Councils plan to halve national shortfall of adoptive parents within a year

Council leaders say the proposals mean there is no need for the government to use the power, laid out in the current Children and Families Bill, to remove councils from finding adoptive parents.

Councils have countered the government’s threat to remove them from the process of finding adoptive parents by submitting proposals on how numbers could be increased by 50% within a year.

In a joint letter to children’s minister Edward Timpson, councillors, chief executives and directors of children’s services have outlined plans to work together more closely to match suitable adopters with children in other parts of the country. Such action should halve the current national shortfall (between 2-3000 adoptive parents) by March 2014, the letter claims.

Targeted support work would also focus on speeding up the process of matching children who had spent the longest in care with adoptive parents.

Immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Debbie Jones, said the alternative proposals meant there would be no need for the government to use the power, laid out in the current Children and Families Bill, to remove councils from finding adoptive parents.

She denied councils were afraid of the growth of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) and said they would welcome merged services between VAAs and councils.

She said they were also encouraging the government to explore the benefits of social impact bonds and payment-by-results for the recruitment, training and approving of suitable adopters for disabled children and large sibling groups.

The Local Government Association said if the government continued to try and outsource adopter recruitment it would be a “reckless gamble” that would make things worse for children.

In this councils are backed by many charities and VAAs who argue they are not set up to shoulder the entire burden of finding adoptive parents and such a move would cause chaos.

Janet Grauberg, director of strategy, Barnardo’s pointed out local authorities currently recruited 80% of adopters and it would take more than a decade for the voluntary sector to expand to meet this demand.

“Pursuing a market ideology in this arena risks causing years of delay which is precisely the opposite of what is needed.  The best way to increase numbers of adoptive parents is to allow time for government’s recent reforms to the adoption system to take effect and for voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities to work in tandem with each other, not in competition.”

David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said they had set out an honest appraisal of “what we can do better”.

In return he said the government needed to deliver on its pledge to reduce the legal burden around care proceedings which causes huge delays within the adoption process.

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