The number of adoptions has again plummeted in England, according to figures from the Department for Education.
Despite the government’s push to improve adoption rates, the number of placements has fallen a further 5% since last year, and 8% since 2007. There has also been a decrease in the number of looked-after children placed for adoption from 2,720 in 2007 to 2,450 as of March this year.
England’s figures are in contrast to those from Wales, where adoptions increased by 9% on the previous year.
The statistics show a 2% rise in the number of looked-after children in England since last year, adding to an overall 9% increase since 2007. Abuse or neglect accounted for 54% of children taken into care, a figure that has risen each year since the 48% in 2008.
The figures also seem to confirm that councils are using foster placements in preference to placements in children’s homes. Three quarters (74%) of those in care were in a foster placement in March 2011, up 4% on last year while the number of those in children’s homes has dropped 4% since last year. It comes as Community Care has uncovered a trend for councils to increasingly close their children’s homes.
The figures follow statistics recently released by the DfE on council budget spending for the coming year. These showed that money for special guardianship orders is set to increase massively this year (61%) compared with money set aside for adoption support which is set to rise by only 3%.
This has led some in the sector to question whether councils are using special guardianship orders in preference to adoption or long-term fostering.
Children’s minister Tim Loughton admitted it was worrying that the number of adoptions had continued to decline. “It’s simply not good enough for vulnerable children to be waiting well over two years to be adopted,” he said.
He added that he was determined to reverse the decline and was confident that new guidance, issued earlier this year, and the appointment of a new ministerial adoption adviser, Martin Narey, would help.
A spokesperson for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering said it was important to note that the statistics reflected adoption orders.
“Those are orders that are granted at the very end of the adoption process once a child has already been living with its adoptive parents for some time and has had time to settle. As such they do not give an up to date picture of current adoption activity. All the indicators are that adoption activity is increasing. As a result we remain optimistic and expect adoptions from care to increase over the next two years.”
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