Why is this needed?

  • A clearly set out assessment and referral process lays the foundation for a prompt response to enquiries and potential access to a range of services.
  • A thorough and holistic assessment enables adopters to access the most appropriate service, including those funded by the ASF.
  • A clear pathway from the point of referral helps adopters understand how access to services is agreed.
  • Clear timescales for the completion of assessments and the provision of services are key performance measures and important information for service users.
  • The more information can be appropriately shared between professionals, the fewer times adopters will have to repeat their story.

Government Perspective

NMS 15.2 When deciding whether to provide a service, or which service to provide, the agency has regard to the assessed needs for adoption support services, listens to the service user’s wishes and feelings, and considers their welfare and safety.

Adopter Perspective

A recent survey of adopters (Adoption Counts Adopter Survey 2018. (Unpublished)) revealed that 23% of adopters had had to tell their story more than 4 times before receiving a service.

The phone service needs to be staffed by adoption specialists who can, in the first instance, ‘triage’ the caller in terms of assessing their needs.
Having to wait two months from assessment of need to being allocated a CAMHS practitioner - could mean crucial time lost in helping a traumatised child cope with a period of difficulty.

Social workers signpost the Adoption Support Fund as the ‘panacea’ to adopters’ needs particularly when it comes to accessing mental health services provision for their children. However, there is no set ‘template’ advising us how to go about applying to the fund.  

Adopter (cited from Adoption Counts Adopter Advisory Board Report 2018 (Unpublished))

Exemplar Approaches

Coram Kent offers families access to support and advice by calling the Initial Enquires Team. They are offered a one-hour telephone appointment with a member of the support team, who talks with them about their needs. If it is felt the family need support, they will be given a date for an Adoption Support Assessment. They aim to offer families a Support & Advice line call within 48-72 hours of their initial request. They aim to offer families an assessment of their Adoption Support needs, within four weeks of the Support & Advice line call.

Adoption Counts has recently set up a dedicated duty team to receive and triage adoption support referrals.  This replaces a rotating duty system which just recorded referral information.  Having knowledgeable staff able to offer meaningful support, sign post to other relevant services and triage referrals has reduced the backlog of referrals and is likely to gain trust and establish communication much more quickly that a system which is shared between staff of differing experience and expertise.  PACT operate a similar triage system but without a dedicated duty team.

The format for adoption support assessments undertaken by Adoption Counts is set out at appendix six. The format is designed to work with Adoption Counts approach to Goal Based Outcomes (also being used by OAWY), see section 16.   Adoption Counts run a ‘surgery appointment’ system to try and speed up the assessment process in some cases.  This does not remove the need for more specialist assessments to take place but has reduced the need for information to be duplicated. 

OAWY has developed an approach to assessment and planning which links together a range of well-established approaches including Restorative Practice, Secure Base, Rethink Formulation (an approach specifically developed in Leeds), Signs of Safety, PACE, and the EBPU Logic Model (See appendix six).  It is clearly important for staff working in a multi-professional service to be using the same language and to have a common understanding of the approaches which different members of staff use.

Two examples of referral pathways are attached at appendix six from OAWY and Coram Kent.  Coram Kent was the only service to refer to timescales or performance measures for assessments to take place. 

Possible future developments

As adoption agencies become larger with the development of regional agencies, the management of a duty system is likely to become a more pressing issue with a larger number of referrals to manage.

Some adopters have expressed the need for a ‘crisis’ service and the availability of support in the evenings and at weekends. The limited nature of most duty services therefore needs to be articulated with clear sign posting to other services which can offer an out-of-hours or crisis response in different LAs, if necessary.

The fact that VAAs cannot apply directly to the ASF (but have to come through the RAA/LA) can mean that both RAAs and VAAs are duplicating assessment work. Greater levels of trust and communication are needed between RAA and VAAs to address this.


Some services reflected difficulties in obtaining and reflecting the wishes and feelings of children in assessments. Some adopters have refused direct access to the child, feeling that this could be unsettling. This may reflect a lack of confidence in professionals based on past experience.


Next: Adoption Support Services are structured and co-ordinated to meet different levels of need