Tag Archives: matching

Why Matching Panels should be Dropped from the Adoption Process

 Today’s post is from Andy Leary-May of Adoption Link presents some ideas for improving the matching process.

 Approvals have speeded-up for adopters, but for children there are still placement delays that can be avoided.

A new, streamlined process introduced last year means that adopters are now being approved significantly faster. This first part of the process for adopters involves a general assessment of how well they may be able meet the needs of children who have been in care, resulting in a ‘prospective adopters report’, or PAR.  A panel then gives a recommendation to the agency decision maker, who makes the final the decision as to whether the person is suitable to adopt.

 The next step is to match adopters with children, and while there has been much focus on other areas of the process recently, matching is ripe for a re-think.

Matching has to work for both adopters and children. It’s not about looks and hobbies; it’s about the very real and specific needs of children in care, and the likelihood of adopters being able to meet those needs and help the children to thrive. The greater the number of prospective parents a Local Authority is able to consider, the surer it can be of making the best decision for a child in its care. This task falls to a ‘family-finder’ initially – a social worker who will search for a range of adopters to be considered.

The family-finder’s main source of information is the PAR (adopter’s social workers can also give their opinion, although often it is not the same person during family-finding as during assessment). A PAR is a large document, often running to over 100 pages. It includes family history, attitude to parenting, existing children, personality, and a range of strengths and vulnerabilities. Information that helps to predict a family’s general suitability to adopt.

 How useful is this as a tool to help choose the best parents for a particular child?

The information is all there, but to read enough to confidently conclude how well a child’s specific needs might be met could take hours, and for a family-finder to do this for dozens of potential parents would involve a huge amount of resources. Resources that for Local Authority adoption teams are in short supply.

What family-finders really require is a summary listing each broad area of commonly encountered need, with a brief assessment of an adopters’ ability to meet that need. The list might include behavioral and attachment difficulties, developmental delay, and a range of common medical issues.

A large, county authority I visited recently already uses this approach this for their in-house family-finding, because they find the existing PAR unhelpful. If a family-finder is looking for the best family to support a child with autism, for example, they would quickly be able to find the information they need in each adopter’s matching summary, rather than having to read every PAR.

Making this summary a standard part of PAR for all agencies could lend a more ‘vocational’ element to the approval process. Social workers would work with adopters to produce an assessment in each area, which the approval panel would be able to scrutinize. It would mean more transparency for adopters, and more accountability in the judgments made about the children they are, or are not, suitable for.

It could save social workers a great deal of time, while leading to more robust, needs-based matching – especially for inter-agency placements, which are still under-used.

Once the child’s social worker and others have agreed on the family they wish to proceed with, the next step currently is to take this recommendation to a matching panel. This second panel often involves 12 or more people and can create weeks or months of additional delay for a child waiting for placement. Is it really necessary?

If the many people involved in the child’s care have used a robust and accountable selection process, and if an assessment of the adopters’ ability meet a range of specific needs were already available, should a further panel process really be needed to confirm that the right family has been chosen?

The matching process needs to change to make better use of agency resources, and to ensure children are placed swiftly with the families who are best equipped to help them thrive.

Andy Leary-May is an adoptive parent and CEO of Link Maker, a social enterprise that in April 2014 launched a matching system called Adoption Link. It is now being used by half of the adopters and adoption agencies in the UK. 

 New research has been commissioned by Adoption Link examining the experiences of 460 families in the matching process. The study is designed to inform the work of the Adoption Leadership Board and will be published by the DfE in early 2015. 

3 Top Tips for Introductions

Today @SuddenlyMummy shares her top tips for Introductions, 

It seems as though the Twitter universe is awash with prospective adopters who are about to be matched, already matched, or contemplating introductions very soon. Congratulations all of you! Many of us have been through it already, and we know that there are myriads of little tips that would have made it all oh so much easier if we’d known them in advance!

So, what are your top tips for managing introductions? Do you have some practical advice, something you wish you’d known, or something you did that worked really well for you?

From a foster carer’s point of view, here are three of my top tips:

movng on1.Bring a holdall or suitcase on the first day of intros for the foster carer to pack all your child/children’s stuff in. It’s heartbreaking to have your child arrive with all their belongings in a bin bag, but amazing how often it happens. I always mention this at first meeting with prospective adopters, but if your foster carer doesn’t, then it might be worth asking.

