How councils unite to sign up adoptive parents


Four local authorities in the North West pool their resources in effort to find new adoptive families.

Project: Four4adoption

Purpose: To boost recruitment of adoptive parents

Funding: The four authorities put in money from their 2013/14 adoption reform grant. Stockport put in £21,000 in quarter 1 and 2

Background: Smaller councils can struggle to recruit enough adoptive parents for the children in their care, which is why four authorities in the North West joined forces to launch a major recruitment drive. Stockport, Cheshire East, Trafford and Tameside pooled some of their adoption reform grant cash for 2013/2014 to fund the Four4adoption campaign.

Action: "Collaboration is definitely the way forward, particularly for small authorities," explains Sue Westwood, Stockport Council's service manager for family placement.

By working together on policy development, family finding and adoption timescales, the councils have been able to find permanent homes for more children, more quickly. When it came to recruiting adopters, pooling their resources meant they could afford marketing initiatives they could not fund by themselves such as a TV campaign, outdoor ads and a large-scale launch at the Cheshire Show.

The Four4adoption campaign also included radio publicity, stalls at local festivals, events, and new leaflets and information for those interested in adoption.

One of the key messages was that a wide variety of people can adopt and it featured real adoptive families telling their stories. "We wanted to make it clear we're not just looking for white, married, middle-class people," says Westwood.

Keys to success included ensuring adoption leads with the authority to make decisions attended joint planning meetings. Another important factor was employing the equivalent of two full-time marketing and recruitment experts. "That was incredibly important because they knew how all of that worked," says Westwood.

Other lessons included the importance of creating vibrant profiles for children and young people eligible for adoption including using professional photos rather than poor quality amateur snaps.

Outcome: The campaign – which won the Local Authority Adoption Service of the Year award at the National Adoption Week Awards in 2013 – has boosted the number of enquiries about adoption across all four councils. So far, they have received more than 200 enquiries. In Stockport in August and September 2013, enquires were up 50 per cent on the same period the previous year.

Meanwhile, the number of households approved for adoption in 2012/13 was 34, but by the end of 2013/14 that looks set to be at least 42. The campaign and other joint work have also contributed to significant reductions in the average time taken to match children with families.

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