Press release

Over 96,000 people contact adoption information service in 12 months

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Figures show increasing numbers of people interested in adopting.

Child holding adult's hand

More than 96,000 people interested in giving a vulnerable child a stable, loving home have contacted First4Adoption in just 12 months - an average of 327 new contacts every day.

First4Adoption, the government-funded information service, was set up to help address the serious shortage of adopters, which contributes to delays in finding loving homes for children. It provides clear and impartial advice about adopting and helps put people in touch with local adoption agencies.

Since first opening its doors for business in April 2013:

  • 94,752 people have visited the First4Adoption website and over 2,000 people have called the dedicated information line
  • of the 96,000 people who contacted the service, over 6,800 went on to directly contact an adoption agency of their choice - taking the vital next step in becoming an adoptive parent
  • use of the online service has grown rapidly from around 5,600 visits a month in April 2013, when it was launched, to over 27,000 in December 2013

Today’s figures build on the successes of 2013, which saw a 34% increase in adopters and a record 15% rise in adoptions.

The government has today also announced the appointment of Sir Martin Narey as the Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board - a new national initiative jointly developed by government, councils and voluntary adoption agencies - to drive improvements in the adoption system and ensure there are enough adopters to provide homes for all the children who are waiting to be adopted.

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

Adopting a child is one of the most challenging but rewarding decisions a person can make. It is fantastic news that after just 12 months more than 96,000 people have reached out to this vital service.

However, we know there is still a shortage of adopters and that work needs to be done to ensure the 6,000 children who need a safe and caring home are placed more quickly.

That is why our new Adoption Leadership Board - headed up by Sir Martin Narey - will play an important role in ensuring that not only local authorities and adoption agencies stay on track, but that we do what we can to improve the system and recruit even more adopters than ever before.

The board has a key role to play in providing independent advice to ministers, and is made up of senior members from key adoption organisations, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the Local Government Association, the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, BAAF and Adoption UK.

Sir Martin Narey, newly appointed Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board, said:

Ensuring we find adoptive homes for all the children in care who, generally because of the neglect they have suffered at home, can never return to their birth parents, has been a passion for me for some years. I am delighted to see that many of the recommendations I made to ministers in 2012 about adoption and siblings, adoption and contact, fostering before adoption, and ethnicity and adoption matching have now found themselves in law as part of the new Children and Families Act.

But there is still much more to be done before every child in England who needs the love and permanence that adoption brings finds an adoptive home speedily. And there is a great deal more needed to ensure that adoptive parents receive all the support that is necessary to ensure that their adoption succeeds.

Research published last year by the Department for Education shows that there could be up to 4 million people in England likely to consider adopting at some point in the future, yet up and down the country there are still 6,000 children waiting to be adopted.

The First4Adoption information service is just one of a comprehensive package of government reforms to overhaul the adoption system with the aim of recruiting more adopters and placing vulnerable children with a stable, loving home more quickly.

We have introduced the £19 million adoption support fund to help adoptive families access the tailored, specialist support they need, and have extended the entitlements that children in care have, so that these continue once the child has been adopted. This includes access to priority school admissions, the pupil premium and, from September 2014, eligibility for free early education for 2-year-olds.

We have given adopters new resources, including the adoption passport, which sets out their rights and entitlements as adoptive parents, and the new clickable online adoption maps, which allow potential adopters to find out more information about what’s in their area.

The adoption reform grant has now been extended into 2014 - providing £50 million to councils to support them in implementing the changes in the Children and Families Act. We have also introduced a faster approval process so the majority of people are approved within 6 months, and introduced new rules so prospective adopters and children are placed on the adoption register within 3 months.

Notes to editors

  • First4Adoption is the dedicated information service for people interested in adopting a child in England http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/ or 0300 222 0022

  • Sir Martin Narey was Director General of the Prison Service of England and Wales between 1998 and 2003 before becoming the first Chief Executive of the National Offender Management Service and a Second Permanent Secretary at the Home Office. In 2005 he left the civil service to become a Chief Executive of Barnardo’s before stepping down in January 2011. At Barnardo’s he led the charity through a period of substantially increased political impact and made it, once again, the UK’s biggest children’s charity. He is a Visiting Professor at Durham and Sheffield Hallam Universities, Chair of The Portman Group and a Board Member of the Advertising Standards Authority. From 2011 to 2013 he was the government’s advisor on adoption. His recommendations from an independent report commissioned by The Times provided the core of the adoption reform programme which has been so successful.In February 2013 he took on a wider role, advising the Secretary of State for Education on children’s social care. He has undertaken a review into the quality of initial training for child and family social workers.

  • Dr Carol Homden CBE, of First4Adoption, said:

Since its launch a year ago, First4Adoption has received 96,000 enquiries from people interested in adoption, which shows the level of interest out there. This is very encouraging, but this is just the beginning. With local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that those people who are willing and able to become adopters receive the right preparation and support to do so.

The appointment of Sir Martin Narey as Chairman of the Adoption Leadership Board signals the intent of the sector to rise to the challenge to give the growing number of children in care a loving, stable and permanent home.

  • Hugh Thornbery, CEO at Adoption UK, said: > We welcome the appointment of Sir Martin Narey as independent chair of the Adoption Leadership Board. His knowledge of the adoption system and the challenges we all face to find and support families for children waiting to be adopted will be of invaluable benefit. Good progress is being made with the reforms, with more to come, and it is very encouraging that nearly 100,000 people have contacted First 4 Adoption to find out more about adoption.

DfE enquiries

Published 14 April 2014