Councils given three months to pass adopters’ names to national register

    Social services must pass on adopters’ details to the National
    Adoption Register within three months rather than six in a move to
    improve the register’s performance.

    The three-month timescale was a compromise between the Department
    for Education and Skills and local authorities.

    Councils incur high costs in recruiting couples. They believed it
    would be money wasted if the names were passed on to the register
    immediately after the prospective adopters were approved, as DfES
    wanted.

    A DfES spokesperson said it was hoped the change would address
    “unnecessary delays in the matching process”.

    Wrangling over the future of the register delayed a decision to
    re-tender the contract, leading to a three-month extension for the
    provider, Norwood.

    The agency faced criticism for matching only 75 hard-to-place
    children with adopters in the register’s first two years of
    operation, despite an investment of £1.25m.

    A source told Community Care that local authorities had
    opposed giving adopters’ details to the register too quickly.
    “Adoption consortia have been very effective, and there’s a worry
    that it might discourage that,” he said. “You should not discourage
    something that’s working to prop up something that is not.”

    Families are “traded” between consortia members free or at a
    reduced fee – as little as £3,000, compared with a typical
    £20,000 interagency fee.

    Norwood’s contract expired in August, but was extended to 30
    November due to delays in getting a new tender in place. Funding
    for the register has now been confirmed until March 2006.

    The DfES spokesperson said the extension would allow the government
    to reassess the specification. “This process took longer than
    envisaged so we extended the current contract for a minimum
    period.”

    Felicity Collier, chief executive of Baaf Adoption and Fostering,
    which is bidding for the contract, said there was a place for a
    national adoption register.

    “Of the 250 children we placed last year, many were to people who
    had come forward who were newly approved as adopters,” she said.
    “It shows you need a range of ways to reach potential adopters.”

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