Local authorities will be asked only to refer selected children to
the national adoption register, in an attempt to boost the number
of successful matches.
Last week, Baaf Adoption and Fostering was named as the preferred
bidder to continue running the register under a three-year
contract. A final decision will be made soon and the contract will
start in December.
The incumbent, Norwood, has made just 120 matches since it began
operating the register in April 2002.
This contrasts sharply with the 250 children who were matched last
year after being profiled in Baaf Adoption and Fostering’s monthly
magazine, Be My Parent, and similar successes for Adoption UK’s
Children Who Wait.
The Department for Education and Skills, which had invested
£1.9m over three years in the register, was forced to delay
retendering earlier this year while it consulted about how the
service could be improved.
The DfES refuses to disclose what changes are to be made. However,
Norwood is already complaining that the goalposts have been moved,
suggesting that in future not all eligible children will be
referred to the register.
Ruth Fasht, Norwood’s director of fostering and adoption, says:
“Our proposal to continue operating the register was built on the
original vision of developing a comprehensive national database of
children waiting for adoptive families and approved prospective
adopters. The DfES, however, has decided to to concentrate instead
on a targeted approach to referral to the register.”
Cherry Harnott, a member of the government’s adoption and
permanence task force, says a more targeted approach would cut
paperwork for local authorities.
She believes the register should be regarded as one of several
resources available to staff in adoption services. “Most children
are found adoptive families through the enormous commitment and
efforts of regional consortiums.
“But all local authorities struggle to find families for children
with complex needs or those from difficult backgrounds. We need to
target our resources more effectively and focus on those children
for whom we have been unable to find a family from within our own
Norman Goodwin, chief executive of adoption agency Adoption
Matters, says: “Local authorities use their own resources, then
look to consortiums for the next level of difficulty. The register
is important for children at the top end of need.”
Goodwin says Baaf Adoption and Fostering will add its marketing
experience to running the register. “It has a national reputation
for placement services to children and for matching, and will have
the interests of the children they are trying to place at
“Baaf Adoption and Fostering is involved in other activities which
should complement its management of the register, such as marketing
skills and family-finding skills. It’s welcome news for children
Felicity Collier, chief executive of Baaf Adoption and Fostering,
says: “Our priority will be to work closely with social workers
across the country to increase the number of children placed for
adoption. We want to complement the excellent regional work that is
already taking place by agencies working together in the adoption
Another key plank of the register’s redesign is to cut the time in
which councils are required to pass on the names of prospective
adopters to the register from six months to three (news, page 10,
19 August). But the change is less popular with councils that incur
high costs recruiting new adoptive parents and wish to match them
with their own lists of children first.
“I can understand that local authorities want to retain their good
resources for as long as possible,” says Goodwin. “Voluntary
agencies have a different perspective, and we will continue to send
our families to consortia and the register as soon as possible, if
that’s what they want to do.”
Whether a slimmed-down register targeted at the hardest-to-place
children can improve adoption is still unclear. But most in the
sector believe the real battle is persuading more families to