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Evaluation of the Adoption Support Framework in Wales

Report | April 2021

This report is a snapshot study of adoptive families and adoption support in Wales commissioned by the National Adoption Service for Wales.

Based on questionnaires completed in Autumn 2020 by over 300 adoptive parents and approximately 80 professionals, combined with interviews with over 20 adoptive parents and over 20 sector leaders, findings suggest that:

  • There has been considerable progress across the sector at national and regional levels in implementing the Adoption Support Framework. This includes encouraging more families to feel confident about asking for help and in developing a more robust and visible offer of ‘universal’ support for all to access.
  • With the support of the Welsh Government and other UK-wide charitable funds, more children and families with emerging needs and difficulties have been able to access targeted help. This includes through innovative new offers such as ‘TESSA’ and ‘Adopting Together’ as well as more established offers including peer support, life journey work, psychologist consultation, and a range of other therapeutic supports. These forms of support have targeted ‘early age and stage’ prevention and intervention for children with additional needs that are likely to be significantly greater than those of most other children in Wales.
  • These two key developments represent positive first steps on a journey of improvement in relation to adoption support under the aegis of the Adoption Support Framework.
  • However, there is more to be done. The funding and recent service developments have raised adoptive families’ expectations that they will receive targeted help when it is needed. Some families also described experiencing, or being aware of, inconsistent offers of support across the different regions of Wales. Many of the most valued forms of early targeted support that have the potential to reduce demand for crisis or specialist support later in childhood, are also currently funded on a short-term basis, raising an important issue about the sustainability of these services.
  • There are also notable support gaps, in particular for older children with more complex needs, including those who are in transition to adulthood.
  • The evaluation team at the Institute of Public Care recommend both a sustained period of funding and allied emphasis on continuing the improvement journey, to build on and consolidate those already made, and to focus going forward on enabling:
  1. All adopted children to have the right kind of support and attention in schools or colleges, where they often struggle more so than in the home.
  2. Consistency of access for families to valued forms of targeted support across all regions and/or support agencies, particularly to provide effective ‘early stage’ therapeutic or psychological support before families reach a crisis.
  3. Greater overall access to targeted and specialist support where it is needed by adoptive families across Wales. This includes for older children or young people with complex needs and for those children who may have neuro-developmental conditions requiring further exploration and support.