We led the evaluation of the national roll-out of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) between 2015- 2018.
This involved exploring how the fund was being implemented and capturing the impact on families accessing services through the ASF.
The ASF was implemented by the Department for Education to help families access the adoption support they need. After the successful pilot of the ASF in 10 councils the ASF was rolled out nationwide in all 152 Local Authorities in England on the 1st May 2015.
The evaluation aimed to:
- Determine if the ASF has improved the lives of adopted children and their families and has grown the adoption support market;
- Inform the ongoing development of the ASF;
- Inform and develop local authority adoption support assessment practices;
- Inform the structure of future local authority adoption service funding.
The evaluation of the ASF used a combination of methods to address outcome and process elements of the implementation. This included:
- Online-survey of adopters to study the experience and need of adoption support services after the implementation of the ASF;
- Longitudinal survey of all adoptive parents receiving funding through the ASF (including a 18 month follow up) to explore their experiences of using the fund and the impact of therapeutic services that they have been able to access through the ASF;
- Longitudinal whole-family depth interviews to better understand their experiences with the ASF;
- National rollout case studies to explore the experiences of Local Authorities with the fund, e.g., in relation to market development of therapeutic services;
- Prototype reviews to learn about enablers and barriers of the implementation of the ASF as well as explore their experiences in the second year.
- Most families that had accessed services through the ASF were positive about the experience and felt it had helped their family. The longitudinal survey supported this showing small but statistically significant improvements for children and parents in across social, emotional and relational factors. The largest improvement was in parents’ understanding of their children’s needs.
- While professional felt that quality of post-adoption support had improved as response to the fund, parents satisfaction with the services they received remained roughly the same.
- The market for independent post-adoption support services expanded in response to the increased funding available. However, at the point of reporting, the independent sector was not yet sufficiently developed to meet the rapid and substantial increase in demand. A key challenge to growth of local markets to meet the demand were the lack of trained therapists in the ASF approved therapies and the capacity of the independent providers to fund and provide the necessary supervision required to practice effectively
Following the completion of the evaluation, two researchers of our team members, Anna Sophie Hahne and Matthew Gieve, collaborated with colleagues in Australia and The Netherlands to develop an academic study of the validity of different psychometric tools for use with adopted and looked after children: Tarren-Sweeney, M., Goemans, A., Hahne, A.S. and Gieve, M., 2019. Mental health screening for children in care using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Brief Assessment Checklists: Guidance from three national studies. Developmental child welfare, 1(2), pp.177-196. The Paper can be found in full here.
Giorgia Iacopini, Matt Gieve, Heather Stradling, Anna Sophie Hahne, Dr Mannie Sher, Dr David Lawlor