The challenge

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. We were tasked with helping to redesign some part of the prospective adopter's experience and help showcase the council's strengths in supporting people to adopt.

Our Approach

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. One of the councils main succeses had been in their offline information evenings, however they struggled to encourage more people to commit to coming.

Through our mini-discovery 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.

Building the Adoption Ready tool

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.

Try out the tool

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.

My role within this project

This was a very small and agile team, with a short 3 months to research, design and build the tool. We didnt have any developers on this project, so I did all the design and development of this tool, working closely with just a delivery manager, a user researcher and a service designer who focused on how the tool fit into the wider service.

We worked closely with the adoption team on co-creating the content and the designs throughout the project; testing and improving together with adopters and staff through a series of paper and digital prototypes to help ensure that it is accurate, effective and intuitive.

As there was no developer in the project I focused on building it entirely as a front-end app in React, which ended up working well with GDPR and privacy requirements as we did not store any of the data internally, only through the users browser local storage. I connected it up to a Rails app utilising FaeCMS as a quick and easy content management system for the team.

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.


Adoption Service Manager


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.

The impact has been amazing, far beyond our wildest expectations. We started seeing the impact of the changes immediately with higher numbers of attendees at our new information evenings and lots of people using Adoption Ready to prepare. We now have more people getting in contact and they’re arriving better prepared.


Manager of the adoption recruitment team

One year on, we’re delighted to share that Buckinghamshire Council are on track to achieve a 200% increase in newly approved adopters over the previous year. This means that more than 30 additional families will be ready to begin their adoption journey by April 2021.

Defying expectations during the pandemic

The early success during the months following the launch in October 2019 looked set to be halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, interest in adoption increased nationwide. Our work together ensured Buckinghamshire was well placed to help prospective adopters take the next step.

Over 2000 people have now used Adoption Ready, which helps users create a personalised readiness plan with practical things they can do to prepare to adopt, including links to further resources they may find useful.