Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Regional adoption practice strong, but challenges remain

Ofsted yesterday published a thematic review looking at how adoption services provided by regional adoption agencies (RAAs) contribute to good outcomes for children and families.

Most adoption activity in England is now undertaken by RAAs, in line with government policy to move to a regional delivery model. These agencies undertake varying degrees of adoption recruitment and support services on behalf of local authorities.  

Read the ‘Regional adoption agencies – thematic inspection report’

Ofsted’s review finds that day-to-day adoption practice by RAAs is strong, but many of the challenges that led to regionalisation remain unresolved. Demand for adoption support often exceeds the resources available to RAAs, meaning some individuals and families do not receive the support they need, when they need it. Meanwhile, there continues to be a national shortage of adopters.    

The report suggests that the recruitment of prospective adopters, and family-finding and matching remain consistently strong following the move to regional delivery. RAAs were found to be supporting prospective adopters well, with a thorough assessment process and good preparation training.  

However, despite this positive work, Ofsted found that the adoption system is still affected by a long-standing shortage of adopters, particularly for siblings and children with more complex needs. Families also raised concerns about the stability and short-term nature of funding, which often prevents them, and RAA leaders, from making long-term plans for children. 

Four of the 6 RAAs Ofsted visited for the review said that they do not have enough staff, either due to vacancies or a lack of capacity in the staffing structure. And RAA staff and adopters both spoke about a national shortage of staff to carry out assessments of prospective adopters.  

However, even with limited resources and facing longstanding challenges, the review is clear that RAA staff and leaders are working hard to make sure the services available are those with the greatest impact on children, adopters, birth parents and adopted adults.  

Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Social Care yesterday said: 

Our review highlights some excellent work by regional adoption agencies, in spite of some very challenging circumstances. It’s clear that the right adoption support at the right time is powerful for children and families. However, the regionalisation of adoption services hasn’t addressed some of the longstanding issues that continue to have an impact of the number of adopters and the availability and timeliness of adoption support.

We will be working with the Department for Education to consider the future accountability system for adoption practice. 


  • This thematic review was commissioned at the request of the Department for Education. Ofsted does not currently have powers to inspect RAAs.
  • Ofsted visited a sample of 6 RAAs as part of this thematic review. They were chosen to be representative of the sector, taking into account factors such as location, size and model of service delivery.

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