What helps to make a good match after all?
On a recent paper, Farmer and Dance (2015) studied the crucial question (which remains unanswered) of what contributes to better adoption matching. They compare the effectiveness and outcomes of different family finding methods in adoption by studying adoption cases in 10 LAs in England selected on the basis that they were using different approaches. It should be noted that the small sample and the purposive sampling limit the external validity of the results.
What does help to achieve good quality and speedy matching?
1. The provision of full and accurate information for both children and parents. When the reality of children’s problems had not been shared with adopters or their preferences had been stretched, placements were vulnerable to disruption.
2. Making early decisions about widening the search. Concerns about the support provided to families in other LAs and financial constraints seem to delay the decision to feature children’s cases out of the authority.
3. Using formal processes to track and review cases through the system and making the matching decision at formal meetings. Formal processes, such as Planning Meetings from the start, at which a family finding strategy is agreed (including decisions about widening the search), and the strategy is tied to deadlines, can help to avoid delays.
The study also indicates an association between quality of the match (which the authors define as compliance with the matching requirements) and placement outcomes. 63% of poor matches (those with significant compromise) resulted in disruption or placements which were continuing, but their stability was threatened, while the same was true for only 5% of good or fair matches (those without significant compromise).
The trade-off between compromising and delaying the process is one of the main difficulties faced by social workers. What if a poor-quality matching is made and a child (and family) go through a painful process? Is it better to make a child wait longer and continue living in uncertainty? The above strategies seem to be able to minimise the difficulty of this dilemma as if the search is widened early; more options will be available and probably less poor-quality matchings will be made. More formality and clearer decisions on when to widen the search will decrease the delays and children’s waiting times.