Why is this needed?

Understanding the number of children and families and the nature and level of their need is fundamental to service development, resource planning and co-ordination.

Adopter Perspective

Given that data on looked after children indicates that 3/4 of adopted children have suffered neglect and abuse while with their birth family (and perhaps as many as 1/3 have experienced exposure to alcohol in the womb), there should be a presumption that all adoptive families will need support at some stage. (AdoptionUK)

Adopters (and staff) complain of a ‘post code lottery’ when it comes to the existence of adoption support services or the ability to access them.

Examples of Best Practice

Two of the agencies surveyed (both COEs) had undertaken a localised survey of the needs of their adopter population. OAWY benefitted from the cross-Yorkshire and Humber research study conducted by the University of East Anglia which provides an overview of the adopter population and feedback on services in the lead up to regionalisation (Young and Hartley 2018). However, no agency had undertaken a projection of the need for adoption support services in their area.

After Adoption had developed an approach which allowed the organisation to cross reference the point at which families request services with the level of service required (see section 9) to plot the distribution of service uptake and therefore predict the likely demand for services.

Adoption Plus takes an early intervention and prevention approach and so assumes that all of their families will require a core offer of therapeutic services.

OAWY have asked CAMHS to start collecting data on children whom they know to be adopted.

Selwyn et al’s (2014) study, the most authoritative and comprehensive study of the needs of adoptive families found that (page 93): 

Just over a third of adoptive parents had experienced no or few difficulties and family life was described as going well. Where support had been requested, it had usually been provided and adopters were complimentary about service provision. For another 30% of families, whilst family life was still good, they also reported facing challenges. Often these challenges stemmed from their child’s special needs and getting the right support in place. 

About a quarter of parents described major challenges with children who had multiple and overlapping difficulties. Many were struggling to get the right support in place. Parents reported that they were physically and mentally exhausted and that there had been a negative impact on marital and family relationships. Some of the comments suggested the family was on the verge of disruption. Comments from other parents indicated that after a tricky patch, sometimes involving the child’s brief return to foster care or an intensive intervention, relationships had improved. 

About 9% of the young people had left their adoptive home under the age of 18 years (average age 14-15 years old).

Possible future developments

This is an important issue for RAAs, all of which need to agree a funding formula for adoption services delivered to their LAs. Relatively straight forward measures are available for recruitment of adopters and family finding for children, but a funding formula for adoption support activity is much harder to identify. As RAAs develop and make better use of data, it should be possible to make projections of the number of adoptive families in an LA/Region likely to need services. Projections could be based on a mix of measures such as:

  • The number of current and recent cases open to adoption support services and the time since placement

  • The total known number of adoptive families (e.g. the number held on a communications database, numbers receiving a letterbox service etc)

  • Number of children placed by the RAA/LAs in preceding years

  • Number of children placed in the area by other RAAs/LAs

  • The number of adopted children currently being looked after, on the edge of care, or whose cases are open to safeguarding services

  • LAs and RAAs need to keep track of the number of adopted children placed by other LAs/RAAs or with VAAs in their area in order to be fully aware of the total extent of their adopter population (e.g. Adoption Counts have identified that approximately 35% of adopters in their area did not adopt children from the LAs which constitute the RAA).

Within the education system

The DfE have started to collect national data relevant to the education of adopted children, but this is currently only in an experimental phase.  It is possible for LAs to ask schools to collate the numbers of adopted children known to them, but this will only reflect the numbers who are willing to self-declare.
The DfE holds Pupil Premium Plus data which should indicate the numbers of self-declared adopted children in the education system, but this is not currently made public and surveys indicate that there is a low uptake nationally of Pupil Premium Plus funding.  

As well as the number of families requiring adoption support, it is also important to understand the level and nature of the needs of adoptive families (see sections 10, 11 and 12). Information from Adoption Support Plans should also be helpful in predicting likely levels of need.


Next: A governing body for adoption support services