What’s the difference between a Voluntary Adoption Agency and a Regional Adoption Agency?

Written by the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies

One of the first decisions to make if you are thinking about adopting is which agency to choose. In your local area there are likely to be two types of adoption agencies to choose from – Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) and Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs). This blog explains the main differences between them, to help you reach the right decision for you.

VAAs are independent, not for profit organisations which are smaller than most local government agencies. RAAs on the other hand are collaboratives of local authority adoption teams covering a region. Both VAAs and RAAs do similar work in finding, preparing, training, assessing and supporting prospective adopters – and most importantly matching them with children who are in need of lifelong, loving homes. However, VAAs and RAAs also have different strengths and benefits. Deciding on an agency therefore depends on weighing these up and thinking about what you value most, as well as ensuring you feel comfortable working with the one you choose, as we all have preferences in life.

Benefits of adopting with a Voluntary Adoption Agency

The main strengths that VAAs offer are:

1. Lifelong adoption support for their adoptive families

VAAs know that support is absolutely crucial for adoptive families and needs to be available for families to access at any time until a child turns 18, and sometimes beyond, without long waiting lists. VAAs are smaller and tend to be specialised in adoption support so can be responsive to what families need, whenever they need it.

2. A family feel

Adopters often tell us this is why they chose to adopt with a VAA. Again, the size of VAAs means that adopters can form close relationships with the wider team and agency – not just their own social worker! All the latest Ofsted inspections for our VAAs have been Outstanding or Good, and relationships are at the heart of this. RAAs are not currently inspected although adoption is looked at within the broader inspections of children’s social care services. You can look at Ofsted reports here.

3. Diversity and inclusion

VAAs really get to know their local communities and are more likely to place children with adopters from a diverse range of backgrounds. 1 in 5 VAA adoptions are to LGBTQ+ adopters and 13% of VAA adoptions are to adopters from a minority ethnic/global majority group.

4. The ability to match adopters with children from across the UK, rather than just their local area

VAAs work in partnership with all regions of the country to help find homes for children. This can be especially helpful for those hoping to adopt a child with certain characteristics, such as a child who shares the same ethnicity and cultural heritage.

Benefits of adopting with a Regional Adoption Agency

RAAs of course have their own strengths and benefits too which include:

1. Being part of the local authorities which have children in their care

This means that RAAs are the first to know about the children who have a plan for adoption, so can start looking for adopters straight away. You might hear that this means RAAs can match adopters with children more quickly than VAAs. This can be true but waiting times depend on lots of other factors too – like where in the country you live, what RAA/VAA partnerships are like in your area, and which children you are open to adopting. Some VAAs publish average times it takes for adopters to be matched with children on their websites, which can help adopters in their decision making.

2. Matching more younger children without siblings

RAAs tend to look among their own adopters first when seeking to match these children, so if you have definite preferences to adopt a baby or toddler, it’s worth considering this. However, changes in adoption mean that there are fewer babies with a plan for adoption than there used to be, so nothing can be guaranteed. VAAs are experts in finding homes for brothers and sisters, children from diverse backgrounds and who may need extra support in some way – which is why great adoption support and diversity are such big priorities for them!

Feel free to ask VAAs about the differences between their agency and the local RAA too while you are making these decisions. They are there to help and the most important thing is that adopters can make properly informed choices about the agency they go with, by weighing up what is most important to them.