‘Painfully slow’ adoption system to be overhauled

The assessment process for prospective adopters will be stripped of some of its red tape in a bid to reduce waiting times for children in care, children's minister Tim Loughton (pictured) has revealed.

The assessment process for prospective adopters will be stripped of some of its red tape in a bid to reduce waiting times for children in care, the government announced today.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton has asked a group of experts to draw up a new process to recruit, train and assess people as adoptive parents.

Under the current system, adoptive parents can wait up to a year or more to be approved and a child waits two years and seven months on average to be adopted.

Potentially suitable adopters are often turned away because they may not be the right ethnic match, may be overweight or have smoked.

Loughton said: “The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective. Dedicated social workers are spending too long filling out forms instead of making sound, common-sense judgements about someone’s suitability to adopt.

“I am determined to change this. I want [the assessment process] to be quicker and more effective at approving adoptive parents and matching them with children.”

The panel is made up of representatives from across the adoption sector, including the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies, British Association of Adoption and Fostering, Adoption UK, and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

The group will work with Martin Narey, the government’s adoption tsar, and provide recommendations in March on a more efficient process to be introduced later in 2012. They have been asked to:

  • Consider arrangements for an improved recruitment process for adopters
  • Streamline the training and assessment process
  • Provide set timescales for training and assessing the suitability of adopters
  • Suggest what, if any, new monitoring and evaluation mechanisms would need to be put in place to measure the success of the new system

Narey said: “This is a significant moment. We made the system work more quickly in the past and have increased adoptions, only for numbers to fall back again. But this will, I believe, ensure a permanent increase.”

Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, warned that the government would “have to be brave” in responding to the advice of these experts.

“[Ministers] must act fast to implement meaningful changes to the system if we are to make a real difference for those children currently waiting to be placed with a stable, loving family,” she said.

The government is working on a wider programme of reform to overhaul the adoption and care system. More details will be set out in the New Year.

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