Buckinghamshire digital adoption
Redesigning the prospective adopter’s experience
The rate of children in the UK looked after by local authorities is rising and is coupled with decreasing numbers of children entering long term adoptive families.
Buckinghamshire County Council wanted to explore how it could reverse the national trend and help more people interested in adoption take the next step on their journey. They invited FutureGov to redesign the prospective adopter's experience and help showcase the council's strengths in supporting people to adopt.
To understand the needs and motivations of prospective adopters we ran interviews with people at different stages of the adoption process, from those thinking of adopting, through to long-term adoptive families. We also conducted observations and research at regular information evenings hosted by the council. By examining academic reviews and analysing existing approaches to support we could create a user-centred service to solve the challenges of prospective adopters in Buckinghamshire.
When researching opportunities we found people exploring the idea of adoption encounter lots of information about requirements but minimal information about readiness. The lack of practical guidance and emotional support in the early stages of the journey meant the right people were often ruling themselves out for the wrong reasons.
We saw an opportunity to create a blended offline and online experience to help people better understand their own readiness to adopt, their strengths and to connect them to convenient support options to get them started on their adoption journey.
Together with Buckinghamshire County Council’s Adoption Service, we co-created Adoption Ready, a website which supports people to build their capability whilst checking their eligibility.
By answering a series of simple questions, prospective adopters create a personalised readiness plan with practical things they can do to prepare to adopt, including links to further resources. People can also book onto the council’s information events directly from the website.
Adoption Ready enables people to break down the things they need to understand and do into clear, manageable steps. This helps ensure more people are arriving better prepared to begin their journey.
The design and content was co-created, tested and improved together with adopters and staff through a series of paper and digital prototypes to help ensure that it is accurate, effective and intuitive.
Adoption information events
Coupled with launching Adoption Ready, we redesigned the Council’s adoption information evening to be clearer about the council’s strengths and the support available to adopters. Information events are the most popular way for prospective adopters to learn more about adoption and people’s experience of an event has an outsized impact on their decisions about whether to adopt, and which organisation to adopt with.
We redesigned the format and content of the information evening, working closely with adopters and staff so that it’s now positively honest about adoption and actively involves past adopters sharing their experiences, helping to reflect on attendee’s needs and expectations.
– Carole, Adoption Service Manager
You were easy to work with from start to finish. Professionalism shone through. There was a curiosity from the team, so you could challenge and stretch us without feeling judgemental or threatening. We never imagined we would get something as amazing as the tool and the info sessions.
increase in approved adopters
Adoption Ready users in the first year
extra families for children in care
Since launching the redesigned experience for prospective adopters in October 2019 the council has experienced a significant and sustained increase in the number of new adopters expressing interest and starting their adoption journey with the service.
This trend started instantly and then accelerated when the COVID-19 pandemic sent the UK into lockdown, as adoption agencies across the country experienced a surge in interest. Our work meant the service was uniquely well-positioned to remotely meet adopters needs, resulting in the service converting interest to approvals at a significantly higher rate than the national averages.
– Clare, Manager of the Adoption Recruitment Team
We’ve seen a big increase in people coming to information events, and people are arriving far more ready which means we’re processing them faster than ever. I’m having to take on new social workers to help deal with all the extra interest.
Every extra adopter has the potential to make a life-changing difference for children in care. As more prospective adopters continue to use Adoption Ready and join information events, Buckinghamshire County Council can continue to grow their adoption service, fund new improvements and change the lives of children and adopters.