Social workers will soon be expected to find prospective adopters within three months of a child being recommended for adoption, prime minister David Cameron will announce today.
If adopters have not been found within three months, social workers will have to refer the child to the national Adoption Register so a match can be identified from a wider pool of prospective adoptive parents.
Speaking ahead of the government’s imminent adoption action plan, Cameron will also tell social workers that, under the adoption action plan, they will not be able to wait for a perfect ethnic match for a child if there are other suitable adopters available.
The ethnicity of a child and prospective adopters will, in most cases, come second to the speed of placing a child in a loving home, he will say.
Proposed changes to legislation will also make it easier for children to be fostered by approved prospective adopters while the courts consider the case for adoption. This will mean they stay in one home with the same parents, first as foster carers, and then as adopted parents if the court agrees to adoption.
The move is part of the government’s bid to speed up adoptions, requiring local authorities to reduce delays in all cases.
It has already raised concern among social workers who have warned that speed must not compromise the best interests of children.
Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, today accused the government of undermining social workers and setting “knee jerk” targets.
“Social workers already unfairly bear the stigma of being labelled ‘child snatchers’, this announcement will not improve that public perception,” Dawson said. “There is no mention of delays in family courts, for example, when a birth parent opposes an adoption, these delays are outside the remit of local authorities.
“The country needs more money for public services and more social workers, not knee jerk target setting. Yes, reduce bureaucracy, but not at the expense of the child. They have a right both morally and legislatively to have the best outcome possible in terms of being matched with the right family for them,” he said.
“It is no good focusing on quick fixes, we need more training for adopters, more money in support services, and most importantly, more social workers,” he added.
Dawson also accused the government of taking a “colour blind” approach to adoption, which he said will not be in children’s best interests, and of sweeping the issue of adoption breakdowns under the carpet.
- Register now for our conference on March 29 which will explore the implications of the government’s adoption reforms: Adoption Reform: Establishing stable, secure and supportive family environments
How adoption social work is likely to change: a special report.