Education & Family

Adoption: PM unveils 'foster to adopt' plan

baby
Image caption Babies need a stable loving home as early as possible, ministers say

New-born babies being taken into care should be fostered by people who want to adopt them, the prime minister has said.

David Cameron has said the law in England will be changed to encourage more councils to do this - so more babies can find a loving home earlier.

He says it is "shocking" that so many babies taken in to care at one month wait 15 months to be adopted.

The government has pledged to simplify and speed up the adoption process.

It wants babies to be placed with prospective adoptive parents before the courts have decided to remove them permanently from their natural parents.

This is already being done by some councils, such as Harrow , which is working with the Coram children's charity.

In some cases, there might be disappointment for those trying to adopt, because the courts might eventually decide to return the child to its natural parents.

Most often, children are moved from foster carers to adoptive parents once the courts have decided that the child should be adopted - a process that often takes more than a year.

On average, a child waits two years and seven months to be placed with an adoptive family.

Last year ministers highlighted figures which showed that of the 3,660 children under the age of one who were in care in England in 2010-11, only 60 were adopted.

Damaging disruption

David Cameron said: "Children's needs must be at the very heart of the adoption process - it's shocking that we have a system where 50% of one-month-old babies who come to the care system go on to be adopted but wait 15 months to be placed in a permanent, loving home.

"These new plans will see babies placed with approved adopters who will foster first, and help provide a stable home at a much earlier stage in a child's life. This way, we're trying our very best to avoid the disruption that can be so damaging to a child's development and so detrimental to their future well-being."

The legal change is supported by the government's adoption adviser Martin Narey, who said he had seen the "fostering for adoption" scheme work well in East Sussex.

People who wanted to adopt would be prepared to take the risks involved, he said, "because they know how important early stability is to a neglected child".

'Early permanence'

"This development is great news for adopters and even better news for neglected and abused children and infants."

Local councils say finding permanent families earlier can increase stability and reduce delays for some children, but that it is also vital to find more people willing to foster and adopt.

Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said: "Some good local authorities are already taking steps to place children with families who will become adopters earlier in the child's journey to adoption.

"This process will not be right for all children or all adopters, but can offer the benefits of early permanence for some."

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