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Category: CVAA insights

CVAA launch week: influencing policy, practice and sector action.

Adoption as we know and understand it in the UK continues to evolve, but not fast enough for the families who need it right now. The data consistently shows that too many children are still waiting too long to be found a family, particularly those with complex needs or from the Global Majority. The approach to maintaining children’s relationships whilst improving is also lagging far behind what the latest evidence and adoptees are saying is needed. In some cases, it can mean that adoption is not even considered as an option because it is assumed relationships will not be maintained. Support for adopted people also remains woefully inadequate not just in terms of early intervention, but also in education, health and into adulthood. These failings have lifelong consequences.

That’s why last week CVAA launched a series of reports designed to help shape, policy practice and also sector action.

We kicked off with our new strategy which will guide our work and focus for the next 3 years. It lays out a vision for shaping the future of adoption services centred around creating a diverse, inclusive and modern adoption system which can truly meet children’s identity needs.

Underpinned by a thriving voluntary sector, our strategy argues that the transformation of adoption must be centred around three core objectives.

  • Meeting adopted people’s identity needs
  • Tackling sector and adopter diversity
  • Championing the modernisation of adoption

These themes are not new, and across both voluntary and statutory agencies work is already underway to drive best practice. Our strategy builds on this work and sets a series of goals which will either embed what is working well more widely or develop new ways of working to the benefit of families, and ultimately adoptees.

To ensure that our ambition is backed up by action, last week also marked the launch of My People a blueprint for a new network and hub to transform how we support adopted children to maintain relationships with the people who are important to them. We know this is critical because adoptee voices are repeatedly telling us that the experiences of being separated from parents, brothers and sisters, as well as others significant to them, continues to have a detrimental effect on their lives as adults. Despite good work going on within agencies on this, the pace of change has not been fast enough, and we hope My People can bring some much-needed coordination and structure to the existing best practice going on across the country. My People also sets out ideas for supporting adoptees through adulthood when they need services, something which currently does not exist.

However, it is also clear that the sector alone cannot deliver the scale of change that is needed. Many of the challenges facing VAAs, and ultimately families, are driven by current funding models, legal frameworks or national policies which stand in the way of child-centred decision making or prevent adoptees and their families getting the support they need.

Reforming these will take action from the next government to lay the right foundations for change. For this reason, our final publication last week was our Manifesto for Adoption which sets out the key steps political leaders must take. This draws not just upon the voices of our members but those of adopters, adoptees and birth families and is focused on five key themes:

  1. Recognising the value of adoption
  2. Reducing delay for all children, but particularly those who wait the longest
  3. Supporting adopted children’s identity needs
  4. Timely support which prioritises early intervention and developing more trauma-informed schools
  5. Acknowledging the lifelong impact of trauma

Key recommendations within this include levelling the inter-agency fee in England, a commitment to the ongoing funding for the Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Fund beyond March 2025, creating multi-disciplinary support plans (with a duty to deliver them) for every adopted child and ensuring that support continues past 18 to recognise the lifelong nature of adoption and it’s associated trauma. A full copy of our Manifesto is available here.

To mark the culmination of this important work, we were delighted to bring together members and partners from across the children’s social care sector, including Ofsted, Department for Education, the Judiciary and academics, at NCVO last week.

The launch was also an opportunity to hear from individuals with lived experience adoptees and adopters, about why the work VAAs do is so important and why we must continue to come together to push for the change that adoptees and their families deserve.

We know that there is much work to be done but our portfolio of publications sets out our vision and ambition, which we believe can be realised if the sector comes together. To enable this CVAA will convene an Adoption Sector Summit later this year to ensure that all relevant stakeholders, including adoptees themselves, contribute to our efforts in shaping the future of adoption services.

What’s the difference between a Voluntary Adoption Agency and a Regional Adoption Agency?

One of the first decisions to make if you are thinking about adopting is which agency to choose. In your local area there are likely to be two types of adoption agencies to choose from – Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) and Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs). This blog explains the main differences between them, to help you reach the right decision for you.

VAAs are independent, not for profit organisations which are smaller than most local government agencies. RAAs on the other hand are collaboratives of local authority adoption teams covering a region. Both VAAs and RAAs do similar work in finding, preparing, training, assessing and supporting prospective adopters – and most importantly matching them with children who are in need of lifelong, loving homes. However, VAAs and RAAs also have different strengths and benefits. Deciding on an agency therefore depends on weighing these up and thinking about what you value most, as well as ensuring you feel comfortable working with the one you choose, as we all have preferences in life.

The main strengths that VAAs offer are:

  1. Lifelong adoption support for their adoptive families. VAAs know that support is absolutely crucial for adoptive families and needs to be available for families to access at any time until a child turns 18, and sometimes beyond, without long waiting lists. VAAs are smaller and tend to be specialised in adoption support so can be responsive to what families need, whenever they need it.
  2. A family feel. Adopters often tell us this is why they chose to adopt with a VAA. Again, the size of VAAs means that adopters can form close relationships with the wider team and agency – not just their own social worker! All the latest Ofsted inspections for our VAAs have been Outstanding or Good, and relationships are at the heart of this. RAAs are not currently inspected although adoption is looked at within the broader inspections of children’s social care services. You can look at Ofsted reports here.
  3. Diversity and inclusivity. VAAs really get to know their local communities and are more likely to place children with adopters from a diverse range of backgrounds. 1 in 5 VAA adoptions are to LGBTQ+ adopters and 13% of VAA adoptions are to adopters from a minority ethnic/global majority group.
  4. The ability to match adopters with children from across the UK, rather than just their local area. VAAs work in partnership with all regions of the country to help find homes for children. This can be especially helpful for those hoping to adopt a child with certain characteristics, such as a child who shares the same ethnicity and cultural heritage.

RAAs of course have their own strengths and benefits too which include:

  1. Being part of the local authorities which have children in their care. This means that RAAs are the first to know about the children who have a plan for adoption, so can start looking for adopters straight away. You might hear that this means RAAs can match adopters with children more quickly than VAAs. This can be true but waiting times depend on lots of other factors too – like where in the country you live, what RAA/VAA partnerships are like in your area, and which children you are open to adopting. Some VAAs publish average times it takes for adopters to be matched with children on their websites, which can help adopters in their decision making.
  2. Matching more younger children without siblings. RAAs tend to look among their own adopters first when seeking to match these children, so if you have definite preferences to adopt a baby or toddler, it’s worth considering this. However, changes in adoption mean that there are fewer babies with a plan for adoption than there used to be, so nothing can be guaranteed. VAAs are experts in finding homes for brothers and sisters, children from diverse backgrounds and who may need extra support in some way – which is why great adoption support and diversity are such big priorities for them!

Feel free to ask VAAs about the differences between their agency and the local RAA too while you are making these decisions. They are there to help and the most important thing is that adopters can make properly informed choices about the agency they go with, by weighing up what is most important to them.

The Adoption and Fostering podcast also discusses some of the differences between VAAs and RAAs in Episode 186, available here.