Adoption UK first launched its therapeutic service as TESSA in 2019. With the development of the Psychology and Therapy Hub (PATH) team TESSA has now been rebranded as PATHways.

PATHways (previously known as TESSA) is an intervention programme that helps adoptive parents achieve better outcomes for their children by giving them early access to a clinical psychologist and peer support. It is based on the understanding that a child’s relationship with their parents or carers is one of the main keys to their development, and is founded on the principle of helping families, not fixing children.

The PATHways programme consists of three pillars:

1. Parent clinical consultation and report

This is a one-off, in-depth meeting for parents with a PATH clinician. The primary purpose of the meeting is to provide support to parents. It is an opportunity to think about their child, their development, the parent’s relationship with them and the parent’s experience of parenting their child. Parents will be able to talk about any challenges or concerns they are having, as well as the family's strengths. The meeting will aim to provide the parents with a shared understanding of the child’s strengths and challenges and how these have been shaped by their early experience. The clinician will provide a written reflective summary of the meeting, along with recommended parenting approaches that are likely to be helpful.

2. Matching with a peer support partner for regular support

It is well established that adoptive families benefit from the support of people who have the direct experience of parenting an adopted child. This peer support is invaluable and supplements the support on offer from the practitioners. When a family is referred to Core Pathways they will be allocated a Peer Support Partner (PSP) who is an adoptive parent. This person will be available for the parent(s) to discuss the issues, be a listening ear and offer empathy and emotional support, and help the family to review their parenting style. PSPs are recruited and employed by Adoption UK and have been fully trained to deliver support in line with the Core Pathways model. PSPs will discuss with the family how and when contact with them will take place.

3. Parent Reflective Group (6 fortnightly sessions)

We understand that being an adoptive parent requires parenting plus! In order to give that ‘plus’ parents need to be informed, educated and most importantly, supported to be in a place where they can parent therapeutically. The reflective group is run by a clinician and an adoptive parent and runs for six sessions giving parents the opportunity to gain more knowledge and awareness of how early experiences of trauma and neglect impact on their child/children’s behaviour, communication, ability to learn, and how they form and engage in relationships.

During the group parents will be able to explore and reflect on their own parenting approaches and strategies; from this parents are enabled to finds ways to support their child/children more therapeutically. The group also allows time and reflective space for parents to consider their own relationship, relationships with other people, and how they take care of themselves. The group views self-care as a vital aspect of therapeutic parenting as it is an important influence on a parent’ s ability to remain regulated and to have the necessary resilience to cope with and support their child/children.


Who is this service for?

This service is for adoptive families who either have or have applied for an adoption order for their child, or who have a child who has been in placement with them for at least 12 months. Core Pathways is most suitable for a family where there is a willingness and ability to learn and reflect on their parenting and the relationships within their family. The family may be experiencing some issues with the child’s behaviour at home or in school and need some clarity about what may be underpinning this behaviour and guidance on a more therapeutic parenting approach.

This service is not suitable for families in deep crisis or facing disruption. It is an early to mid level support service that helps families before they get to the point of breakdown.


Referrals process and funding

All referrals need to be made through the local authority or adoption agency who undertook the initial adoption assessment or who are currently supporting the family in terms of post adoption support.

In Scotland and Wales PATHway is funded and therefore there is no cost to the referrer or the family.

In England PATHways is generally funded by an application to the ASF (Adoption Support Fund).

If you are a family interested in being referred to PATHways please speak with the relevant local authority or adoption agency. If you are a social worker interested in making a referral for a family please download and complete the referral form below and email to [email protected]

PATHways referral form (for completion by social worker)


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