Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – March 2015

Welcome to our March issue, our first since January. Included in this issue is news about a new summary of recent guidance on the impact of court judgements on adoption, the awarding of Expansion Grants and Booster grants to Voluntary Adoption Agencies, and a reminder about the adoption matching workshops. We hope that you will find this issue helpful.

Impact of Court Judgements on Adoption
Following the guidance published in November and its associated Addendum in December, the Adoption Leadership Board has put together a 1 -page summary version. This summary is targeted particularly at busy practitioners.

VAA Expansion Grants Programme
Following a competitive exercise, the DfE has awarded Expansion Grants and Booster Grants worth up to £3.5m to 14 Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) in Round Three of the programme.  Funding is being provided to recruit adopters who are then successfully matched with harder to place children.

The Expansion Grant Programme is being administered and managed by the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) on behalf of the DfE.

Best Practice in Adoption Matching - Workshops for Agencies
The College of Social Work (TCSW) is currently running, on behalf of the National Adoption Leadership Board, a series of six roundtable events across England to focus on achieving best practice in matching children and adopters. This attachment provides summary information about these events which are taking place across the country between now and 1 April.

The events have been expressly designed to focus on the leadership challenges in achieving best practice. Each Local Authority is invited to identify three people from your organisation to attend one of six regional roundtable events. This will normally include the relevant Assistant Director, Principal Social Worker and a manager who has a particular leadership role in relation to adoption. 

Each event is being chaired by Sir Martin Narey (Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board), Mark Owers (CEO of CVAA) or Annie Hudson (Chief Exec of The College of Social Work).

Professor Julie Selwyn (Bristol University) or John Simmonds (BAAF) are presenting the evidence around matching at each event and Bridget Betts (who pioneered the reintroduction of Activity Days) is presenting at all six events.

Places are being taken up very quickly so please confirm your attendance by completing this registration form and return by email asap to

Adoption Support Fund
Adoption UK has included an item about the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) in their February newsletter. We reproduce, with permission, this item here.

It explains how the process works and what it can offer, and includes two case studies from the ASF prototype on how it has helped adoptive families.  This item demonstrates the opportunities that the ASF can deliver to adopters.

We look forward to hearing about more examples such as this over the coming months.

Additionally, in preparation for the national roll-out of the ASF the  Department has also updated information about the Fund for adoptive parents and providers of therapeutic support services on First4Adoption – see:

First4Adoption “Meet the Adopter” webcast
On 28 January the first Meet the Adopter webcast was streamed live on the First4Adoption website. The theme was adoption for LGBT people with adoptive parents, Tor Docherty and Rupert Smith, sharing their experiences and answering tweets and emails. The webcast was 30 minutes long and it made for fascinating and sometimes emotional viewing. You can watch it at

Keep in touch with F4A
Please keep F4A up to date with your recruitment needs and let them know if your agency is not currently seeking adopters. Agencies may also want to check their listings on the F4A website and provide up-to-date information (including the postcodes you cover) for the online Agency Finder.

Adopter buddy scheme secures DfE innovation funding
People who are keen to adopt will be able to buddy up with existing adopters who will mentor them as part of an initiative being backed with £500,000 of government money.

The scheme, called Cornerstone, will also offer aspiring adopters specialist parenting training to help them in their new role: from how to help their child settle into their new home, to talking to them about their birth family and why they were adopted. Cornerstone is the tenth scheme to be funded through the DfE's £100m Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, and is brainchild of two adoptive parents.  It will be run as a social enterprise, initially in Berkshire, before being extended to London and the South East.  It is hoped that, alongside providing help and practical training for first-time adopters, it will also boost the number of adoptions taking place by encouraging and supporting prospective adopters along the approval process.

Children’s minister, Edward Timpson, stressed the importance of adoptive parents getting the right support at the right time:

'This innovative programme will support adoptive families – from those who have been adopting for years, to those at the beginning of the journey – every step of the way.'

Helen Keenan, co-founder and CEO of Cornerstone, said that she will be working with leading experts in the UK and the US to create a programme that gives parents what they really need:

'We believe our package of support can really make a difference to the quality of life of adoptive families while also creating efficiencies for adoption agencies.  Our mission is simple - to help more families to adopt children who need loving homes. And we can’t wait to get started.'

Adoption Activity Days
We are pleased to see the real growth in coverage and success of Adoption Activity Days (AADs) run by BAAF, some of which have been funded through their matching grant with DfE. Since February 2014:

  • 1,039 families and 1,071 children have attended 23 AADs.
  • 26% of the children who attended have been matched (the average matching rate for mainstream matching activities is estimated at around 11-15% - and AADs focus on some of the hardest to place children).
  • 141 Local Authorities are now involved with AADs.
  • At a recent AAD in Devon, 40% of the 42 children that attended were matched.  Matches included two sibling groups of three.

Do you know someone who deserves to be honoured for their service to adoption or family law? Do you know that anyone can make a nomination?

More details and nomination forms can be found here:

You may send the nomination form, supporting materials and direct any enquiries to

Please note that the final deadline for nominations for the New Year 2016 round is Friday 10 April.

Keeping you in touch
We are sending this update to those we have contact details for and look to you to disseminate this bulletin more widely among your colleagues and members. If you do not wish to receive this update please reply to this email and we will ensure your details are removed before any further updates are circulated. If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their name, email address, job title and contact details to

If you have any suggestions as to how we might make these updates more useful to you – or items you would like to see – please let us know by contacting the email address above.

Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education 
March 2015