The government wants councils to make more use of voluntary adoption agencies, in the first ever piece of guidance on the issue.
Ministers hope it will end long-standing tension between local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) over costs. Agencies claim councils are unwilling to use VAAs because of perceived high inter-agency fees charged to councils when they commission a voluntary agency or another council to recruit and approve prospective adopters.
Research by Julie Selwyn at Bristol University found councils excluded some expenses included by voluntary agencies when calculating their costs and subsequent fees, creating a disincentive for councils to commission voluntary agencies.
But the government’s updated adoption guidance will send out a strong message that councils should be using VAAs, where appropriate. It will state: “Unwillingness to pay an inter-agency fee should not be the reason for not placing the child.”
“Where a local authority is aware that a particular prospective adopter approved by another adoption agency can best meet the needs of a child, they should negotiate with the agency about the possible placement of the child with that family.”
“Indeed, research provides clear evidence that effective use of voluntary adoption agencies had a positive impact on finding suitable and timely placements at a lower cost for local authorities. It shows that local authorities have under-estimated their own costs and this has influenced their belief about the costs of VAA placements and that the true costs of both VAA and local authority family finding are almost identical at around £36,000, similar to the cost of the child remaining in foster care for 18 months.”
Chris Scott, interim director of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA), said: “This guidance sends out the strongest possible message yet that at a time of cuts placing children for adoption, without delay, through a VAA is in the best interests of children and makes sound economic sense.”
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