Guide to Adoption Support Services provided by Adoption Counts

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.nt.


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
  • Targetted - 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


You can access these services when you need them, without needing an assessment. It is usually just a case of turning up. It is amazing the difference it can make just being able to spend time with other people who understand adoption. We offer: 


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).


A Social Worker from our Adoption Support Team will be in touch and we will allocate a Social Worker to you. If you need to talk to someone urgently, we have a Duty Social Worker available every day.


Depending on the help that you are asking for, your Social Worker will need to undertake an assessment of your needs together with you as a family. The assessment will indicate what services 
are likely to be the most helpful. Here is a list of services which we offer. It may be that the assessment indicates a need for more specialist services. 


Who provides these services?


Adoption counts has contracts and partnerships with a range of providers across the north west of England. These groups and workshops may be provided by staff from Adoption Counts, our voluntary sector partners or sometimes other independent providers.


Who pays for these services?


These services are free to adopters. Adoption Counts has a budget for Adoption Support Services, however, we also have access to a government source of funding called the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) which we will sometimes apply to for this type of service (see below for more details).


Specialist Services - Getting More Help


Where universal or targeted services are not sufficient to provide the support which a family needs, Adoption Counts has access to a more specialist range of services.


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. These include 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. 


Who provides these services?


These services will usually be provided by specialist therapists from the voluntary or independent sectors under contract with Adoption Counts. We ask that all providers are registered with our Regional Commissioning Framework to ensure their credentials are satisfactory for delivering the agreed therapy. We request evidence of their training, professional membership, ability to work with children and the quality of supervision they receive. We are then obliged to review the therapy on a regular basis to ensure it is meeting your need. We will collect feedback from parents and children about how helpful the service has been being and how well they have been delivered. 


Who pays for these services?


These services are usually paid for by the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).  This is a national fund to support adopted children and their families overseen by the Department for Education (DfE).


The Adoption Support Fund may contribute up to £2,500 per child for specialist assessment and a further £5,000 per child for therapy. These two ‘Fair Access Limits’ are independent of each other and so the Fair Access Limit for Specialist Assessment cannot be used to supplement the Therapy Fair Access Limit and vice versa. If additional funding is required, the ASF will only provide this if the child’s local authority provides the same amount of funding (match funding).


In order to oversee this process, Adoption Counts has set up a Multi-Agency Resource Panel. The panel is made up of Psychologists from our Adoption Psychology Service, Education,  Social Workers and Service Managers and reviews the more complex cases and those which required funding from the ASF. This helps to ensure that each family is receiving the best available therapy and that the therapy is delivered to a high standard.


You can find out more information at


The Adoption Psychology Service


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. As well as delivering psychology services to adoptive families, the Adoption Psychology Service works with staff in Adoption Counts to: 


  1. Consider applications for funding of services through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) that exceed the Fair Access Limit and require match funding (which will be provided either by Adoption Counts or by the child’s local authority).

  2. Make the most effective use of high cost specialist resources by applying the criteria for accessing services through the ASF.

  3. Reduce the duplication of assessments and services and offer access to specialist therapeutic services

  4. Monitors the quality of the therapeutic provision that is registered with the Adoption Support Commissioning Framework.

  5. Enhances the delivery of therapeutic services in terms of both scope and quality.

  6. Undertakes the role of professional advisors to the Adoption Support Service helping to identify the right services at the right time for adoptive families and to offer constructive feedback on practice.

  7. Helps to link Adoption Counts to mainstream child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and other education support services, such as Virtual Schools.


The Adoption Support Centre of Excellence


Adoption Counts is involved in a pilot programme to improve the quality of adoption support services nationally. Funding has been granted from the Department for Education until July 2019. Rather than a physical centre of excellence, we prefer to talk about a system of excellence for adoption support as it is very unlikely that all the services which adopters need from time to time can be brought together in one place.


The Centre of Excellence includes:  The extension of the Adoption Psychology Service

  • A workforce development programme to ensure Adoption Counts practitioners are skilled up over the next 2 years to deliver more targeted and specialist services.

  • The development of early intervention practice and services will, overtime, reduce the need for the current number of more intensive and expensive therapeutic interventions.

  • Robust commissioning and rigorous evaluation of adoption support services from third parties.

  • Engagement with other agencies, such as schools and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services to embed better practice and help to make support to adopted children part of their ‘core business’.

  • Ongoing engagement with Voluntary Agencies in skills and service development to contribute to their longer-term sustainability.

  • Piloting the regional administration of the Adoption Support Fund in partnership with the Department for Education and the Adoption Support Fund itself.


The Centre of Excellence work is overseen by our Adoption Support Sub Board with representation from key agencies and adopters.

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 -

Stockport - 0161 474 4714;

Trafford - 0161 912 2039




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

Information on the Virtual School Headteacher (VSH) - Statutory guidance for local authorities to support looked-after and previously looked-after children's aspirations to achieve in further and higher education.