Coram report highlights crucial role of parenting training and mentoring support through adoption journey

Research highlights crucial role of Cornerstone’s parenting training schemes and mentors in supporting adopters through adoption journey

A new research report published by Coram for The Cornerstone Partnership (Cornerstone) has uncovered the importance of early access to parenting training schemes and independent mentors in supporting people who are approved to be adoptive parents, and helping them effectively parent children who have suffered from trauma.

Coram’s Impact and Evaluation team worked in partnership with Cornerstone – a social enterprise working to improve the life chances of children in the care system – to evaluate its Restorative Parenting Training (RPT) programme and mentoring scheme. By using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, with adopters and social workers, Coram was able to explore the complex issues of service provision for adopters.

RPT is a course and webinar programme which teaches adopters, either pre or post placement, about parenting techniques as well as introducing theory about attachment. Cornerstone’s mentoring scheme provides adopters with additional support and advice about the process of becoming or being an adoptive parent from a volunteer adopter.

Coram’s evaluation found that all adopters who had taken part in RPT praised the training and the impact it had on them and their children. 94% of adopters felt the course equipped them with the effective techniques and strategies to parent an adopted child, and 94% of those who had a child placed with them said the course would, or already has benefitted their adopted child. Adopters considered the training being co-facilitated by an adopter and a therapist key for helping them understand how to apply the learning.

The research uncovered that the training appeared to be most useful to adopters in the early placement stage of adoption, with adopters revealing that RPT helped them think about what sort of children they could parent effectively, therefore making a difference to knowing how to proceed in their adoption journey.

79% of adopters who had a mentor through Cornerstone’s scheme were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the experience. Adopters described the scheme as unique because it offers support from someone who had already gone through the adoption process, increasing parental confidence and making their experience as an adopter feel more normal. The research found that effectiveness of this support is enhanced when adopters and mentors are matched on specific shared experiences, for example being a single adopter.

The research revealed that most adopters would turn to their mentor for support before contacting their social worker and could ask their mentor questions they might feel nervous asking the local authority. This suggests that Cornerstone’s mentoring scheme may reduce demands on social workers and free up more of their time. This is echoed in the findings from the social workers who welcomed external and responsive services which helped to ease some pressure on workloads.

Another key finding was that RPT and mentoring on top of the standard Stage 2 adopter training made adopters more ‘appealing’ to matching panels and as a result, a high proportion of Cornerstone adopters were matched with children outside of their own local authority.

Helen Costa, Cornerstone CEO, said: “We know that introducing authentic, user led support at the start of the adoption journey can have very significant positive impacts for children and parents.

“Now for the first time, with this report we can clearly evidence those tangible benefits for both families and local authorities.

“By giving adopters confidence in the task of adoptive parenting and, crucially, the right tools at the right time as well as emotional support, we have been able to show this facilitates the placement of children with more complex needs and – for the first time – hard evidence of a perceptible and positive change in the relationship between parent and child.

“We have already helped over 300 adopters through our pilot programme and I am now calling on all adoption services to embed the principles and best practice demonstrated in this report so that the benefits we have demonstrated can be felt by all adoptive families.”

The full evaluation report is available to read here.

Find out more about Coram’s Impact and Evaluation work here.