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Helping children find new families

The Economic and Social Research Council has reported on recent research that suggests children's parties or activity days, where prospective adopters meet children awaiting adoption, could be part of the solution to the current adoption crisis.

Evidence from the United States suggests that adoption activity days are twice as effective as any other method of family finding for children who are waiting for adoptive families. Around 30% of children are placed in an adoptive family after such days, compared with less than 15% through normal channels.

According to Dr Katherine Runswick-Cole of Manchester Metropolitan University, who led the research, early findings from their pilot project, which is being run with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) and a group of local authorities in the East Midlands, suggest that such success could be replicated in the UK. Almost 20% of children from the first two parties have been matched with families.

The activity days have also proved to be beneficial for social workers, as they can meet and network with other social workers supporting the prospective adopters. For the children, the activity days are a fun day out with archery, zip wires, canoeing, craft-making and games. In many ways, they are like an ordinary children’s party with party bags and a big tea.

There has been considerable interest in the pilot project from Government departments and considerations to roll it out nationwide. However, Dr Runswick-Cole sounds a note of caution.

"They may seem like ordinary children’s parties", she says, "but they are very professionally organised with intensive preparation for the children and the adults in order to manage expectations and fears both before and after the event. It is vital that the process is fully understood before it is widely replicated."

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