Local authority adoption services in Devon, Plymouth, Torbay and Somerset are joining forces to become a single regional adoption service, under the banner Adopt South West.
The move, required by the Government, is expected to improve the adoption process; making it simpler for adoptive parents, and quicker so children awaiting adoption are waiting less time.
Council adoption services – 152 of them nationally - have tended to operate independently to a large extent, with individual budgets and with variation in the levels of support offered by councils to adoptive parents.
At present, they match children in their care to potential adopters from within their own pool of adoption-ready parents. And where they can’t find a suitable match between a child and an adopter from within their pool, they make the placement with adopters in other Council areas.
The Government wants adoption services to work together, so 152 council adoption services will become 19 Regional Adoption Agencies.
Working regionally expands the pool of adoption-ready parents to match children with. And that means children will not be waiting for adoption for as long.
The region compares relatively well nationally in terms of the length of time a child waits to be adopted. Children across the four authority areas currently wait on average anywhere from about six months to longer for adoption. But under the new arrangement, the time a child waits across all four council areas is expected to be significantly reduced, positioning the region as having one of the shortest waiting times for adoption in the UK.
And as well as the sharing and development of good practice, it also means that all adoptive parents within Adopt South West area will receive the same high level of quality support from professionals.
Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Council’s adoption service, said: "This is the right step for the region. We have a lot of good practice to draw upon, that when shared will improve the service such that children will wait less time to be adopted, and parents will receive the same high standard of support."
Cllr Julien Parrott, Executive lead for Adults and Children at Torbay Council, said: “The creation of our regional adoption agency is great news for all children in need of adoption, and those looking to adopt. The impact of being part of this larger agency will be felt across the whole of Torbay and our partners areas and I am looking forward to working closer with our neighbours to improve the lives of our children and young people.”
Alison Botham, Director Children’s Services Plymouth said: “We know that there are more children than ever before needing the stability of a loving family home so bringing together experienced social workers to help speed up that process is crucial. The RAA will create a system where recruitment takes place at a sufficient scale to provide a pool of ‘adoption ready’ adopters that are well matched to the needs of the children waiting; that is large enough so that children are matched with the most suitable adopter as quickly as possible and that offers an adoption support service that is of a high quality.”
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: "I very much welcome the opportunities the new regional adoption agency will bring to children in need of adoption and adopters across the wider South West. Adoption services in Somerset are already recognised as good by Ofsted and, now, working with our partners in the new regional agency gives us the opportunity to make further improvements to the process and make it easier and quicker to match children who need adoptive families with the people ready to adopt them. I look forward to a future of consistently good and innovative practice leading to improved outcomes for children across the region."
If you’re interested in finding out more about adoption, please visit www.adoptsouthwest.org.uk or freephone 0800 0832227.