Special guardianship numbers treble as adoption falls

The use of a new alternative to adoption increased threefold last year in England as the number of children adopted fell by 12%.

In the 12 months to 31 March 2007, 740 special guardianship orders were granted, compared to 60 in the first quarter of 2006, when the orders were introduced under the Adoption and Children Act 2002. During 2006-7, adoption numbers fell from 3,700 to 3,400.

Under SGOs, day-to-day regarding children are transferred to the special guardian but in a serious situation, such as a child being removed from the country, the birth parents are consulted, unlike with adoption.

David Holmes, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said the drop in adoption levels was “concerning” as it is still an “important option” for children.  He said he did not know whether SGOs were affecting adoption rates, but said the issue needed to be looked at.

Holmes also urged local authorities to come together to identify and apply best practice on SGOs, claiming current practice was inconsistent.

For the first time, the government also provided profiles of adopters in data on looked-after children published last week. This showed that in 2007, 84% of adopters were married, 4% were unmarried heterosexual couples, 2% were unmarried homosexual couples, 1% were civil partners and 9% were single.

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