Government publishes controversial map of adoption ‘hotspots’

From today, prospective adopters will be able to see which local authorities have the highest number of children waiting for adoption

The government has published a map of so-called adoption ‘hotspots’ to show prospective adopters which areas have the most looked-after children waiting to be adopted.

It is hoped the move – part of the government’s ongoing package of adoption reforms, designed to speed up the adoption process – will encourage people to find out how many children are waiting for adoption in their area.

The heat map the number of looked-after children waiting for adoptive families per local authority.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson said the tool, unveiled today along with a telephone information line staffed by adopters, will “arm would-be adopters with the information they need to approach any local area”.

“We know many potential adopters out there can provide children with loving, stable homes but simply don’t know where to start,” Timpson said. “These new tools will give many more people support in taking the first steps to adopting a child.”

‘A simplistic approach and a crude measure’

Social workers and directors of children’s services are less than impressed by the map, however.

Bridget Robb, acting chief of the British Association of Social Workers, said the map suggests ministers are “obsessed with gimmicks aimed at ‘exposing’ an apparent world of local authority failure to find good homes for children”.  

“It is welcome to help signpost potential adopters to services that could help them to eventually take a child into their lives, but talk of ‘hotspots’, areas where children are spending the longest time ‘waiting for new homes’, is yet another example of this government’s simplistic approach to an incredibly complex subject,” Robb said.

Andrew Webb, vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the map is a “crude measure”.

“While we understand the rationale for this map, it is not a proportionate analysis and cannot be used to judge “good” or “bad” authorities. The Department for Education have stated that it is not a judgement on local authority performance and should not be used as such. The map does not give a full illustration of a complex and moving picture,” Webb said.

The telephone information line is operated by First4Adoption and funded by the DfE. As well as information and advice, prospective adopters will be able to use the service to find out what entitlements to adoption support they may have.

Timpson also announced that the government will launch the National Gateway for Adoption website later this year. It is intended for those navigating the first stages of the adoption process, and making the decision of whether to adopt.

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