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A strategy to value identity and connection

This week we are concluding our introduction to the forthcoming CVAA Strategy 2024-27, which launches this week, and delving deeper into our final strategic priorities – identity and connection. We know from adoptees and from research that the loss that has been historically involved in adoption means that gaps emerge in the lives of adopted people and manifest themselves in a range of ways. Just searching for ‘loss and adoption’ on the internet reveals the scale of what this looks like.

In response to this, work is already happening across the adoption sector in the UK to change practice, update legislation and improve outcomes, which all feeds into the overall concept of modernising adoption. This includes the important work of the Public Law Working Group on Adoption who published their interim report last year which you can read our response to here.

 

However, if we understand what the impact of loss in adoption is, it is imperative that we work towards minimising the negative effects.

In 2022 PAC-UK focussed on the ‘Voices of adopted people – identity and relationships’ for their conference which can be viewed here.  CVAA is also committed to listening to adoptees and learning from them as we continue the journey of shaping the future of adoption. Part of our ambition is making adoption fit for the next generation but to do this effectively we have to also understand the expectations that the next generation will have of an intervention such as adoption. This debate generates many different viewpoints, including whether adoption should exist at all, and we believe that this is a question that should always remain one to be posed, because complacency can mean that adoption services are not as good as they can be or should be.

CVAA wants all children being adopted across the UK, whether from care or abroad, to be placed with adoptive families who are well prepared, supported and steeped in understanding the impact of adoption on the life of their child and their whole family. The concepts of identity and connection therefore are crucial in this understanding and must be overlayed with the deepest empathy possible. No one who is not adopted can understand how it really feels but we do know that the impact is lifelong, which is why the role that VAAs play in supporting children and families is so important.

It is also why alongside launching our strategy we will also be publishing a new paper My People which lays out our vision for a new network and hub that can help better support adopted children to maintain relationships with the people who are important to them. We hope this will be an important first step towards ensuring all adopted children can develop a full sense of self and make sense of their early life experiences as they grow, ultimately shaping an adulthood where they can truly thrive.

 

Warm regards,

Satwinder

CVAA launches new strategy to shape the future of adoption services

Following extensive consultation with voluntary adoption agencies up and down the UK, as well as people with lived experience and key stakeholders, CVAA is delighted to launch its new strategy which sets out what we will do over the next three years,to support our members to ensure all children who need it have the best possible chance of a permanent loving family, who can meet their identity needs

The Strategy centres around three key priorities:

  • Identify and connection – Ensuring that adoptees are supported by informed, empathetic adopters and VAAs, so that they develop a lifelong positive sense of identity and belonging, underpinned by continuing connections and ongoing meaningful relationships with the people that matter to them
  • Adopter and sector diversity – Supporting VAAs to embed learning and changes so that adopters from a wide range of ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds, with varied lived experiences, feel confident coming forward to adopt and that all services are delivered through an equitable and inter-sectional approach, rooted in anti-discriminatory practice
  • Championing the modernisation of adoption – Working with members, adopted people and their families, and stakeholders across the UK, to influence and shape the modernisation of adoption, increasing understanding of the imperative for change and the benefits for children and families

To read the strategy in full, download it here.

CVAA Launches My People a vision for a new network and hub to support adopted children’s relationships with those that matter to them

The evidence for children maintaining positive and meaningful, lasting relationships with the birth families they have been separated from, as well as other significant people in their early lives, has grown and strengthened. This is true across the spectrum, for children in care as much as those who have been adopted,.. The latest studies also show that high-quality contact is closely linked with children’s ability to make sense of their own personal stories and whole their emerging identities, and to develop a sense of understanding about who they are and what they have experienced. Yet, across the entire care system, practice is lagging far behind what the latest evidence is saying, despite the will from many families and practitioners to modernise and improve how children remain connected with their families of origin.

That’s why CVAA is delighted to today being launching  ‘My People’, our vision for a new network and hub, that would generate cross-sector collaboration, to consolidate, expand and sustain work being done in adoption services to strengthen the experiences of children after they are adopted. Specifically, My People is dedicated to preserving children’s lifelong connections with their birth families and other key people in their lives.

The My People proposal has four core goals:

1. Hosting an online resource for making practical information on supporting children’s lifelong relationships easily available for children, their carers’, and families – realising the rights and aspirations of care experienced people and creating efficiencies for local authorities and adoption agencies who would no longer have to duplicate these resources.
The hub would be backed up by an experienced practitioner acting as co-ordinator to manage, assess and signpost enquiries.

