DHHS Same Sex Adoption Research
In 2015 Victoria amended the Adoption Act, removing discriminatory barriers to the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) engaged us to investigate the adoption process and how it could be made more inclusive for LGBTI applicants. Our research mapped the adoption journey of same-sex and straight couples, providing insight on exactly where they can take action to address existing pain points.
Out of this process, 10 key areas of focus were identified for the department, each with a number of recommendations for practical implementation.
Understanding complex contexts:
A major challenge was investigating a process that was not yet ‘live’, and for which therefore there was no first-hand experience to draw upon. We approached the research process from three viewpoints, drawing knowledge from straight couples that have adopted, same-sex couples that are permanent carers, and couples who are prospective adopters.
We also worked closely with the owners of the adoption process including social workers on the ground, policy advisors in DHHS, and representatives of the courts. This was a complex set of stakeholders, but each input was critical to the integrity of the final outcomes.
Discussing personal subjects:
We facilitated an impartial and non-judgemental environment in which to have open and frank discussions about a subject that was filled with emotion and personal experience. By keeping the sessions small (one or two couples at a time) we were able to dive deep into many topics in great detail. This was critical to drawing out the unique experience of each couple, and how their previous life experience influenced interactions between these couples, the adoption system, and the process itself.
Involving stakeholders in collaborative processes:
Once the key areas of focus were identified from the research, we facilitated an ideation session with representatives from each stage of the adoption process. This included court workers and policy advisors as well as social workers and DHHS staff.
We created a collaborative environment in which to co-design potential solutions – it was in fact the first time all parties to this process had been in a room together. In addition to generating great solutions, this gave participants ownership, helping them obtain buy-in from their stakeholders, and to gain the confidence to implement solutions.
Creating a practical vision for maximum impact:
We provided a clear focus on 10 key opportunities and armed the teams with recommendations for improving the adoption process – not only for same-sex couples but for all applicants.
The co-design process produced a practical, shared vision that the teams could take away and begin to implement. The journey map provided the team with real-world examples of direct experiences of participants in the research with links to which recommendations will help to alleviate issues along the way.