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Further Action on Adoption: Finding More Loving Homes

When adoption is the right decision for a child it is essential that they are placed quickly with a loving family that meets their needs. Working closely with local authorities, voluntary adoption agencies and other national adoption organisations, and with the Ministerial Adviser on adoption, Sir Martin Narey, we have made good progress with the implementation of the Action Plan for Adoption that we published in March 2012. We have published two sets of local adoption timeliness scorecards, consulted on detailed proposals for a streamlined adopter assessment process, published draft legislation that addresses the unnecessary delay in placement for adoption caused by a child’s ethnicity and encourages ‘Fostering for Adoption’, and we have begun to implement our proposals for the new National Gateway for Adoption. These and other reforms have begun to drive improvement but there are still significant issues facing the adoption system.

There is still one outstanding challenge for the adoption system – finding enough adoptive parents. The numbers of children being approved by the courts for adoption each year has risen from just over 3,000 in 2009-10 to over 4,200 in 2011-12. But in the same period the numbers of children moving in with adoptive families each year has risen much more slowly from 3,100 to 3,500. As a result, at the end of March 2012 there were over 4,600 children waiting to be able to move in with a new family.
We urgently reviewed how well the system is set up to find enough adopters to meet the demand from children and found that it is not working as it should. Local authorities recruit and assess adopters to meet the needs of children in their area in line with their statutory duties. One consequence of this is that, if a large number of local authorities have a minor shortage of adopters, this can translate into a major shortage at a national level. Another consequence is that the system is unable to make best use of the national supply of potential adopters – we know of a number of local authorities who are turning away prospective adopters because they are not needed in their local area. We believe that the role of local authorities in both the supply of, and demand for, adopters is at the root of the problems in the adopter recruitment system.