Thinking about adoption? VAAs are here for you. The global response to the coronavirus has required many daily activities to be put on hold. If you were just starting to consider adoption, you may have thought that that, too, would need to wait until the pandemic begins to subside. However, over the past week our member agencies have undertaken a Herculean effort to go digital with a wide range of services. They are all still answering phones and email, still holding information events, and still welcoming prospective adopters to take the first step. Here are just some of the ways that voluntary adoption agencies have adapted their services. You can browse through our members’ websites to find out more, or find your nearest VAA using our handy map. Recruitment If you would like more information about adoption, just ask! Agencies are still sending information packs, just digitally rather than in the mail. Some agencies are holding regular interactive information events online, while others have filmed their information sessions for you to watch at your leisure. They are also carrying out initial ‘visits’, which would normally take place in your home, by phone or video chat. Before you register your interest with an agency, we would encourage you to contact and speak to as many adoption agencies as you need to find the one that is the best fit for you. Preparation training Once an agency has accepted your Registration of Interest, which is the first official step in the adoption process, you will be asked to attend preparation training. Of course, this would normally take place at the agency with a group of other prospective adopters. For now, you will probably be invited to join a digital ‘prep group’. You might be asked to watch some videos and do some extra reading, and you might even be given ‘homework’ to complete. You’ll learn about attachment, separation and loss, trauma, identity, and other topics that will support you to care for children who have had very difficult starts in life. This will also be a chance to meet other people who are going through the same process – though for now, you’ll all ‘meet’ each other over video chat. Assessment As you undertake your preparation training, you will also be going through Stages 1 and 2 of the adoption assessment process. Stage 1 is more administrative and includes things like a medical assessment from your GP and a DBS check. As you might imagine, both GPs and local authorities are extremely busy responding to the coronavirus at the moment, so these checks may be put off until later and your agency may ask you to self-disclose some of the information that would normally be provided by an external authority. Some agencies may also ask for more references than usual, to compensate for the fact that they may not have been able to meet you face-to-face. Each agency will be adapting their processes in different ways, but will always communicate clearly and transparently with you. Approval and matching VAAs have all begun to hold remote panels to approve prospective adopters who had already gone through most of the assessment process. If you begin your adoption journey right now, when everything is being done remotely, your agency may not be able to approve you until they have met you in person. As above, each agency is putting their own processes in place, and will discuss these with you to make sure everyone understands what needs to happen. Once you are approved, meetings between your social worker and children’s social workers, which would normally take place in person, are now being held by video over platforms like Zoom and Skype. Your social worker will proactively work with local authorities and regional adoption agencies across the country to find the child(ren) for whom you are the best match. Many local authorities and regional adoption agencies are also moving their matching panels to video chat, so once you’ve found your child(ren) you shouldn’t have to wait much longer than normal for your match to go to panel. Adoption support From the very start of your adoption journey, your VAA will be there to support you – and for now, that support will be online rather than face-to-face. Our member agencies have moved a large range of support services, from coffee mornings to therapies, onto digital platforms. Some support services might have changed a bit for now. For example, where groups might have included a larger number of families, now there might only be 5-6 other families in a digital group, to better facilitate conversation and allow everyone the time and space that they need. Other agencies have moved some group services to one-to-one telephone support for the time being. VAAs are continuing to deliver a wide range of training over digital platforms, including training on life story work, contact, and therapeutic parenting. They are also checking in with all of their families, either by telephone or video chat, and are continuing to deliver therapy and counselling. Our members know how important it is to stay connected, especially at a time when we can’t see one another in person, and they are hard at work ensuring that all adoptive families are supported. You can read more about the adoption process here, myths about adoption here, and why you should adopt with a VAA here. Our members look forward to hearing from you!