The Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) has published new analysis from Sonnet Advisory & Impact, which it commissioned to explore the value created by adoption to those who are adopted, their families and the wider society.
The analysis confirms that adoption bring substantial value to society through the permanence, stability and support it can offer children who cannot live with their birth families.
According to the final report, which is available here, the value adoption brings is created through two key channels: the improved outcomes adoption offers relative to staying in care or living in special guardianship placements, and the lower financial cost to local authorities of adoption compared to foster and residential homes.
According to the available evidence, adopted children and young people have enhanced outcomes across health, education and future employment compared to other placements, decreasing reliance on publicly funded services and support in childhood and later life. Additionally most adoptive parents do not receive financial support from the state, in contrast to foster and residential carers, which adds to the value adoption can bring – when it is in the best interests of the child.
The analysis revealed that at least £4.2 billion in value was generated across England, Wales and Scotland in 2021 when 3,359 children were adopted – including savings of £3.6 billion to local authorities, £541 million to the economy, and £34 million to the NHS. The modelling, which compared the outcomes of children who were adopted with those in other permanent placements found that the value created for adopted children, families and society is at least £1.3million for every child adopted.
Adoption is only right for a small number of children who cannot remain with their birth families. Yet the scale of the benefits it brings to those children – and to society as a whole – appear to be declining year-on-year as the number of children being placed for adoption falls. Despite policies supportive of adoption introduced over the last decade, the number of children adopted peaked in England in 2015 at 5,360, and has since fallen to 2,950 in 2022. This trend has occurred despite increased numbers of children needing to live in safe homes apart from their families of origin, with numbers of children in care in England up 25% since 2010 – and at their highest levels since records began.
Anthony, now aged 21, was adopted by his family through Coram at 20 months. He said the following about his adoption story: “In our family, there is no hierarchy between the birth kids and the adopted kids, we’re all one massive family. I remember feeling really loved and appreciated. I never really had an issue around adoption. I think I had a really easy adoption process, my narrative has been so fixed and clear. It’s really important to make sure that adopted children are not ashamed because there is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a really beautiful thing that my parents chose me.
“Since being adopted, I’ve been so lucky to develop my music skills. My parents really supported me, taking me to concerts and practice sessions. My parents are amazing. Their goals are realised through helping other people, and I find that really inspiring. I’ve recently fundraised for Coram as I wanted to give back to an organisation that gave me the life I—and all other children in care—should’ve had: a life with a loving family that enabled me to fulfil my potential.”
Andrew Webb, Chair of CVAA, added: “It’s a rare thing when research concludes that the best outcomes for children can be achieved at the lowest cost to the state. With the country in recession and set for extremely challenging financial times over the years ahead, it would be madness not to give serious consideration to these findings, and we urge governments in all UK nations to act on falling adoption numbers now. CVAA has always maintained that adoption is an intervention for the few, not the many – but the risk of adoption slowly vanishing as an option for children who cannot safely live at home is a grave concern. Evidence continues to show the life-changing and unrivalled benefits adoption holds for children, and with the sector working hard to improve the contact children have with their birth families, there is no justification for letting this trend continue unchallenged.”
Wes Cuell, Chair of PACT which is a member of the CVAA, said: “This is an important piece of research for adoption and reinforces the difference adoption can make for children and society as a whole.”
The full report is available here.