Why is this needed?

The demands of adoption support, and the amount of information now available to adopters, requires a well-trained workforce in touch with developing practice across a range of disciplines, including child development, evidence based therapeutic interventions and education provision and standards.

Government perspective

Adoption: A Vision for Change (2014) states:

3.28 In relation to adoption, developing the workforce is crucial to achieving sustainable success across the system. High quality social workers – including their ability successfully to undertake complex assessment, analysis and decision making- is pivotal to a successful adoption system.

3.30 To achieve this, we need to support child and family social workers to develop the knowledge and skills which will enable them to... support families in transition to new placement arrangements and beyond, both in terms of direct work and the commissioning of services.

Adopter perspective

Adopters want social workers who are trained in attachment & trauma, FASD and CPV/NVR. With these skills, SWs would be well-placed to support families and adopters would be less reluctant to seek help. (AdoptionUK)

Exemplar Approaches

Two of the agencies surveyed had a workforce development plan and others could point to a skills audit. However, only one was able to provide a delivery programme.

Several agencies highlighted the use of adoption informed psychologists to provide consultation and training. Others pointed to the importance of training staff in the delivery of programmes such as Theraplay, Nurturing Attachments and the AdOpt parenting programme, not just for the ability to deliver these programmes, but because this training can have a significant effect on social workers’ practice, providing them with a new set of tools and approaches.

Adoption Counts has arranged for Therapeutic Social Workers to receive clinical supervision from its Psychology Team. However, other social workers in adoption support would almost certainly benefit from this. Vulnerability of staff to secondary trauma should be a parallel concern.

AdoptionPlus has developed a training programme for local authority social workers with no therapy qualifications or access to clinical supervision but who are therapeutically supporting families caring for children with a history or relational trauma and attachment difficulties. The seven-day course spread over 8 months provides participants with information, strategies and tools that can support families with: relational and developmental trauma; emotional regulation; rejecting behaviours; adolescents; aggressive and controlling behaviour; sexualised behaviour; stretching the truth and taking items; and life story work.

Possible future developments

Given the budgetary pressures which most agencies face, there is a strong argument that joint training and development should be commissioned between agencies and together with VAAs.


Workforce issues are very significant in the development of quality support services. Social Workers are not trained as a matter of course in therapy or assessment for therapy and yet, they are called on to be a first line of support for traumatised children and parents, undertake assessments prior to therapy and commission therapeutic services. The skills required for these tasks will not be developed widely in the workforce without a national and regional focus on training, development and workforce planning.

The use of adoption support social workers in the training and development of other staff in the looked after system and those working in recruitment, assessment and family finding, is a key means of system influence. Ensuring adoption support staff are highly trained should therefore be a very cost-effective way of improving general social work practice.


Next: Monitoring and Evaluation