KTP helps create a psychologically informed and therapeutic service for children awaiting adoption

Posted on: 28/06/2019

St David’s Children Society partners with Cardiff University’s Psychology & Business Schools to offer effective intervention and prevention support.

In this Knowledge Transfer Partnership, funded by the Welsh Government, St David’s Children Society* has worked with Cardiff University’s School of Psychology and Business School to implement closer cross sector collaborative working and develop new methodologies in delivering an individualised recruitment and support service for priority children waiting 12 months or more for a family. It utilises clinical psychologist and therapeutic social worker input to offer effective early intervention and prevention support.


Fast Facts about this case study

  • Use of ISO44001 to devise a Joint Relationship Management Plan and Collaborative Agreement to support the joint service delivery of the three voluntary adoption agencies in Wales (St David‚Äôs Children Society, Barnardo‚Äôs and Adoption UK)
  • Service Level Agreements established between the Voluntary and Statutory sector organisations.
  • A unique and innovative service developed which offers an individualised placement strategy for children and embeds psychological input throughout.
  • In first year of delivery 12 children have been placed with adoptive families.
  • Children placed through Adopting Together have on average experienced 6 or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), in comparison to the 4 ACE experienced by children in the Wales Adoption Cohort Study, highlighting the complex needs of the children

The Need

In 2016 the National Adoption Service (NAS) Cymru identified an unmet need for children waiting 12 months or more to find a family. The adoption sector in Wales recognised the necessity to develop a service that could meet the individual complex needs of these children, and the voluntary adoption agencies (St David’s Children Society, Barnardo’s Cymru and Adoption UK) were identified as uniquely positioned to establish a specialised service. With its 75-year history St David’s was acknowledged as having strength in experience, knowledge and expertise to lead on the development of the service.

The Solution

The development of the service was broken down in to two components. The first was to develop the delivery of highly effective adoption support to minimise the risk of family breakdown and children returning to the care system. Developing and embedding effective interventions has resulted in increased knowledge and capability within the organisation. This has further enabled St David’s to deliver innovative responses to the children referred, ensuring early intervention and prevention is at the heart of the service.

The second component was the engagement of the statutory sector with the voluntary sector through innovative collaborative practices. This was to safeguard the proactive use of voluntary sector services as a critical component in the statutory sector’s duty of care. The Welsh Government’s implementation of the Well-being and Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 provided a platform to establish collaborative working across the statutory sector, third sector and multi-agency partners.


  • The Adopting Together Service has been operational since May 2018, bringing together the three voluntary adoption agencies as delivery partners alongside active engagement from the statutory sector. The service provides an individualised placement strategy for priority children with psychological input throughout and direct work with children in a therapeutic support model.
  • The service has broadened St David‚Äôs scope and created a third specific stream of work in its portfolio.
  • The service extends the core business by receiving child referral information: children‚Äôs information can be shared with adopters earlier, allowing for more adopter-led linking and developing adopter understanding of the specific needs of some of the children waiting.
  • Expansion of the skills and knowledge of the staff in the organisation through further training and highlighting best practice. This is having implications across the adoption sector, providing insight to professionals and foster carers and impacting on their approaches with children outside of the service.
  • The relationship between the third sector organisations and the statutory sector has also been transformed, showing how they can effectively work together on a sector identified need.
  • A step change in the procurement practices between the voluntary and statutory sector, showing how Service Level Agreements can be utilised to safeguard and secure the delivery of a service across the sectors.
  • To date 12 children have been placed with adoptive families from St David‚Äôs Children Society and evaluative feedback collated by Cardiff University School of Psychology indicates early positive feedback in term of impact and usefulness.
  • Adopting Together won the Innovation in Collaboration award from the Institute for Collaborative Working and British Standards Institute, December 2018.

“We are optimistic that a collaborative approach to service delivery, with the step change in procurement, will result in life long benefits for the most vulnerable children in Wales and their families” РWendy Keidan, CEO, St David’s Children Society

Outcomes for the university:

  • Developing understanding of practice issues in social procurement.
  • The KTP is raising the profile of Cardiff University in the adoption and social care setting and highlighting how research can be used in practice.
  • Evaluative information on the impact of early intervention and prevention on the building of adoptive family relationship and parental efficacy.
  • Publications and conferences provides opportunity to share research
  • Information shared with Public Health Wales and Welsh Government
  • Case study material

“Our aim is for this project to have lasting impact on the capacity of the adoption sector” РDr Katherine Shelton, Reader, School of Psychology, Cardiff University

“I sincerely hope that in taking a refreshed look at the public procurement process we will help improve lives of children who, through no fault of their own, are placed for adoption in Wales.” - Dr Jane Lynch, Cardiff Business School

Outcomes for the Associate:

  • Gained understanding of impacts of Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences on children‚Äôs development.
  • Attended conferences and delivered presentations
  • Gained qualifications in PRINCE2 and Implementing Organisational Change
  • Working toward CMI Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management

“Being a KTP Associate is a unique opportunity. I have worked across disciplines and gained skills and understanding in a variety of areas” РCoralie Merchant, KTP Associate

About KTP

KTP aims to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills held within the UK knowledge base.  The Knowledge Transfer Network delivers the KTP programme for Innovate UK funded through UK Research and Innovation as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Further information about KTPs is here and applications for funding are open all year round.


*About St David’s Children Society

St David’s Children Society is approved by the Care Inspectorate Wales to work as an Adoption Agency. Established in 1942, it is the longest serving adoption agency in Wales and to date has placed over 2,000 children. It provides locally based adoption services and its primary function is to recruit, approve and support adoptive families who provide permanent homes for children who require adoption.

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