Case study: Regional Adoption Agencies
Updated: Apr 15
Client: Department for Education
Date: 2016 – Present
Challenges faced by the client: The adoption system faced significant challenges in terms of inefficiencies, delays in matching children with adopters and in providing high-quality support to ensure those adoptive families were stable and able to meet the needs of children. In order to help address these issues, the Department for Education (DfE) established the Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) programme. This is a national programme which brings together groups of local authorities from across England to regionalise their adoption functions, deliver services at scale and improve quality.
The overall purpose of the RAA Programme is to create a system where children are matched with the most suitable adopter as quickly as possible, there is a large pool of quality adopters that meet the needs of children waiting and enough high quality adoption support services available nationwide. MV have been working on this programme since its inception.
Support offered: Our role on this programme is to work with senior leaders to challenge their thinking and develop positive partnerships across local authority boundaries to better meet the needs of adopted children and their families. We provide tailored support to the LAs involved to design, develop and deliver their RAAs. Our work includes developing the business case and governance arrangements and then supporting the implementation of their plans. We also provide support on change and transformation management, managing programme risks and issues and implementation support for new delivery models.
Our approach has been to facilitate collaboration between authorities building upon best practice, helping to guide the process, and provide expert input as required, based around a coaching relationship. We also act as the main point of contact for the DfE providing regular updates on progress of developing RAAs and escalating issues while also supporting national groups such as the RAA Leaders Group.
Adoption West is an example of a live RAA which MV supported. This RAA is a local authority trading company owned and governed by six LAs. We provided guidance to integrate the six adoption services in orders such as collating budgets, setting up a separate legal vehicle, designing an effective governance structure, and achieving political sign-off.
Outcome achieved: As a result of this programme, there are now 24 live RAAs across the country covering 112 local authorities, of which MV have been involved in supporting a large proportion. Although the programme is ongoing, the impact of the regionalisation of adoption to date has shown improved collaboration at a regional level and greater data sharing between LAs and RAAs and in some cases other stakeholders (e.g. judiciary). It has also provided the opportunity for social workers to be able to access a wider pool of adopters and for the RAAs to have an increased access to more specialist and knowledgeable staff.
The establishment of entities with a single focus on adoption over a larger geography has meant there are more dedicated resources for marketing and recruitment of adopters alongside the ability for staff to collaborate earlier and participate in joint training and panels. These factors have resulted in speedier and better matching of children and adopters.
Improved adoption support was another early outcome. RAAs had provided an opportunity to reassess approaches to adoption support, develop a more comprehensive training package, and address gaps. Facilitating factors identified included: pooled budgets; improved practice as result of developing the best examples from LAs in the RAA; and a more consistent offer arising from increased training, collaboration and shared learning.