Children’s minister Tim Loughton has claimed some local authorities are operating an “informal age limit” on adoptions.
Speaking to The Times, Loughton expressed concerned that some councils did not appear to be considering children for adoption if they were aged five or over when they went into care.
This is based on analysed data, published by the Department for Education today, which reveal that the proportion of adoptions drops from one in three for children aged four or younger to one in 15 for five-year-olds. Only one in 100 looked-after children aged 12 or over is adopted.
Loughton stressed that older children should not be denied the possibility of being adopted, telling the newspaper: “For too many children who have come through traumatic childhoods, getting a safe, stable home is the upmost priority. While many babies are being adopted, as children approach school age the chances of being adopted fall off dramatically.
“We need to urgently redouble our efforts so these children are seen as more deserving of an adoptive placement. They shouldn’t be written off because they’re not babies or toddlers.”
Claudia Wood, head of the Public Services and Welfare Programme at the think-tank Demos, said: “Children should be treated as individual cases and placed according to their need, not age. If informal age limits are creeping in then this needs to be reiterated to local authorities.” However, she said, it was highly unlikely that all local authorities were operating age benchmarks.
Loughton’s comments follow criticisms from eight leading adoption charities, including Adoption UK, Barnardo’s and the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), that the government was failing to resource adequate adoption support for families who adopt, particularly for those caring for older, more traumatised children.
Meanwhile the number of adoptions on the Isle of Man could rise following new legislation which gives gay and unmarried couples equal rights to adopt children.
The new legislation came into force on 6 April, as an amendment to The Civil Partnership Act 2011, which also permits same-sex marriages.
Catriona Morris, manager of the Isle of Man Adoption Service (IOMAS), said the ammendment should be seen as a “real positive for those children – both Manx and from elsewhere in the British Isles – who need a permanent family by way of adoption.
“I hope this will encourage more families on the Island to think positively about providing a lifelong home for a child who for many reasons can no longer live with their original family,” she said.
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