Smith promises transformation of adoption process (fuller version)

Health minister Jacqui Smith promised a transformation of the
adoption process as she launched a national adoption register and
final national adoption standards for England, writes
Jonathan Pearce

The adoption register, which will be run by charity Norwood
Ravenswood, will link suitable adoptive families with children
waiting to be adopted across England and Wales, and is a key part
of the government’s reform of the adoption process.

Under the standards – produced in conjunction with the British
Agencies for Adoption and Fostering – councils and agencies will
have a duty to produce a “plan for permanence” at the four-month
statutory review of looked-after children.

Local authorities have been set targets of ensuring that the
average time taken to make an adoption decision about a looked
after child should be a year and four months, and the average time
from a decision to placement should be seven months. Where adoption
has been identified, the adoption panel will make its
recommendation within two months

Health minister Jacqui Smith said: ‘The adoption register and
national standards are key to transforming the adoption

‘Once adoption has been identified as the best course of action
we are determined that children are adopted as quickly as
possible,” she said.

The government wants to increase the rate of adoptions by 40 per
cent, but also wants children’s view to be heard and responded to,
as well as ensuring consistent post-adoption support, Smith

Smith also announced plans for “two waves” of pilot councils and
agencies to help develop the register’s operation, while the
government would be announcing an additional public service
agreement target later in the year focusing on adoption timescales.
A full timetable for implementation of the standards will also be
announced then.

The launch also saw the publication for consultation of draft
practice guidance for the implementation of the standards, plus
draft national adoption standards for adopted adults and their
birth siblings, which had been absent from the original

Felicity Collier, chief executive of BAAF, welcomed the launch
of the adoption register, but sounded a note of caution about
potential funding problems. “It is not a panacea, but we do think
it will really help,” she said.

Although the government last year announced funding of
£66.5 million over three years, mainly through the Quality
Protects initiative, Collier said there was “an absence of
significant new funding”.

“We hope there will be further announcements when the size of
the problem becomes apparent from the adoption register’s figures,”
she said.

Abridged National Adoption Standards for

A. The needs and wishes, welfare and safety of the looked after
child are at the centre of the adoption process.

B. Prospective adopters will be welcomed, and treated, without
prejudice, responded to promptly and given clear information.

C. Children will be matched with approved adopters who can offer
them a stable and permanent home and receive post-adoptive help and

D. Birth parents and birth families will be treated fairly,
openly and with respect throughout the adoption process.

E. Councils will provide a comprehensive adoption service,
planned corporately and in collaboration with other agencies.

F. Each council and adoption agency will provide a high quality
adoption service.




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