2. Developing knowledge and expertise among professionals, through the network being a maintained as an up-to-date central source of guidance, research and best practice relating to preserving and promoting children’s connections at each stage of their development.

3. Evolving cultures and entrenched ways of thinking about contact and connections by working closely with practitioners across the sector to pool resources, reassess ideas and explore barriers which may be obstructing progress. Additionally, by drawing upon the newly created support network of ‘connection champions’ the network would spark new
thinking and expertise among leaders in workforces to take back and embed into their local organisations and services.

4. Co-ordinating delivery at local level with VAAs and RAAs and gathering data to understand the structure of support services today, to inform an insight-driven strategy for funding support services tomorrow. Mapping where support for families is most needed, and in what form, to ensure that all children and families are treated with equity wherever they live and have equal access to flexible support.

You can download a copy of the full report here.

CVAA Launches New Manifesto for Adoption

Ahead of the next General Election , CVAA has published a new Manifesto for Adoption laying out a number of recommendations for the next Government to transform adoption services for the children who need it.

 

Drawing on the expertise of our members and the lived experience of adoptees and adopters,, this CVAA manifesto focuses on five key areas which are:

  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

Taken together, we believe that  the steps we have laid out can help not only make the adoption system fit for the needs of children in the modern era but will ensure that adopted people are given the support they need to help make sense of their identities and experiences and thrive. You can download a full cppy of the Manifesto here.

 

 

A strategy to support VAAs to tackle adopter and sector diversity

This week we are continuing to focus on the forthcoming CVAA Strategy 2024-27 and delving deeper into one of our strategic priorities – adopter and sector diversity. At the CVAA Members’ conference in November 2023 one of the highlights was an address from Lord Simon Woolley on helping us as a sector to address racial disparity.

The discussion with voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) since then has gone onto shape one of our strategic ambitions which is to address both adopter and sector diversity through both gathering more evidence and data on these issues and supporting VAAs to ensure that all services are delivered through an equitable and intersectional approach, rooted in anti-discriminatory practice.

In 2022 the Adoption & Special Guardianship Board published its findings on Ending Racial Disparity in Adoption, and CVAA was pleased to be able to contribute to that work. Despite this, we know that racial disparities remain an issue at many stages of the care system and recent findings from the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory back this view, so there is still much to be done. CVAA plans to support our members by leading new initiatives at a national level that can then be applied regionally and locally.

We know that we need to recruit more adopters from Black communities, but crucially they also need to be able to truly meet the complex needs of the children who continue to wait and not just be a good match because of their ethnicity. We have the expertise and resources as VAAs, and a great example of this was the London Black Families project. Unfortunately, this knowledge has not been applied strategically and systematically across the sector, so now is the time to do this.

Alongside this we also need to ensure that the workforce across VAAs is more representative of the children we work with, particularly at leadership and managerial levels. At present only one VAA in the whole of the UK is headed by a Black colleague so CVAA wants to support changes by working across our membership to encourage more Black colleagues into senior roles and help agencies to identify what will make this happen.

We believe that our work will help us to see meaningful and sustainable changes by 2027 and we look forward to reporting on this in our annual reports.

 

Warm regards,

Satwinder Sandhu, Chief Executive, CVAA

CVAA launches new advice guide for people considering adopting children with additional needs

We are delighted to share our advice guide about adopting children with additional needs. The guide is part of a series, created by our Voluntary Adoption Agency members with very special contributions from adoptive parents.

It may sound daunting, but adopting a child with additional needs is incredibly rewarding and gives them a chance to flourish. Many of the thousands of children in care waiting for an adoptive family who have additional needs wait much longer than other children.

We want to help change that. In this guide, adopters from voluntary adoption agencies, share their experiences of adopting a child with additional needs and offer practical advice to prospective adopters.

 

A copy of the guide is available for download here.

 

You can also find information about support for adopters that is available via the Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Fund at: www.gov.uk/guidance/adoption-support-fund-asf.  The adoption and special guardian support fund (ASGSF) provides funds to local authorities and regional adoption agencies (RAAs) to pay for essential therapeutic services for eligible adoptive, special guardianship order (SGO) and child arrangement order (CAO) families.

Introducing our new strategy – why identity, inclusion and modernisation will be key to the future of adoption

CVAA is pleased to be launching a blog to coincide with the launch of our new strategy in April 2024. To kick us off our CEO, Satwinder Sandhu, who has worked in adoption & fostering services for almost 30 years shares some reflections on reflections on the sector’s discussions about modernising adoption and why it is important.

