Plans for regional agency to improve adoption services
Oxfordshire is developing plans to transform its adoption services by joining forces with neighbouring councils.
The aim is to create a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) for the Thames Valley to improve outcomes for both children and adopters – including the ability to match children with families more quickly and improve support services for adopters. It follows a Government paper setting out plans for all adoption services to be delivered through RAAs by 2020.
Oxfordshire would be the host authority within a partnership known as Adopt Thames Valley, alongside six other councils (Bracknell Forest, West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham, Swindon and Reading) and two Voluntary Adoption Agencies (PACT and Barnardos). All partners have begun work to develop the new shared service across the geographical area covered by the councils.
The Government has advised that a grant of £300K will be made available to help set up the new service.
The benefits of the new service model include:
- improved outcomes and less waiting time through the availability of a larger pool of adopters
- increased ability to find adoptive families for harder-to-place children (e.g. older children, children with disabilities, sibling groups and children from minority ethnic backgrounds)
- improved experience for adopters through quicker matches with children who need placements
- better value for local authorities through pooling resources to recruit and assess adopters
- potential savings through finding the best matches for children and adopters, and doing so more quickly (thereby saving on costs such as foster care)
- improved adoption support services across a wider geographical area
Cllr Tilley at a recent event to promote the council's fostering and adoption service.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services Melinda Tilley said: “There is huge potential for regional agencies to drive improvements in adoption services. In simple terms it means casting the net further for prospective adopters and increasing the chances of matching children with the right families. It also brings partner authorities closer together to share expertise, pool resources and ensure good quality and consistent support services are in place for all adopters across the region.
“It is clear that the Government expects all adoption services to be delivered in this way in the coming years, and we want to get ahead of the game and bring our plans to fruition in good time. We now want to consult more widely with adopters and other key stakeholders to explore views about how Adopt Thames Valley will work and what it will look like.
“There is plenty of work to be done before final decisions are made about the new service, but there is strong agreement across the partnership about the benefits of working in this way. We’re also really pleased to have the support of all partners for Oxfordshire to be the host authority, enabling us to build on our already strong record on adoption services.”
The county council was shown by recent national figures to be among the country’s very best councils for minimising adoption waiting times.
Between 2012 and 2015, 73 per cent of Oxfordshire children waited less than 16 months between entering care and moving in with their adoptive family - the third highest figure out of 149 authorities across the country.
The council was sixth best for the average time taken between a child entering care and moving in with its adoptive family, and recorded the 15th shortest average time between receiving court authority to place a child and matching them with a family.