Press release

New measures to end delay for children awaiting adoption

Next week’s Queen’s Speech to outline further improvements to the adoption system.

Edward Timpson

Children awaiting adoption could soon benefit from being placed with a family far quicker under a new approach that will open up a greater number of potential adopters for every child.

Next week’s Queen Speech will include specific new powers that will require councils combine their adoption functions if they fail to join together services under their own steam within the next 2 years.

At the moment, adoption is happening at too small and localised a scale. With councils working together, the choice of potential matches for a child would increase significantly, giving children a far better chance of quickly finding a permanent family.

Councils will be encouraged to identify their own regional approach that would see authorities uniting their adoption services under one system or outsourcing the delivery of their adoption functions into a single regional agency.

The new powers, contained in the Schools and Adoption Bill, would only be used if councils failed to take action quickly enough.

Last year, more than 5,000 children were found the permanent home they desperately needed - a record increase of 26% in just 12 months. However, more than 3,000 children remain waiting to be matched with their new parents, with more than half having spent 18 months in care despite there being adopters readily available.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with 2 adopted brothers, said:

Every single day a child spends waiting in care for their new family is a further delay to a life full of love and stability. This just isn’t good enough.

By coming together and joining forces, councils can make sure more children are matched with families far quicker - regardless of where they live.

Thanks to reforms under the last government, there are now more families than ever ready to adopt. The government now wants to make sure that fewer children face unnecessary delays before being placed in a loving and stable home.

There are currently no barriers to councils working together to streamline and improve the adoption system, but evidence shows that at present - when placing children for adoption - some councils tend to concentrate their efforts locally, rather than looking further afield for what might be a better match. This can lead to children waiting much longer than necessary when parents are readily available.

Actively encouraging councils to join forces and work together as regional adoption agencies will act as a triple win:

  • giving councils a greater pool of approved adopters with which to match vulnerable children successfully first time
  • making vital support services more widely available to adoptive families as and when they need them
  • better targeting the recruitment of adopters

The government will provide financial and practical support for councils and adoption agencies to enable them to bring services together regionally, and implement the greatest step change in the way children are matched for adoption in a generation.

Notes to editors

  1. The government will work with local authorities and adoption agencies to deliver this vision, and plan to provide both financial and practical support to help agencies come together. However, if some local authorities are unwilling to rise to the challenge, the government will hold a backstop power that can be used to direct councils to merge their services.
  2. The government’s reforms have already resulted in a world class adoption system, with record numbers of children placed in loving, permanent homes - an increase of 63% in the last 3 years alone. Yet the adoption system is still highly fragmented, with over 180 different councils and agencies recruiting and matching children with varying degrees of success.
  3. ‘An investigation of family finding and matching in adoption - briefing paper’ found that local authorities tend to seek to place their adopters approved ‘in-house’ before considering adopters approved by other local authorities and then voluntary adoption agencies. This results in sequential decision making, which means some children wait longer than they should to be adopted.

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Published 23 May 2015