CVAA celebrated its 30th anniversary last year and this year we are set to launch our strategy for 2024-27. In shaping the strategy, we have taken stock of where the adoption sector across the UK is today and what we think voluntary adoption agencies can and should be doing to shape the future of services. The recent thematic Ofsted report on Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs) demonstrates that the need for this input remains as strong as ever and CVAA remains committed to supporting Adoption England in their own strategic priorities.

We have already been working on cross-sector initiatives to modernise adoption and our strategy sets priorities to go further.  By modernising we essentially mean that adoption needs to be much more focussed on the needs of adoptees, and at each stage of life particularly in relation to supporting their identity needs.

To help support this, we are very fortunate to have benefitted from the input of adoptees and their families into our new strategy, as ultimately, they are the most acutely affected by adoption, including the current policies and practices across our sector.

Voluntary Adoption Agencies recognise this too and many of our member organisations already run services for adoptees of all ages, such as teentalk to help children and young people to fully understand not only their whole identity but the impact that adoption will continue to have on their lives. But has the law kept up with practice? CVAA has been actively involved in the Public Law Working Group on adoption and we are optimistic about the positive changes to outcomes that shifts in the law and regulations could bring.

We fully believe that adoption needs to continue to change, not only at a practical level to better meet the needs of children and young people, but also as a legal construct so that it remains fit for the future. Society is unrecognisable from when adoption was first formally legalised and so it is inevitable that adoption should evolve too. We are interested to monitor the impact of changes like the ones introduced in New South Wales, Australia, where since October 2020 adoptees have a dual birth and adoption certificate, known as an Integrated Birth Certificate. Surely such changes can only impact the lives of adoptees positively.

There are suggestions that adoption could be more like guardianship, but every decision has consequences so a lot more research and consultation is still required.

Now that we have touched on modernisation, over the coming weeks, ahead of our formal strategy launch, we will focus on each of our other strategic priorities and explain why they are so important and what role they might play in shaping the future of adoption.

 

Satwinder Sandhu, Chief Executive, CVAA

30 Years of Action – A Brief History of CVAA

The world of adoption has seen some seismic shifts in the past 30 years, but there has been at least one constant: adoption has continued to provide, evidentially and unequivocally, a pathway to permanence and successful adulthood for some of the nation’s most
disadvantaged children.

Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) have a long history of championing children; of finding innovative means to achieve successful ends and of securing permanence and supporting families in the long term when the State has struggled. Their specialist perspective has supported ways of finding and using data to help the wider system focus on what is important. But, as events continue to remind us, they are
relatively small, vulnerable organisations.

CVAA was formed to harness collective wisdom and to present a consistent, value riven approach to what has become an increasingly fragmented statutory sector. It has contributed to the development and implementation of some of the most
successful system changes of the past 30 years; its members have been consistent in offering practical solutions to complex problems and have been endlessly willing to innovate and adapt in the interests of children and families.

To celebrate this long history of working to advocate for change across the adoption sector, Norman Goodwin CBE has brought together ‘A Short History of CVAA’ which lays out some of key milestones the organisation has achieved and the key people who made it happen.

You can download the full document here

CVAA responds to the Public Law Working Group’s draft report on adoption

Following extensive consultation with its members, CVAA welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Public Law Working Group's draft report on adoption. VAAs welcome many of the recommendations that the report lays out and are behind the overall vision for a more modern adoption system that it seeks deliver. However, members felt strongly that implementing the report's recommendations alone will have little impact and that such a seismic shift in adoption policy and practice - particularly in how adopted people relationships are maintained - will require a significant increase in resources, and therefore significant government investment. Without the required level of funding, it is CVAAs concern that not only will the system and workforce be placed under increased strain, but that the children and families that the report seeks to support will not benefit from the changes that are proposed and greatly needed.

A full copy of our response can be dowloaded here

CVAA Conference 2023: 21st Century Adoption- responding to children’s needs in the modern era

On the 14/15th November 2023, CVAA members and representatives from the Department for Education and Adoption England came together for our annual conference which was focused on 21st Century Adoption.

The two days featured keynote addresses from Lord Simon Woolley, Justice Judd and the Minister for Children Families and Wellbeing.

Key themes over the two days included tackling racial disparity, improving how the adoptionsupport children’s meaningful relationships and identity needs and the importance of bringing in lived experience to everything we do as a sector.

All of the slides from the presentations, along with programme can be found here