Failure to meet national placement targets blamed on effect of new law

A lack of capacity in the court system and the introduction of new legislation have been blamed for the failure to meet a key national adoption target.

The government’s overarching adoption target, included in the Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-6, was to increase adoptions by 50 per cent between 1999 and 2006.

But the latest figures show that just 3,700 children were adopted in the year ending 31 March 2006 – a 34 per cent increase since 1999 and a 3 per cent fall on last year’s figures.

A second target on placing looked-after children for adoption as quickly as possible once it had been decided adoption was in their best interests was also missed.

The government wanted 95 per cent of these children to be placed within a year, up from 81 per cent in 2000. Instead, the 2006 figures reveal a 4 per cent fall to 77 per cent.

The Department for Education and Skills and the Association of Directors of Social Services cite the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 last year as a factor in explaining the figures.

The act modernised the adoption system and introduced special guardianship orders which provide permanent care but allow children to retain contact with their parents.

ADSS adoption lead Andrew Christie said the orders were increasingly used instead of adoption and his own council, Hammersmith and Fulham, was now measuring levels of placement permanency, which were rising, as well as adoption.

Christie said the act also introduced changes in legal proceedings which delayed adoption cases for some children. He added that the courts’ lack of capacity to pursue proceedings quickly in the best interests of children remained a problem.

Another missed target?
The government also wants 80 per cent of children who have been in care for at least two and a half years to have been in the same placement for at least two years or placed for adoption by 2008. However, the 2006 figure is 65 per cent – just 1 per cent higher than in 2003.

NCH chief executive Clare Tickell said the figures illustrated the “still dire” situation facing looked-after children, adding: “The small improvements that have been made are simply not enough. The government needs to be doing so much more.”


Contact the authors
 Simeon Brody

 Lauren Revans

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