New data has highlighted significant improvements in adoption waiting times since the National Adoption Service (NAS
) for Wales was set up. Figures show that the time looked-after children in Wales wait for adoption placements has virtually halved from 26 months to 13-and-a-half months.
Better performance management
Key factors in the improvement - following the creation of a new national adoption agency in Wales - include better performance management and regional partnership working.
This has seen councils across Wales working together in clusters, effectively creating wider pools of adopters which have helped make matching children with families easier. Partnerships with independent adoption agencies have also been improved.
NAS also point to better recruitment of adopters and the introduction of regional and national performance monitoring. That has brought greater focus on placing children, leading to a 43% reduction in children who wait more than six months for a match.
Clearer targeting of prospective adopters
In addition, opportunities offered when NAS took on the management of the Wales Adoption Register in 2015 after the closure of the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) had enabled a better understanding of children waiting for families, and then being proactively acted on by staff in conjunction with other data held by NAS.
Register data had also facilitated clearer targeting of prospective adopters and given the NAS a clearer understanding of the children waiting for placements.
More work to do
However, while the NAS is pleased with the improvements, it acknowledges there is still more work to do, particularly on the hardest to place children.
That view has been echoed by Adoption UK
, which welcomed the news that adoption waiting times in Wales have halved. It also warned that more still needs to be done to improve mental health services if the full benefits of speedy placements are to be realised.
Ann Bell, Adoption UK’s director Wales, described news that adoption waiting times for children had halved as “real progress.”
“This has to be good for children,” she said, “but we still need to find more prospective adopters for those children who are deemed as harder-to-place.”
The Welsh minister for social services and public health, Rebecca Evans, has also praised the impact of the NAS for Wales in a recent speech on the first anniversary of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act.