Adopter sufficiency

Do we have enough adopters?

  • 14 August 2017

There is a growing concern that there are not enough prospective adopters available for all the children who are waiting to be adopted.

A high level analysis I conducted in January 2017 using published data for 2015/16 concluded that there would soon not be enough prospective adopters available and this has recently been echoed by a CVAA analysis of the latest ALB data returns. Both analyses looked at overall numbers and acknowledged that one of the factors they could not take into account was how well the waiting adopters met the needs of children waiting. That level of analysis is crucial because no matter how many prospective adopters there are, if they are not suitable matches for our children then we still have a shortfall.

In an attempt to address this question I devised a methodology for analysing data held by the Adoption Register, as it is currently the best source of real-time information on the children and adopters waiting given the statutory requirement on agencies to refer to it. This methodology looks at the profile of the children recorded on the Register and calculates the number of adopters whose matching criteria exactly meet each child’s set of needs. The criteria held by the Register includes sibling group size, age, gender and needs of the children.

Using this approach I found that between a fifth and a third of children are unlikely to have any suitable match available in England. I realise that using exact matches is a little crude, as adopters can stretch their capacity, but conversely the data did not allow me to take into account ethnicity (of children and adopters) or contact needs, which would reduce the number of potential matches.

With around 900 children on the register at the time, this means that we as a nation potentially need to approve around 200 new families who are suitable for these children if we are going to have a chance at finding an adoptive family for them.

I also think this means that we need to be smarter about how we use our adopters so that we maximise the number children who are matched.

What do you think of this analysis?

Which factors do you think are most important when identifying potential matches?

Are you seeing a similar shortfall in adopters locally?