CVAA publishes independent analysis on the value adoption brings to children, families and wider society
Today CVAA has published new analysis from Sonnet Advisory & Impact, which it commissioned to explore the value created by adoption to those who are adopted, their families and the wider society. The analysis confirms that adoption bring substantial value to society through the permanence, stability and support it can offer children who cannot live with their birth families.
According to the final report, which is available here, the value adoption brings is created through two key channels: the improved outcomes adoption offers relative to staying in care or living in special guardianship placements, and the lower financial cost to local authorities of adoption compared to foster and residential homes. According to the available evidence, adopted children and young people have enhanced outcomes across health, education and future employment compared to other placements, decreasing reliance on publicly funded services and support in childhood and later life. Additionally most adoptive parents do not receive financial support from the state, in contrast to foster and residential carers, which adds to the value adoption can bring – when it is in the best interests of the child.
The analysis revealed that at least £4.2 billion in value was generated across England, Wales and Scotland in 2021 when 3,359 children were adopted – including savings of £3.6 billion to local authorities, £541 million to the economy, and £34 million to the NHS. The modelling, which compared the outcomes of children who were adopted with those in other permanent placements found that the value created for adopted children, families and society is at least £1.3million for every child adopted.
Adoption is only right for a small number of children who cannot remain with their birth families. Yet the scale of the benefits it brings to those children – and to society as a whole – appear to be declining year-on-year as the number of children being placed for adoption falls. Despite policies supportive of adoption introduced over the last decade, the number of children adopted peaked in England in 2015 at 5,360, and has since fallen to 2,950 in 2022. This trend has occurred despite increased numbers of children needing to live in safe homes apart from their families of origin, with numbers of children in care in England up 25% since 2010 – and at their highest levels since records began.
Anthony, now aged 21, was adopted by his family through Coram at 20 months. He said the following about his adoption story: “In our family, there is no hierarchy between the birth kids and the adopted kids, we’re all one massive family. I remember feeling really loved and appreciated. I never really had an issue around adoption. I think I had a really easy adoption process, my narrative has been so fixed and clear. It’s really important to make sure that adopted children are not ashamed because there is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a really beautiful thing that my parents chose me.
“Since being adopted, I’ve been so lucky to develop my music skills. My parents really supported me, taking me to concerts and practice sessions. My parents are amazing. Their goals are realised through helping other people, and I find that really inspiring. I’ve recently fundraised for Coram as I wanted to give back to an organisation that gave me the life I—and all other children in care—should’ve had: a life with a loving family that enabled me to fulfil my potential.”
Andrew Webb, Chair of CVAA, added: “It’s a rare thing when research concludes that the best outcomes for children can be achieved at the lowest cost to the state. With the country in recession and set for extremely challenging financial times over the years ahead, it would be madness not to give serious consideration to these findings, and we urge governments in all UK nations to act on falling adoption numbers now. CVAA has always maintained that adoption is an intervention for the few, not the many – but the risk of adoption slowly vanishing as an option for children who cannot safely live at home is a grave concern. Evidence continues to show the life-changing and unrivalled benefits adoption holds for children, and with the sector working hard to improve the contact children have with their birth families, there is no justification for letting this trend continue unchallenged.”
So what next?
First and foremost we want UK governments to seriously consider this research and take action on falling adoption numbers without delay. We are also calling on governments in all nations to 1) invest in services supporting children to maintain lifelong family connections, 2) invest in support for kinship carers and Special Guardians, and 3) evaluate the long term outcomes of children in all permanence arrangements (adoption, SGO and long term foster care).
We would like local authority children’s services and the social work profession to take it upon themselves to thoroughly investigate whether social workers making care planning decisions for children have a solid understanding of all the different permanency options, including the benefits and limitations of each option, and the latest research on children’s outcomes. This also applies to CAFCASS, which should review the knowledge of Guardians ad Litem.
Lastly, we would like to see changes within the Judiciary to ensure that judges are equipped with feedback on the outcomes of their decisions (as per the English care review recommendations) and are provided with resources and training on the outcomes of children living in different permanency placements.
The full report is available here.