Guide to Adoption Support Services

Very few families get through life without support at different times and from different people and places. This is particularly true for adoptive families where even very young children can have a complex past, and specific needs that require additional specialist support.

At Adoption Counts, we believe in offering support to adoptive families throughout the adoption process from preparation prior to approval to ongoing and specialist support when needed.

Staff from Adoption Counts are here to help at every stage of your journey. We provide a wide and extensive range of adoption support services for adopters and their children.

Here is a short overview.

Before a child is placed with adopters


A Family Finder from Adoption Counts will be allocated as soon as adoption is identified as a possible option for a child and will advise and support the child’s Social Worker on any issues to do with the adoption process.

The Family Finder will have time to get to know the child’s needs and background in a detailed way and will start to work directly with the foster family once the decision to place the child for adoption has been finalised. It is crucial that the Family Finder understands the child’s needs so that they can find the right family for that child.

For children who have experienced trauma and/or have complex needs the Family Finder may seek advice from our Adoption Psychology Service to identify what needs the child might have in the future and how we can help to prepare the child and the future parent(s) to meet these needs. So, we are already thinking about how to best support a child and family before they are even matched with each other.

After a ‘match’ has been confirmed all Adopters will also receive:


  • The ‘All About Me’ form outlining the specific strengths and needs of the child and how the adopters need to respond in their first steps as therapeutic parents, to build attachments.

  • The Child’s Life Story Book (telling the story of their life so far)

  • The ‘Later Life Letter’ which can be shared with the child when they are older to help them understand why they were adopted.


All children will have an Adoption Support Plan before they are placed, which may be informed by specialist advice. The Adoption Support Plan will be thoroughly discussed with the future parent(s). Some children may already be receiving a range of support whilst in the foster placement which may then continue into the adoptive placement.


After children are placed with adopters 


The child’s Social Worker has a statutory responsibility to visit regularly in the period up until the Adoption Order is granted. If they feel that some additional support would be helpful at this stage, then they can work with you, your assessing social worker or the adoption support team to make this possible.


More details of the support we can offer are set out below. If the child is already receiving therapeutic support, then this should continue unless agreed otherwise. 


After the Adoption Order


As you begin your lives together as a family, we understand that, as children grow and develop, additional issues may arise. We are here to provide whatever support may be useful to you at that time. This could range from providing informal advice to exploring whether additional help or interventions would support your child(ren) or you with specific needs should they arise. 


As the legal parents of the child, you are responsible for your child and take all decisions about their future. However, the future of your child is likely to be influenced at some point by their past and most children will need some help to understand: 

  • What has happened to them
  • Why they could not live with their birth parents
  • How they came to live with you


This process will be experienced in different ways in different families at different times. For some adopted children and adoptive parents this can be quite an emotional and unsettling journey and so Adoption Counts wants all adoptive families to be aware of the support which is available if you need it. 


For all adopters


Information - First of all, we are keen not to lose touch with adoptive families even if we do not have face-to-face or frequent contact. It might be that you just receive the Adoption Counts Newsletter, but some form of communication will make it easier for you to know who to contact if you do want advice, information or support in the future. 


Letterbox contact - This helps the child understand their identity and allows both birth families and adoptive families to exchange information on an annual basis. It is the responsibility of the Local Authority who placed your children with you to manage letterbox contact. This may mean that one of our Letterbox Coordinators will be in touch to discuss this and to pass on the letters. They can provide advice and guidance on how and when to share this information with your child. 


It is therefore important that you keep Adoption Counts informed about any changes of address, telephone number, email address, etc.


Important note for parents of children living in the Adoption Counts area but who were placed for adoption by another Local Authority :

If you are the parent of a child placed for adoption by a local authority which is not part of Adoption Counts and it is less than three years since the Adoption Order was made, you should first approach the local authority which placed the child to ask for support.


For Adopters who want support from Adoption Counts


In designing our support to adopters we have worked closely with adopters themselves to identify what would helps the most.


We have identified three key levels of support based on the I-Thrive model of care. 

  • Universal - Getting advice
  • Targeted - Getting help
  • Specialist - Getting more help 


Dividing services up in this way helps us to identify the right service to meet your needs. You don’t have to access the universal services before being able to get services from the targeted group, but often accessing universal services early on can prevent the need for services at the targeted and specialist levels. 


If you feel at any time that you need support or would benefit from some advice here is an outline of the support, we can offer and how you can access it.


