An award for PACT's digital platform The Adopter Hub

Innovative online adoption support service The Adopter Hub, which offers families round-the-clock access to help, advice and peer support, has won a national digital award.

The Adopter Hub which was launched by leading adoption charity Parents And Children Together (PACT) in response to a growing demand for more accessible support for adoptive families, was announced as the winner in the Embracing Digital category at the Charity Governance Awards 2019.

The site, which aims to empower adoptive parents by enabling them to access help and support as and when they need it, features peer support via a forum and webchat, a bank of multimedia resources on everything from education to behaviour, an eLearning programme and regular webinars.

Developed with a grant from the Department for Education, the service was introduced as a pilot project for a small cohort of PACT families during National Adoption Week in October 2017, and in early 2018 was opened up to all PACT adopters. It is now being offered to other agencies as a subscription service for their adoptive families, with more than 850 adoptive parents, social workers and education professionals registered to use the site.

The Charity Governance Awards highlighted the fact that parents were heavily involved in the development of The Adopter Hub and praised PACT’s trustees for embracing the concept of holistic digital change, enabling The Adopter Hub to become fully embedded within an emerging digital culture within the charity. They added: “PACT has embarked on a digital strategy, with the board playing a pivotal role and continuing the evolution, identifying a digital trustee, establishing a digital advisory board and developing a digital vision.”

Natausha van Vliet, Chief Operating Officer at PACT, said: “We are all absolutely thrilled to receive this award, which is great recognition that we are taking the right steps towards our digital transformation. It will be a further catalyst as we continue to explore new ways in which we can use digital technologies to develop and expand the services offered by The Adopter Hub to ensure that even more adoptive families can benefit from the tools, resources and peer adopter support it offers.”

Sarah Hill, The Adopter Hub Manager, believes the two key reasons the service is proving so popular with adopters is the out-of-hours access to peer support and the opportunity to learn from professionals and other adopters via trusted multimedia content.

Sarah said: “Adopters have told us that what they want, and what they find most helpful, is to talk to someone who has been through the same journey and understands what it is like to be an adoptive parent. We have a team of volunteers who are all adoptive parents who run the web chat service and are actively involved in shaping the website. They ‘get’ what adopters are going through and because of that can offer the best support – and offer it at the times adopters need it, which is often after the kids are in bed.
“The other really important element is that the website contains resources and guidance which adopters know is relevant and can be trusted. Googling adoption issues brings up long lists of complex research which is confusing, and often guidance from the US which isn’t always relevant to the way our systems work. We make sure that adopters can access reliable and useful guidance at a time when they want it, in multimedia formats that are easy to engage with.”

In a survey carried out to help evaluate the first year of the service, 95 per cent of people who responded said that having the option to access services outside normal working hours made them feel more confident in managing difficult situations.

One adopter said: “Simply knowing the service is there when I need access, and advice or just a confidence boost to remind me I’m doing okay, and I’m not the only parent going through, what are, some unique looking behaviours, provides a huge comfort. You can tell the service is supported by other adopters who ‘get it’.”
Another adopter described the service as “invaluable”, adding: “It’s made such a difference knowing there is real support out there – by having a one-stop shop when we need to know how best to tackle a situation, from people who have lived it, and totally understand our family situation.”
The site is constantly being developed, with new services added to make it more interactive. Future plans include developing and enhancing the services available to adoption practitioners as well as the tools available for schools and education practitioners.

Jan Fishwick OBE, Chief Executive at PACT, added: “At PACT we are committed to supporting our families through the lifetime of their adoptive journeys, and The Adopter Hub, with the fantastic peer support and ease of access it offers, is another important way in which we can do this. We really believe that The Adopter Hub has the potential to transform the way in which adoptive families are supported and this award signals that we are on the right track to do just that.”

As part of the award The Adopter Hub received £5,000 prize money. PACT has also recently received a £10,000 grant from The National Lottery Community Fund to help develop The Adopter Hub’s educational work.

To find out more about The Adopter Hub, and how to access its services, please email theadopterhub@pactcharity.org