Examples of Good Practice
Here are some examples of good practice from Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs):
Adoption Agency Scottish Adoption has since March 2015 had 5 young adopted adults employed by the agency on a freelance basis as Adoption Ambassadors to increase the level of service user participation in direct service delivery.
The current ambassadors are between 16-21 years old and are or have been part of the adopted teenagers support group within Scottish Adoption.
Following induction and training, the ambassadors have participated in workshops for panel members and agency decision makers, delivered sessions at the agency’s preparation group, been involved in recruitment activities, support other adopted teenagers, helped run agency events for adoptive families and provided media advice for a film script. Currently they are working on developing a specific section on the agency’s website for adopted children.
Scottish Adoption find the ambassadors have added huge benefits to the agency as the same time as benefitted the ambassadors develop skills, confidence and higher self-esteems.
Due to the success, Scottish Adoption has decided to continue the scheme and will continue to recruit and replace ambassadors.
Click on the two links below to see the job description and person specification for the adoption ambassadors.
Supporting birth relatives
Losing a child to adoption can be shattering – for both birth parents and other members of the family. Support for birth relatives can help them to come to terms with their loss, and can ultimately benefit the adopted child and their new family.
St Francis’ Children’s Society (SFCS) offers a variety of different services to provide the best possible support for birth relatives of adopted children. Their work in this area is called Birth Connections.
SFCS experiences a high response rate when they contact the birth relatives for the first time. To make things as easy as possible for the birth relative, SFCS staff will always try to meet with them in their own home.
Many birth relatives will have had negative experiences when communicating with the local authorities; SFCS can assist with this contact, because they are independent. They offer advice, explain the process and help birth relatives to communicate with the relevant authorities. This does not only benefit the relatives, but also the local authority. The earlier SFCS receives the referral, the better they are able to support the birth family.
SFCS offer a limited number of one-to-one sessions with a professional to help birth relatives come to terms with the loss of a child. Either alongside or after these one-to-one sessions, birth mothers have the option to join support groups, which enable them to engage with others in a similar situation. Here it is possible to share what might be difficult for the outside world to relate to. The support groups generally have a focus per session; this could be drama, a workshop on how to manage loss, or a visiting speaker.
Birth relatives are encouraged to meet their child’s adoptive parents, with appropriate support from the Birth Connections team. This can be of help to all parties involved and can especially benefit the child; adopters will be able to refer to the meeting when doing Life Story work with their children, and that personal contact can set the tone for good communication via Letterbox contact as the child grows up.
Letterbox contact is something else that SFCS can help with too. Their drop-in service offers assistance and emotional support to birth relatives as they write and receive letters from their children. This service is often provided jointly with the local authority, which again helps to ensure that all parties involved in the child’s welfare are communicating and working well together.
SFCS also provide support during the often difficult ‘Goodbye contact’ that birth relatives have with their children. This can include the practical aspect of transporting the birth relatives to and from the meeting, and offering emotional support so that they are able to get through the situation in the best way possible.
The Birth Connections service is greatly valued by birth relatives. Many who have accessed the service have begun to talk to others in similar situations to theirs, and have encouraged them to access the support on offer.
To find out more, visit http://www.sfcs.org.uk/birth-connections/
Working together to deliver a concurrent planning service
Caritas Care and Adoption Matters have been working together to deliver a concurrent planning service to 13 local authorities in the North West (The North West Concurrent Planning Service). The service has been contracted to provide 31 concurrent planning placements over two years.
Concurrent planning requires carers with high levels of resilience and good support networks who understand the task they are taking. With the North West Concurrent Planning Service, carers receive extensive help and support. In addition to extra training and preparation for the task of fostering, they are given support to address employment and finance issues, a fostering allowance for the duration of the fostering placement, extra social work support, access to a 24 hour helpline, a specific monthly support group for concurrency carers, a monthly stay and play session, and post-approval training groups.
The service also facilitates contact with birth parents through its two dedicated contact supervisors. They deal with the handover between carers and parents at the beginning and end of contact sessions, monitor the care of the baby, and support the parents in developing their baby care skills. They also write up a report of each contact session, which is provided to the local authority and the court, and provide feedback to the parents after every session.
Concurrent planning has big benefits for children by minimising moves and broken attachments, giving them a permanent family with minimum delay, and providing high quality care. For birth parents it gives them an opportunity for them to show that they can care for their child, develop baby care skills with support, and get to know the carers and possible adopters. And for carers it gives them the opportunity to look after the baby from a very young age, it allows them to talk to children about their birth parents in a real and informed way, and they will know that they have made a very significant difference in the life of that child at the time they needed it most. Most importantly, with concurrent planning the adults bear the risks and stress of uncertainty, not the child. Follow this link for more information.
Video feedback as post-adoption support.
TACT is working in partnership with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and Leiden University to introduce innovative and evidence-based post-adoption support intervention to the UK. Video-feedback Intervention to Promote Positive Parenting and Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD) is based on attachment theory and research, and has been developed as an intervention model with video feedback following rigorous testing in various populations of parents and children at risk. VIPP-SD is currently available on a national scale to all adopters in the Netherlands and has a firm evidence base, demonstrating positive outcomes for adoptive families.
VIPP-SD works by recording caregiver/child interactions, e.g. playing together, and then discussing selected fragments with the intervener afterwards. Video feedback provides the opportunity to focus on the infant’s videotaped signals and expressions, thereby stimulating the parent’s observational skills and empathy for his/her child. This intervention helps to increase the capacity of the caregivers to empathise with their children and make their parenting behaviour more effective. The provision of this intervention will develop adoptive parents’ capacity and sustain the placements of children in their care, thus reducing the number of adoption breakdowns.
TACT is using expansion grant funding to fund a project to train 40 social workers to deliver VIPP-SD support, enabling up to 180 families to receive this support a year.
Use of Social Media to Recruit Adopters
CCS Adoption has looked into the use of social media to recruit adopters.
Read their findings here:
Use of Social Media to Recruit Adopters – Best Practice Guidelines for Voluntary Adoption Agencies