The government announced this week a shake up of the way the
national adoption register is run and confirmed that Baaf Adoption
and Fostering would be the register’s new operator,
writes Haroon Ashraf.
The register will offer a targeted referral system, allow
adoption agencies a choice of referral methods, and expand the
adopter self-referral system, the Department for Education and
Skills (DfES) said this week in a circular to adoption agencies and
“For children, the adoption register will increase the
involvement of experienced social workers, ensuring that increased
consultancy will be available for workers or children where there
is difficulty in finding a match,” Baaf deputy chief
executive Barbara Hutchinson told Community Care.
The new changes have been welcomed by adoption experts who claim
they will make the process faster and more efficient.
Others are hopeful that Baaf might do a better job than the
register’s previous administrator, Norwood adoption
“It is likely that, as Baaf runs a variety of services
relating to adoption and are nationally associated with adoption,
that it will be better used,” explained Anne Turner, a
principal officer at Camden Council’s children and families
The register is a database of children awaiting adoption and
potential adopters wishing to adopt. It has been run by Norwood on
behalf of the Department of Health and the Welsh Assembly since it
began in 2001.
The new choice of operator was not a performance-related issue,
a DfES spokesperson told Community Care, adding that their
relationship with Norwood had been extremely productive.
However, the figures reveal that Norwood made just 132 matches
since it began operating the register compared with 250 matches
last year alone by Baaf in their Adoption and Fostering
Ruth Fasht, Norwood’s director of fostering and adoption,
defended her agency’s record: “The register was set up
in a rigid way,” she said. By contrast, Baaf will be able to
work to its own rules and procedures.
Adoption takes time
Adopting a child is a complex and time-consuming process. It can
take more than a year to place a child with a suitable family.
Currently, when a child is put up for adoption, local authority
adoption agencies and voluntary adoption agencies send information
about the child to the national register, which holds the data but
does not use it.
Local agencies then have three months to find a local match. If
this fails, the child’s details are published on the national
register and a wider search begins.
The case goes to an adoption panel when a suitable family is
If the panel is satisfied with the match, the child and family
go through an introductory and settling-down period. If successful,
the case is referred to court for the child to be legally
New way forward
From 1 December, in order to speed up the process in cases where
it is likely to be difficult to find a match for a child, a local
agency may refer a child’s details to the national register
for immediate release if they feel it is in the child’s best
interest to do so.
The new targeted referrals system also means agencies will no
longer have to immediately refer every child to the national
register. Instead, they will only be obliged to pass on
children’s details after three months of local searching,
which should significantly cut down on paperwork, Baaf said.
“I am pleased that there is no longer a requirement to
refer every child or family so that we will be able to concentrate,
at least initially, on local searches. This clearly makes
sense,” said Janine Rowe, a team manager for Westminster
Council’s new families team.
The expanded adopter self referral system will include a new
helpline, which will help prospective adopters to contact the
register directly for general advice and information on possible
matches. Potential adopters can fill out self referral forms to
advertise themselves on the national register.
The new system will also allow adoption agencies and councils to
make referrals through a secure website, rather than using a
laborious paper-based system.
“The new measures … will help reduce delays and the
paperwork required in making referrals,” Rowe said.
Norwood’s Ruth Fasht admitted that the improvements were a
good idea. But she warned that all processes must be child centred,
not just better for agencies and the system.