Finding the best agency UK
- Which kind of agency?
Consider whether you want to apply to Local Authority, Voluntary Adoption, or Regional Adoption Agency (consortium) or an independent agency.
Local Authority – an administrative body in local government, providing adoption services.
Independent Voluntary Adoption Agency – VAAs are independent, usually not for profit organisations which are smaller than most statutory agencies and offer a personalised service to adopters from all backgrounds.
Regional Adoption Agency – The government has required local authority adoption agencies to join forces with other voluntary and independent agencies to form larger organisations with the hope this this will increase efficiency and quality.
- Going Local?
Your home Local Authority (the one you pay council tax to) may have an adoption service of their own but most are now working with charities or independent agencies and have formed part of a Voluntary Adoption Agency. These VAA’s are a consortium of agencies working together and may provide a wider range of children available.
You are not required to go to your own local authority, and it is worth researching as many as you feel would be practical when remembering you will need to visit the offices often for meetings and hopefully to meet your new family member.
- Independent agencies
Independent agencies can be commercial organisations or charities. The providence of commercial organisations can be explored through Companies House. www.companieshouse.gov.uk. It is helpful to review the shareholders of the agency, if possible, this can inform you what to ask the agency in terms of their investor’s priorities, i.e. if owned by a pension company, private equity companies or short term investors intending to sell/withdrawn money from the agency.
- Research on line
You need to consider how child focused the agency is? They should be obviously interested in finding the best home for children, and this is clearly evidenced in their documents, policies and priorities.
Good agencies can be from a range of circumstances and backgrounds. But they are similar in the following aspects:
- There is a clear emphasis on pre adoption and post adoption training.
- They try to find homes for a range of children including those who are hard to place.
- They assess need during thorough matching and provide access to post adoption support.
- A good agency will provide clear information, be robust and approachable
- They will have a range of well qualified staff (social workers registration can be checked through the registration website https://www.hcpc-uk.org/.
- The person undertaking the assessment or their supervisor must have three years post qualification experience in adoption.
- Staff should present as positive, well informed and confident.
- Ask the agency about any professional affiliations or memberships.
- Agencies should be transparent in their history, organisational structures and any relevant fees.
- Avoiding red flags
Be aware of the regulations as this will help you identify bad practice.
Research and investigate agencies.
- Are they approved and compliant?
Look up the agency’s OFSTED inspection report, www.ofsted.gov.uk. Take into consideration the overall assessment, and also the sections of the report. Do they safe-guard children effectively? The report will also comment on the views and support offered to adopters. Be aware that Independent agencies judged inadequate or requires improvement will struggle to secure children and young people from local authorities.
- Ask for feedback and independent perspectives
Ask to speak to other adopters being assessed or approved by the agency. Narrow your choices to 2 or 3 agencies.
- Contacting them
Are the agency responsive to phone enquiries? Do they provide sufficient information on the process?
- What training does the agency provide for adopters?
- How will the agency prepare you for caring for children from a different culture, with disabilities or a different background?
- Are adopters planning to care for a child with special needs, well prepared for the role?
- What post adoption support is available in the event of challenges?
- Does the agency offer support to birth families and with arrangements for contact between the child and parents?
- Interview your shortlisted agencies
Then make a choice. Decide what is most important to you. That might be a really friendly assessor, good training or excellent support.