality adoption support services available nationwide.” (Department for Education 2017 p9)
Whilst recent government statements of intent focus largely on the needs of adopters, it must be remembered that the act and associated guidance is clear that adoption support services need to be available to all parties affected by adoption, including birth families and adopted adults.
Adoption UK’s vision for post-adoption services can be broadly summarised as:
- Full assessments of need at placement and regularly afterwards
- Comprehensive and bespoke support plans for adopted children and their families
- Integrated care management across health, mental health, education and therapy services
- Unique contribution of adopters recognised and sustained with advanced parenting support
- Specialist training in trauma and attachment for relevant professionals, including social workers, teachers, health care, and the judiciary
- Endorsed by ministers, enshrined in national policies, embedded in local services, informed by adopters, and delivered by professionals, public servants and voluntary sector working in partnership
Examples of Best Practice
RAA Leaders have started to articulate a collective vision for holistic support (Owers 2019) which:
- provides a wide range of timely multi agency support – preventative and responsive, providing support earlier to reduce the risk of escalation.
- creating resilient families - support is for the whole family. With a focus on enabling the adoptive parents to act as the main therapeutic agents, while helping to build resilience through effective social network and peer support
- a therapeutically informed social work and integrated multi-disciplinary team with clinical governance to provide better services.
Adoption Counts has the following outcomes statement:
- Adopted children & young people to have the best possible emotional health and well being
- Adopted children & young people to have an appropriate and stable education placement and to make expected educational progress
- Adoptive parents to be and feel supported to understand and meet the psychological needs of adopted children, resulting in optimal attachment relationships for children and parents
- Staff working in Adoption Support and other services, such as schools, to be confident and equipped to appropriately support adoptive families
- Improved adoption support services based on evidence of what works and feedback from adopters and adopted children and young people
Each statement is further elaborated in a statement of measurable objectives (See section 16. Monitoring and Evaluation).
OAWY High Level Outcomes:
- Families get help and support at every stage of the adoption journey
- Children have good quality care, a sense of belonging and stability within their adoptive family
- Children, adoptive and birth parents and adopted adults are listened to and have an influence in decisions that affect them and the development of services
Outcomes for Adoption Support (as stated in the OAWY Centre of Excellence):
- Families receive assessment and support in a timely way
- Adopters feel supported in meeting the needs of their children
- Children have improved emotional health and well being
- Staff are confident and skilled in working with adoptive families
- An increase in early engagement leading to a reduction in crisis intervention and placement breakdown
These statements are echoed in the purpose of the Coram Kent service - “The overall purpose of the service is to support adopters in their parenting task to maximise children’s emotional, social and educational development, following the granting of the adoption order.”
These were the only outcome based and measurable vision statements provided by the services in this survey.
Other statements often focus (not unhelpfully) on the type and quality of services offered rather than the outcomes they are designed to achieve.
There is a general lack of clarity and intent to support children to develop their identity or to develop relationships with key people e.g. birth families, siblings, foster carers etc.
This state of affairs may reflect the fact that:
- Many adoption support services have evolved to delivery statutory requirements in an ad hoc and resource-limited fashion
Some adoption services have such restricted resources and relationships with partner agencies that it would feel irresponsible to raise the expectations of adopters which could not be met.
Possible future developments
A national vision for adoption support services should be developed, in consultation with adopters, statutory and voluntary agencies and expressed in a set of national outcome measures.
There is a particular need to develop outcome statements in respect of adopted adults and birth parents (see sections 13 and 14).