Urgent action on recruitment is needed to meet adoption targets

Achieving government adoption targets will require more front-line
staff and extra funding, a national conference heard last week.

“There
isn’t long to get the staff,” warned British Agencies for Adoption
and Fostering chief executive Felicity Collier. “We need action
from the government and we need it now,” she said at the conference
on adoption targets organised by BAAFand Children Law UK.

She
welcomed the Department of Health’s commitment to a national
recruitment campaign for social workers, but cast doubt on its
chances of success, especially given the expected adverse publicity
during the Victoria Climbie inquiry.

According to BAAF’s figures, the government aims to increase the
number of adoptions by 40 to 50 per cent by 2005. This translates
into 4,050 adoptions for the financial year ending 31 March
2005.

To meet
the target, 4,050 children would need to be matched with
prospective adopters during 2003 to allow for the 15 months on
average that the courts take to grant an adoption order. Because 13
per cent of children approved for adoption do not successfully find
matches, a higher number of children would need to be approved for
adoption during the preceding year – about 4,650 during 2002,
according to BAAF.

“That’s
quite a task when you look at the current figures,” added Collier.
She admitted there were some “potential unknowns” which affected
BAAF’s calculations, including the impact of the recently launched
adoption register on finding suitable families and possibly
speeding up the process.

But she
remained concerned that the targets could skew adoption work from
pursuing appropriate rehabilitative measures to return children to
their birth families. Councils could also sideline older or damaged
children or those with special needs in order to meet targets.

Meanwhile, a leading children and families charity has warned that
adoption targets will lead to an “increased fear” of social
services departments.

Family
Rights Group chief executive Robert Tapsfield told the conference
it was an “unintended consequence” of having targets that birth
families would be less likely to become involved with social
services departments because of fears of the removal of their
children.

The
targets would inevitably focus a “disproportionate energy on
adoption as opposed to family support”, added Tapsfield. This would
lead to more adoptions which would be “at the expense of some
children [who could] be rehabilitated to their birth families”.

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