Adoption matching events could help harder-to-place children find homes, report says

Adoption and fostering charity Coram is calling for the implementation of Adoption Activity Days after a report finds that informal matching events secure places for one in four children attending.

21/10/21

Adoption matching events could help harder-to-place children find homes, report says

At least 1,400 children across Britain have found adoptive families through Adoption Activity Days (AADs) since launching a decade ago, a new report published today as part of National Adoption Week has found.

This is a higher number of matches between children and families than any single adoption agency has achieved over the same period and equates to a match for 1 in every 4 children attending an AAD.

AADs, run by Coram since 2011, are informal events bringing together children waiting to be adopted with approved adoptive parents who have not yet found the right child for them, allowing them to interact through fun activities and establish whether there is a connection.

The restrictions imposed under the pandemic demonstrate how vital AADs are for finding adoptive families for children who wait longest to be adopted. Prior to the pandemic in March 2019, when AADs were running twice a month, 41% of children awaiting adoption had been waiting at least 18 months. In March 2021 – when pandemic restrictions had limited the frequency and scale of AADs over the past year - it had risen to above 50%.

AADs are open to all adopters and all adoption agencies to refer children, enabling matches to be secured across geographical boundaries, where a match hasn’t been found in the local region, and where other traditional forms of family finding have been unsuccessful. A third of children attending the events had additional complex needs, a third were from a black or minority ethnic background, and a quarter were part of a sibling group and three-quarters were boys.

Attending an AAD is often seen as a ‘last resort’ to find children an adoptive family, and if a family is not found for a child at the event, the child is likely to remain in care until they turn 18. Coram’s analysis shows that if the 1,400 children matched through an AAD were still in care now, it would have cost the state an additional £250m in care costs over the past decade – a hundred times more than the cost of delivering AADs themselves. If the children stayed in care until their 18th birthday, the estimated extra cost to the state between 2011 and 2031 would be £550m.

The report also highlights how AADs provide approved adoptive parents with the opportunity to meet and engage with a child beyond their written profile and change fixed views on the type of child they’d like to adopt. Four in ten approved adopters said attending the events helped to broaden their perspective – for example, some had gone onto adopt a sibling group when previously they had only considered a single child, while others have adopted older children despite thinking they wanted a baby. And 50% of approved adopters said that attending an AAD had positively impacted their adoption journey, even if they were not matched with a child as a result.

Single adopter Laura met her son Sam – not his real name – at an AAD when he was 19 months old. Sam has a disability which affects his speech, swallowing and eyesight; he cannot walk or talk. “If you just read a child’s paperwork, you don’t really get a sense of who they are,” Laura said, adding: “And for children with disabilities it’s easy to focus on the disability and not actually see the child. At an Activity Day you are able to see the children interact, smile, play and discover their little characters and their potential.”

“If I had read my son’s Child Permanence Report instead of meeting him then I might have decided his needs were too great but as soon as I met him, I knew he was my son.”

Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram, said that AADs should be an entitlement for all children currently awaiting adoption as part of the Government’s proposed national matching service.

“There are currently over 2,000 children in England waiting to find an adoptive family and more than half of these children have been in care for more than 18 months. These are the children at risk of being left behind and they cannot afford any further delay.

“We believe that all children waiting should be given the chance to find a family at an AAD. Currently the majority of children waiting are not given this opportunity, and so commitment is needed to extend AADs to all adopters and children as part of a range of family finding approaches to make sure that every option is explored and every child has the best chance to thrive within a permanent, loving family.”

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