Councils named and shamed over slow adoptions


David Cameron: "The current situation is not working"

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Councils who fail to speedily place children in their care with adoptive parents are being named and shamed in new performance league tables.

Currently, local authorities in England are required to organise adoptions for children within 12 months of deciding to do so.

But the process is complex, and children wait an average of two years seven months to be adopted.

David Cameron is promising tough action on those who fail.

This will include enforcing existing powers to strip councils of their responsibilities for adoptions.

The new performance tables rank local authorities on the speed at which their adoptions take place. They also rank them on 14 other measures of how well they are doing on caring for and improving the life chances of children in their care.

Start Quote

With the number of children in the care system at an all-time high, our need for adopters is greater than ever before”

End Quote Hugh Thornbery Action for Children

The Prime Minister said: "It is shocking that of the 3,600 children under the age of one in care, only 60 were adopted last year - this is clearly not good enough.

"So we will publish data on how every local authority is performing to ensure they are working quickly enough to provide the safe and secure family environment every child deserves."

Published for the first time on Monday, the adoption tables show that Hackney has the worst record.

In the east London borough only 43% of children are placed with adoptive parents within 12 months of a decision to do so.

Alan Wood, director of children's services in Hackney, said speedy placements should not be the only consideration upon which authorities are judged.

"We have got one of the best records of stability of placement; hardly any, if any, of our placements ever break down."

He added that Hackney was the fourth best in the country for the educational performance of looked-after children.

Map showing adoption rates in England

Other slow performers include the London Borough of Brent at 52% and Nottinghamshire at 55%.

At the top of the tables is York - the only council which managed to place 100% of children with adoptive parents within the 12-month time frame.

Court hold-up

The average age at which children are adopted is three years and 10 months.

But many experts say adoption cases can be very complicated and need time to be worked through thoroughly. They can also be held up by delays in the courts.

England's adoption adviser Martin Narey, the former head of Barnardo's, is working with local councils to help them improve their adoption services. This includes overhauling the assessment process for those wishing to adopt.

Singer and adoptive parent Sinitta said the adoption process was ''quite gruelling''

Children's Minister Tim Loughton suggested if councils were not performing well enough services would be privatised.

"If they're not taking notice of us around a whole range of areas in terms of getting more children adopted, speeding the whole process up, making sure they're doing better by children in care and their outcomes, then we will want to put a very strong spotlight on them and say 'Are you really the right one to be running this service?'"

However, the Association of Directors of Children's Services said there were a number of alternatives to adoption which councils were increasingly using.

Its president Matt Dunkley said once these were taken into account, the numbers of children finding a suitable stable placement were rising.

"We agree that there are changes required to the adoption process to speed up the recruitment and matching of vulnerable children with potential adopters, as well as the decision that children should be put up for adoption, but not at the expense of depth and quality of decisions that risk adoption breakdown."

The association argues that these delays are as much a consequence of the court system that demands expert witnesses and endless assessments, as they are about problems in local authorities.

Hugh Thornbery, strategic director of children's services at charity Action for Children, said: "With the number of children in the care system at an all-time high, our need for adopters is greater than ever before."

Matching delays

Andrew, who is due to complete the process of adopting a daughter on Wednesday, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it took him and his wife two years to be matched with a child after they were approved as adoptive parents. He is Irish and his wife is of mixed race.

"Often we were told they were waiting for a more acceptable ethnic match. On one occasion there was a little girl who was part West African, and we were turned down because we had no West African connection," he said.

Chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board Councillor David Simmonds acknowledged there was a variation in performance across councils and recognise that at times the system has been risk averse.

He added: "We want to work with government to change that and remove barriers that delay decisions, including tackling the significant delays in the family courts."