2.Find out whether it would be ok to provide the foster carer with a memory stick on the first day of intros to load up with photos and videos of your little one. I make photobooks and scrapbooks, but these contain only a fraction of the literally hundreds of pictures I take, and are no good for video clips.

3.I always give prospective adopters my email address at the first meeting – I have never asked SS if this is ok, and I never will because I don’t want to hear a negative answer! If you get the foster carer’s email address and you feel comfortable contacting them, do, do, do email them, even if you don’t really have any questions. Once I receive a prospective adopter’s email, then, importantly, I have their email address too and I can start sending updates to help make the endless wait go by just a little faster.

So, now it’s over to you. If you’ve been through it, what are your top tips for introductions? Share any tips you have in the comments below.

Adopters doing it for themselves

Today Andy Leary-May,CEO of Adoption Link, tells us how adoptive parents are shaking-up family-finding.

adoptionlink300My partner and I decided in 2007 that the time was right to grow our family, and that adoption was how we wanted to do it. As a gay couple, at that time, we were relatively unusual in this. We really wanted to know others in the same situation, and I started a support group called New Family Social.

Over the next few years adoption became an increasingly large part of my life. NFS grew into a national charity that now helps hundreds of families, and each year hold an annual camp that is the biggest event for adoptive and foster families in the UK.

As the charity grew so did my family, and our second son joined us last year. They are both beautiful, bonkers, amazing forces of nature.

Through running an adoption charity, and having been through the process twice myself, I knew how frustrating matching could be. There were various options available to help bring families together, all of which served an important purpose, but all with their own limitations. The charity was lucky to have a talented volunteer called Craig working on its online systems, and together we mused about how matching could work better.

The problem is fairly straightforward. People from two groups (children and parents) need to find each other so that the needs and criteria of each are met as well as possible, and with a healthy chunk of ‘chemistry’ playing a part.

Surely, in this day in age, this should be possible without lots of delay, out of date information, or expense? We set to work.

Early in 2013 an opportunity came up to tender for the Government contract to run the Adoption Register for England. We put together a joint bid with Adoption UK using our system, but we weren’t successful. Undaunted, Craig, myself, and a developer called Will finished building our system and in April 2014 we launched ‘Adoption Link’.

The system was simple, but very different to anything the adoption sector had seen before. Both adopters and social workers add their profiles directly online and start looking for each other straight away. OK, if you insist on using the analogy, it works a bit like a dating site – it really isn’t rocket science.

Since April we have been overwhelmed by the support and positive feedback we have received from both adopters and social workers.

Adopters are happy  to finally gain some control in a process that can otherwise leave them feeling confused and forgotten. Social workers, meanwhile, are for the first time able to access hundreds of approved adopters across the UK directly, and be more proactive in searching for new families for their children.

The beauty of having a ‘system’ like this is that any available resources can go into refining it, and adding more features. We are preparing to add a document-sharing feature that will make exchanging PARs and CPRs quicker, and far more secure. Soon we will add new social functions, so that any adopters can find others near them to chat, and find play-dates with adopted children of similar ages. Our biggest development, due next year, will introduce fostering and residential placement finding.

Our dream is for Local Authorities to be able to create a profile for any child and instantly see the most suitable placements, whether adoptive, fostering or residential.

We want each placement to be commissioned because it meets the individual needs of a child best, not because it appears cheapest in the short term. We are pleased to be working with national leads in fostering and residential care on this, and hope that as a result children will more often find the right placement first time, with fewer moves that we all know do so much harm.

For the time being we are excited to see so many new adoptive families coming together, and I will leave you with a message we received last week from a social worker:

“Hi there – just wanted to let you know the great news that I have just submitted panel papers for a match which got off the ground thanks to Adoption Link! … I’ve also had a great response for a sibling pair I added last week and it looks like I’ll be visiting one of the couples who have enquired about them – so another Adoption Link match. Keep up the good work – really pleased we subscribed!”

You can find out more about Adoption Link at www.adoptionlink.co.uk