Councils praised for 45% rise in children placed for adoption

Good news for adoption rates and recruitment, but ADCS stresses adoption is "not just a numbers game"

The number of children placed for adoption in England has nearly doubled over the last year, according to research by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

Andrew Webb, president of the association, said the data – based on responses from 139 local authorities in England – shows the “real progress” councils are making to increase adoptions nationally. He said the figures, released today, were good news for children and prospective adopters alike and reveal an adoption landscape that is “brighter than many predicted”.

The number of children placed with adoptive families, but without a formal adoption order, rose by 45% between March 2012 and March 2013, according to the association’s research.

Local variation in number of children waiting

There are, however, still 3,884 children waiting to be adopted across the 139 authorities that responded, and 1,400 adopters waiting. These numbers varied greatly across councils, with one reporting 177 children waiting to be adopted and another reporting just one child waiting. Similarly, one authority had no adopters waiting, while another reported 115 waiting.

The research also revealed positive news on adopter recruitment, with local authorities predicting they would be working with at least 4,600 adopters a year by the end of March 2014 an increase of 53%. This is the number required by the Department for Education to clear the backlog of children waiting within three years.

Surge in adopter recruitment

The 121 councils who responded to questions about recruitment said they intended to recruit a total of 4521 adopters themselves and purchase 668 approved adopters from voluntary adoption agencies.

“The existing strong relationship between local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies must continue in the future in order to ensure that adopter shortages are addressed,” Webb said. “The ADCS encourages local authorities to work closer with each other and voluntary adoption agencies to ensure the progress of the last 12 months is built on in the next 12 months too.”

ADCS: Adoption “not just a numbers game”

But Webb also pointed out that although councils are working hard to speed up the adoption process and increase the pool of suitable adopters, it is “not simply a numbers game”. This is likely to be welcomed by adoption social workers, many of whom have raised concerns that the government’s adoption agenda risks valuing speed over the quality of placements.

“Each and every child waiting for a new permanent family must be matched with one that can meet their needs”, Webb added. “Understanding the trends and patterns of the profiles of children being placed for adoption is absolutely vital and we must work hard to not only increase absolute numbers of adopters but also to also increase the diversity of those coming forward.”

He recognised that one way of encouraging potential adopters to come forward is by providing and funding appropriate post-adoption support, saying access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in particular is vital.

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