Coram’s Impact and Evaluation team worked in partnership with Cornerstone – a social enterprise working to improve the life chances of children in the care system – to evaluate its Restorative Parenting Training (RPT) programme and mentoring scheme. By using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, with adopters and social workers, Coram was able to explore the complex issues of service provision for adopters.
RPT is a course and webinar programme which teaches adopters, either pre or post placement, about parenting techniques as well as introducing theory about attachment. Cornerstone’s mentoring scheme provides adopters with additional support and advice about the process of becoming or being an adoptive parent from a volunteer adopter.
Coram’s evaluation found that all adopters who had taken part in RPT praised the training and the impact it had on them and their children. 94% of adopters felt the course equipped them with the effective techniques and strategies to parent an adopted child, and 94% of those who had a child placed with them said the course would, or already has benefitted their adopted child. Adopters considered the training being co-facilitated by an adopter and a therapist key for helping them understand how to apply the learning.
The research uncovered that the training appeared to be most useful to adopters in the early placement stage of adoption, with adopters revealing that RPT helped them think about what sort of children they could parent effectively, therefore making a difference to knowing how to proceed in their adoption journey.
79% of adopters who had a mentor through Cornerstone’s scheme were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the experience. Adopters described the scheme as unique because it offers support from someone who had already gone through the adoption process, increasing parental confidence and making their experience as an adopter feel more normal. The research found that effectiveness of this support is enhanced when adopters and mentors are matched on specific shared experiences, for example being a single adopter.
The research revealed that most adopters would turn to their mentor for support before contacting their social worker and could ask their mentor questions they might feel nervous asking the local authority. This suggests that Cornerstone’s mentoring scheme may reduce demands on social workers and free up more of their time. This is echoed in the findings from the social workers who welcomed external and responsive services which helped to ease some pressure on workloads.
Another key finding was that RPT and mentoring on top of the standard Stage 2 adopter training made adopters more ‘appealing’ to matching panels and as a result, a high proportion of Cornerstone adopters were matched with children outside of their own local authority.
Coram’s evaluation used a mixed methods approach including collecting quantitative data from local authorities about adopter timescales, qualitative data about adopter experience from an online survey and semi-structured phone interviews, and focus groups with social workers
61 adopters took part in the online survey about their experiences of either RPT and/or mentoring, 18 adopters took part in phone interviews, four social workers from two local authorities were interviewed, and data about 43 adopters was provided by four local authorities
Cornerstone’s RPT programme and mentoring scheme have been delivered in 11 local authorities since March 2015. The report evaluates the impact of the scheme in seven local authorities