Originally developed for the Greater Manchester Adoption and Fostering Consortium, later to become Adoption 22, CHARMS exists only because Heather Graham, the consortium coordinator at the time (1999), was struggling to maintain, using a word processor, up-to-date lists of children and adopters. Heather saw the opportunity to take advantage of the database tools that were available.
In fact, the name CHARMS itself is a commitment to the adoption community. Originally an acronym for ‘Computing Help Adoption Register Management System’ its name is now established as the de-facto go to application for adoption case management.
It soon became clear that the problem did not only exist for Heather. Adoption agencies, both statutory and voluntary, were maintaining records on paper and in electronic files.
Matching children with adopters was also a manual exercise.
"A key element of the first CHARMS version was the “Find A Family” and “Find A Child” algorithms, enabling users to make initial matches, based on age, gender, ethnicity and other matching considerations."
Fast forward to 2022 and CHARMS is still owned by Social Care Network Solutions, a privately run non-profit organisation whose sole purpose is to enable social workers, care staff, support staff, adopters, foster carers, family members AND children and young people to communicate with each other in a secure, online setting.
Some 50,000 such stakeholders use CHARMS in the UK and Ireland, and, in the adoption community, that includes 90% of the Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) and 8 (out of 30) Regional Adoption Agencies in England and Wales.
A vital element of CHARMS in the current day is the ability for birth family members to maintain relationships with their children through the unique, secure Letterbox module. All exchanges can be managed so that birth families have a single, secure repository of every single piece of information exchanged.
The CHARMS "Find A Family" and "Find A Child" tools allow, in seconds, placement workers/family finders to see the best potential matches based on age, gender, ethnicity, religion and any other matching considerations. The Find A Family feature now enables to search for adopters within your own RAA, as it has always done, but also to search for adopters in other RAAs, who use CHARMS and in VAAs, 80% of whom use CHARMS.
RAAs and VAAs simply click a box in the adopter screen, in their own CHARMS system, to make the adopter visible to the other RAAs and VAAs.
All RAAs can then click "Find A Family" in a particular child record and it will offer the user the opportunity to search their own RAA, or to select from a list of other RAAs and VAAs who use CHARMS to search their available adopters too. There is no need to enter the child's referral information as that information will already be in CHARMS.
Results of the search will show adopter information, including which RAA or VAA they are approved by, or in the process of approval. The information will include a photograph, approval terms and a short description/profile of the adopter(s). It will not show the name of the adopter, just the CHARMS ID.
A whole, enhanced "Potential Links" area of CHARMS then enables the user to keep records of links made and outcomes of those links.
In CHARMS at this moment there are over 1,000 families in assessment, matched or awaiting adoption order. Having the ability to share these adopters, and search them all, when needed, has potential to greatly improve the matching process and reduce the time for placement and adoption order. We are working with the adoption community to deliver these improvements to the matching process for children and families.
Our software, CHARMS is the most secure and well specified application for everyone involved in care services, whether that is Government, Federal, State, Local Authority, not-for-profit, independent private or charity. CHARMS is a full-service solution. When you use CHARMS in your social care organisation you don't need any other care software.