However, the BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti said: "Ministers have focused today on speed. But with one in five adoptions breaking down, support for families in the months after they adopted a child is critical too."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Commenting as a transracially adopted person. The child should come first, however long the process takes, despite whatever inconvenience this causes prospective parents. On previous comments on ethnicity; of course it should be considered when placing a child, the fact that some commenters think that its unimportant really demonstrates just how important it is that they do just that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    As a foster Carer, I always find the adoption process is slowed down by county councils trying to place children on full care orders and available for adoption within their own county prior to looking nationally, I do not understand why there is not a national data base of adoptee's and prospective adopters which is accessed as soon as children are available for adoption.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    I can't believe someone has commented that they don't care how long the approval process takes!!... trust me - you would if you are the one agonising over trying to offer a good home to a child when it takes years for someone to say yes and you know there are children waiting. I'm waiting to get approved and have been going through the process for nearly 2 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    The fostering process also needs addressing, after my husband & I completed the training and were told we and our 2 boys could offer a lovely home to a child we were turned down on the basis that we preferred a girl and my husband was at home while I worked. We were told no local authority would place a girl with the husband as a primary carer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    We tried twice to adopt but the hoops they make you jump through is quite daunting and off putting and makes you doubt youself, with so many visitis and ifs and buts and options in the the end so mixed up - gave up twice! We have our own married daughter with 3 grandchildren so I think given a better system of working we could have adopted quite easily but put of by overbearing social workers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The 'best interests of the child mean' come a poor second when we've got public sector jobs to protect, boxes to tick, and political correctness to observe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    24. westtownwarrior

    What about those of us who have been slandered to the point of potentially losing our children with no justification, just to 'hit targets'.
    agreed - you cannot have targets and you cannot have the profit motive in something like adoption, otherwise the incentive for unscrupulous officials to remove children from stable families is too great.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    So sorry for couples waiting to adopt,they have to jump through hoops to please the social workers. I know that checks have to be made but I'm sure that when it comes to mixed races either the children to be adopted or the couple who are waiting to adopt find it even harder than if it was a white couple adopting a white child, have found this to be so in my own family

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I am an adoptive mother and whilst the process was challenging we were lucky enough to be supported by a fantastic social worker. The process took a year,a short amount of time to ensure that we were 'good enough' parents. This is not reflected nationally and I wonder why the process and selection criteria is so varied between each local authority, with a seeming lack of national standard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Two years and seven months is pretty good going compared to a local authority that took SEVEN and a HALF YEARS to enable us to adopt my daughter. Total incompetence, lack of transparency, obfuscation and other agendas, I hate to think what would have happened if the birth parents had opposed the adoption.
    At least my daughter is really happy now. Social Services are shameful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    There's lots of talk about making sure the child is placed correctly but nothing about the harm in depriving them of a loving stable family existance in their very early years.

    Who thinks the current adoption process in the UK serves the needs of the child fully?

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Any adoptions should be from children in this country not brought in from any other, that way it would be a bit quicker. How come there are so many for adoption, if you dont want a child then stop having them, there is plenty of info on contraception hospitals/health centres etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    I'm puzzled by the received wisdom that children are better off placed with parents of the same race.

    Why would this be so, and has anybody collected data to prove it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    As an ex Foster-Carer I can say, from experience, that these Social Workers (Adoption dept) play 'God'. Their power over prospective parents is awesome and, my goodness, don't they use it. Their delaying tactics such as weeks between important meetings was simple but very effective. Social Services vary from County to County but the Adoption personnel I knew caused heartache all round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Deprived Hackney takes longer than leafy, middle class York - wow, that's a surprise.

    To help things along, Cameron & co. have focussed the worst of the cuts on areas like Hackney.

    I thought all this was supposed to work on 'localism' now? How come lord snooty is still poking his nose in on local matters ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    66. Ellie

    If natural parents were put through the kind of intrusive and insulting treatment that adoptive parents are put through, they would never be able to give birth!
    Many of them are. Just ask anyone who's had child protection proceedings initiated against them.

    It's just that they don't have the resources to go after every parent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    One way would be to automatically offer couples who have failed to concieve during fertility treatment, the chance to adopt without further investigation? They would have become parents, they have shown real comitment to go through the fertility treatment process - surely they should be ideal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I am staggered at the adoption process in this country. Any delinquent can have a child (single or in a couple) of any ethnic mix. The state cannot determine that.

    But above all, how can anyone say that being in care is better for a child even than being in - dare I say it - a sub optimal adoptive family? Let people adopt!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Councils will "wally about" like they normally do, forming committees, employing consultants and doing anything but "get on with it". Eventually, having it taken away from them. Another example of inward looking Councils, out of control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Fostering for some is alleged to be quite lucrative for other perhaps its a moral calling?. I'm not sure what the financial state benefits adoption brings to potential partners! for those in the know will surely provide detail? Personally if taking adoption route you should be subject to the normal ups & downs parenthood brings and enjoy the roller coaster LOL....


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