More information about the services we offer




Universal Services - Getting advice and being signposted to the right service


Getting Advice & Signposting (universal)

  • Assessments of Need Letterbox service
  • Adopter Support Groups
  • Evening workshops Childrens Groups Fun days
  • Advice & counselling
  • Profiling and  matching advice
  • 1-1 consultation
  • Pupil Premium Plus consultation
  • Training/advice to Schools


Targeted Services - Getting help when you need it 


To access these services, you will need to ring the adoption support team on 0161 234 5268 or be referred by another professional (teacher, social worker, health visitor etc).


  • Direct work with children
  • 1-1 support
  • Therapeutic Parenting groups: Foundations for attachments; Nurturing Attachments; Ad0pt; Access to Safebase; Non Violent Resistance; Access to couples psychotherapy; Introduction of RAMP plan for all school age children if needed.


Specialist Services - Getting More Help - all services applicable for funding through ASF


They can only be accessed if a Social Worker has undertaken an assessment and recommends that additional therapy is required. When making these recommendations we may ask for advice from Psychologists who work within our Adoption Psychology Service (more info on this below).

  • Theraplay
  • Sensory reprocessing
  • Creative therapies
  • Therapeutic Camps
  • DDP
  • Filial Therapy
  • Psychotherapy DBT
  • EMDR
  • Life span integration therapy


The Adoption Psychology Service


This includes Clinical and Educational Psychologists who are experienced in adoption support work. In some cases, a Psychologist may become directly involved in working with a child or family, in other cases we can spread their expertise more effectively by asking them to support social workers and therapists when they need it. 

Prior to the development of Adoption Counts, Manchester and Salford City Councils had developed partnerships with Manchester Foundation Trust and One Education (provider of education support services) to develop an Adoption Psychology Service. Adoption Counts has continued and expanded these arrangements to cover the whole of the Adoption Counts region using funding from our Centre of Excellence grant. The Adoption Psychology Service consists of Clinical and Educational Psychologists, child and adolescent psychiatrist,  and Therapeutic Social Workers to provides therapeutic services, advice to other services, such as schools, and support to develop and enhance support services within Adoption Counts. 


Education Support Services For Adopted Children


The Department for Education has recently issued new guidance on education support for previously looked-after children, which includes all children who have been adopted.


The Virtual School Headteacher (VSH) will be a source of advice and information to help parents advocate for them as effectively as possible. VSHs are not acting as part of the corporate parent role in these circumstances, but are there to promote the educational achievement of these children, through the provision of advice and information to relevant parties listed in this guidance. Please note that each school also now has a Designated Teacher who is responsible for the educational needs of looked-after and previously looked-after children (including adopted children). The Designated Teacher is the best person to make contact with in your child’s school and it is probably worth contacting them before contacting the virtual school. Each local authority has its own virtual school and VSH.  Please see below for the contact details of the virtual school in the local authorities that make up Adoption Counts:


Cheshire East - 079 7750 3050

Manchester - 0161 234 4160;

Salford - 0161 779 7924

Stockport -

Trafford - 0161 912 2039


Useful info:


PAC-UK’s guide for school staff 'Meeting the needs of adopted and permanently placed children: A guide for school staff' covers a range of topics including: what we know about adopted children in education, a background to early developmental trauma, whole school approaches, and support for schools and families


PAC-UK have also produced a Pupil Premium Plus Guide for schools and families on effective use of the Pupil Premium Plus.


Adoption UK’s guide 'Meeting the needs of adopted and permanently placed children - A guide for adoptive parents'  includes information about Virtual School Heads (VSHs), Designated Teachers (DTs), Priority School Admission, Pupil Premium Plus (PP+) and dedicates two pages to Intercountry Adoption and Schools. 




There are lots of organisations that offer support to adoptive families and that publish a wealth of helpful information. Here are few links:

The "Contact after Adoption" Study
Post-adoption contact plans
Adoption Contact in the social media age - article

NOFAS-UK  (The National Organisation for Foetal* Alcohol Syndrome-UK) is dedicated to supporting people affected by FASD, their families and communities. 
FASD North West Facebook page

Adopter Voice: Adoption UK is working with Adoption Counts to ensure the experiences of adopters are heard in the development of its Centre of Excellence, and used to improve practice and services. The Adopter Advisory Board (AAB) is made up of Champions that run Adopter Voice, and led by a Chair person who meet 6 times a year, collate the views of other adopters across the whole region and then collaborate to make recommendations to improve practice and services. Adopter Voice Counts has been set up by Adoption UK to seek the views of families across Adoption Counts on specific topics to help with the development by tackling specific topics you have the lived experience of.  We have a team of adopters from across your region, your Adopter Voice Champions, to help connect the group members. These Adopter Voice Champions make up the members of the Adopter Advisory Board. Please do get in touch and connect with your Champions via