Children’s minister Tim Loughton has hit out at the “hints of political correctness” that is hampering children’s chances of being adopted.
Loughton accused social workers of insisting on waiting for a “dream ethnic match” before placing children with prospective adoptive families. He was speaking to Community Care as National Adoption Week started today,
Although the minister admitted that, for many children, a close match was the best option, he said professionals ought to consider whether children might be waiting several years to find the supposed “dream ethnic match” when somebody else could offer a good quality placement sooner.
“The most important thing is the quality of the placement and the family, but there are still too many hints of political correctness in the system,” he said. “Unless there are very good reasons not to, we should get on with giving children stable placement opportunities.”
But Loughton confirmed he would not set any adoption targets, adding that he was “absolutely opposed” to those introduced by Tony Blair 10 years ago.
A report from think-tank Demos, commissioned by Barnardo’s, recently recommended that targets would improve falling adoption rates nationally. But Loughton said: “I am fundamentally opposed to many targets, but I am absolutely opposed to adoption targets.
“I don’t want to force local authorities to have to search high and low for prospective adoptive families in order to meet some artificial – though well intentioned – target set by central government. It is the wrong way to go about things.
“I want the number of children going into good quality stable adoptions to rise because we’ve got a greater availability of high-quality adoptive families, and because it is in the best interests of children for whom it is appropriate.”
Loughton criticised local authorities for failing to use voluntary adoption agencies to recruit more adopters. He said councils used the costs of paying an agency as an excuse, pointing out that comparative research has shown “there’s nothing in it”.
“I think they are hiding behind this excuse because the mindset is ‘we want to keep things in-house’,” he said. “It is absolutely wrong and it is flying in the face of the Children Act.
“I would question why there is a monopoly on children in the care system being the responsibility of local authorities and adoption systems being the preserve of local authorities.”
Loughton claimed that too much “back and forth” communication between adoption panels and the court system was delaying the issuing of adoption orders.
“Adoptions still take far too long,” he said. “For babies born to parents who are clearly never going to be capable of looking after children, courts can quickly judge that the child is going to have a life in care so an adoptive placement should be sorted out as soon as possible.”
Loughton said he had spoken to Sir Nicholas Wall, the president of the family division of the High Court. Wall will ask judges “to speak to adoption panels and I will ask adoption panels to speak to judges”.
The minister added: “With better communication and co-ordination, we could speed up the whole system. There are some fairly solvable practical problems within the system and bigger problems regarding the mindset which I am determined to challenge.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails