Adopting Together is a groundbreaking collaboration of the voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) in Wales. St David’s Children Society and Barnardo’s Cymru are working in collaboration with Cardiff University, the Family Place, Adoption UK, and others.

In 2016 the National Adoption Service (NAS) Cymru identified an unmet need for children waiting for an adoptive family in Wales. A reduction in the number of adopters being recruited had led to an increase in the number of ‘priority’ children waiting 12 months or more for a placement.

These priority children are often aged four years and over, sibling groups who need to stay together, children with additional needs or developmental uncertainties and minority ethnic children as well as those with a high number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). The adoption sector in Wales recognised the need to develop a service that could meet the individual complex needs of these children. The VAAs were identified as uniquely positioned to establish a specialised service, with St David’s identified as the lead partner.

Funded by Welsh Government, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between St David’s and Cardiff University was formed, to support the development of Adopting Together. The creation of the service had two components which required key academic expertise:

  • Firstly to develop the delivery of highly effective adoption recruitment and support that minimises the risk of family breakdown and children returning to the care system.
  • Secondly the engagement of the statutory sector with the voluntary sector through innovative collaborative practices, aiming to safeguard the proactive use of voluntary sector services as a critical component in the statutory sectors duty of care.

Adopting Together represents a transformational change in the procurement of social care, aligned with the Welsh Government’s Well-being and Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The ATS Placement Strategy identifies families for children waiting the longest for a forever family and provides a model of psychologist-led robust adoption support. It is early intervention, working on strengths of adopters, and relationship-based – the same psychologist involved throughout.

Adopting Together Service is a unique, innovative and multi-layered collaboration between the VAAs and regional adoption teams (statutory sector). The creation of a formalised collaborative working relationship across the VAAs has been ground breaking in the sector, allowing for a service with shared responsibility and accountability to ensure success.

Since its launch in 2018, Adopting Together has placed over 25 children with 17 permanent families.

More specifically, within the adoption sector Cardiff falls within the Vale, Valley’s and Cardiff (VVC) region. Within VVC, there has been:

  • 38 Number of referrals for VVC children
  • 8 VVC children matched and placed through ATS
  • 21% of the children referred to ATS from VVC have found a life-long family

Wendy Keidan, CEO of St David’s: “The KTP has acted as an enabler of collaboration using the expertise of academic, therapeutic, statutory and voluntary sector partners to find adoptive families for some of the most vulnerable children in Wales.”

Dr. Katherine Shelton, School of Psychology: “This multi-agency project has been transformative in its approach to supporting some of the most vulnerable children in our society. Despite being in its relative infancy, the benefits of collaborative working between the National Adoption Service and the voluntary sector are being demonstrated through this partnership.”