Press release

Government sets out measures to speed up adoptions and give vulnerable children loving homes

New legislation will impose duties on local authorities to reduce delays for adoptions.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • New legal duties on local authorities to reduce delays

  • Children to be fostered by their prospective adoptive parents

  • National Adoption Register must be used for children waiting longer than 3 months

The Prime Minister will today set out proposed changes to legislation to ensure that, when adoption is in a child’s best interests, they are placed in loving homes as soon as possible.

The average time between a child entering care and moving in with their adoptive family is one year and nine months. The Government believes this is too long. Overwhelming evidence shows that every week of delay in giving young children a stable, long-term home harms their development and means they are more likely to develop behavioural and attachment problems.

Ahead of the Government’s Adoption Action Plan next week, today the Prime Minister will outline how to speed up the process for vulnerable children.

The three key measures are:

  • Local authorities (LAs) will be required to reduce delays in all cases and will not be able to delay an adoption for the perfect match if there are other suitable adopters available. The ethnicity of a child and the prospective adopters will, in most cases, come second to the speed of placing a child in a loving home.
  • Proposed changes to legislation will make it easier for children to be fostered by approved prospective adopters while the courts consider the case for adoption. This will mean they stay in one home with the same parents, first as foster carers, and then as adopted parents if the court agrees to adoption.
  • If a match has not been found locally within three months of a child being recommended for adoption, LAs will have to refer them to the national Adoption Register so they can find a match in a wider pool of prospective adopters.

On a visit to a children’s centre in west London the Prime Minister will hear from people who want to adopt, adoptive parents and children who have been adopted, as well as social workers and LA adoption managers.

The Prime Minister will say today:

Every child deserves the love of a stable family - and that’s why I’ve made sorting out and speeding up adoption in this country a priority.

There’s no more urgent task for government than this. Young lives are being wasted while the process takes its toll - and the victims are some of the most vulnerable young people in our society. You can’t put children’s futures on hold while the system gets round to dealing with their case.

So this government is going to tear down the barriers that stop good, caring potential adoptive parents from giving a home to children who so desperately need one.

Tim Loughton, Children’s Minister, said:

We know that some social workers spend far too long looking and waiting for the same ethnic match. It’s important that the child’s best interests always come first. Which is precisely why we must reduce the time they are living in limbo, and give them what most of us would take for granted - the opportunity to form a loving attachment to a parent. We need to change legislation to make sure that reducing delay is the primary concern of social workers and adoption managers across the country. A year is such a significant proportion of a young child’s life. We can’t afford to waste time.

Martin Narey, the Government’s Ministerial Adviser on adoption, said:

It is just eight months since my report on adoption was published by the Times, and since Tim Loughton asked me to advise him on adoption. I am delighted at the urgency with which ministers and the Prime Minister have tackled the reform of a system which too often let children down.

The announcement today will secure the earlier and more successful adoption of many thousands of children whose lives will be transformed.

Local authorities will be asked to make concurrent planning more widespread so that children are fostered by their prospective adoptive parents as long as it is in the child’s best interests.

A recent pilot project funded by the Department revealed that there was a lack of urgency in social workers using the national Adoption Register, which meant that possible matches were not followed up for several weeks.

New regulations will require information about a child to be kept up to date so that prospective adopters have the best understanding of a child’s needs when they are considering a match.

Notes to editors:

  1. Black children take twice as long as white children to be adopted. The government published information on adoption in a special data pack last year. All the data can be found at:

  2. Local authorities will be required to reduce delay beyond the existing statutory limits already set out. The current statutory limits are that a proposed placement with a suitable prospective adopter should be identified and approved within six months of the agency’s decision that the child should be placed for adoption.

  3. The Government will consult on changes to the legislation later in the year.

  4. For a minority of cases a particular type of match will be essential to meet the child’s needs, for example, older children who have expressed a preference. The Government does not propose to change this.

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Published 9 March 2012