Adoption map launched to encourage would-be adopters
A new map showing the number of children waiting to be adopted in different parts of England has been published by the government.
It is part of a shake-up aimed at increasing numbers of adoptions and speeding up the process.
A hotline for people who want to adopt also opens on Friday.
Both initiatives are aimed at helping people who want to adopt find the information they need.
There are many more children waiting to be adopted than there are people coming forward to adopt and there are wide regional variations.
Ministers want to make it easier for those who are considering adoption to navigate the system.
Children's Minister Edward Timpson said: "We know many potential adopters out there can provide children with loving, stable homes but simply don't know where to start.
"These new tools will give many more people support in taking the first steps to adopting a child and giving them the chance to succeed in life."
The information on the map has already been published on government "scorecards" that list adoption statistics for each council, but the government hopes the map will make it easier for people to get clear information on children waiting to be adopted in their home area and elsewhere.
It shows the numbers of children who have been "approved for adoption" in different parts of England.
As of last March, there were 5,750 children in England waiting to be adopted, government figures suggest.
The telephone hotline - which opens on Friday - is funded by the Department for Education but run by a group of three charities - Coram, Coram Children's Legal Centre and Adoption UK.
It will be staffed by people who have adopted themselves, who will give advice about routes to adoption and the support available.
Later this year a national "Gateway for Adoption" website will be launched, which is designed to be a single point of entry to adoption agencies for people wanting to adopt.
Adoption UK chief executive, Hugh Thornbery welcomed the initiatives.
"We hope this transparency will help address the shortage of prospective adopters in England and reduce the growing number of children in care who are waiting for a stable, permanent and secure home in the form of an adoptive placement," he said.
But he also warned that parents needed support if adoptions of "some of the most vulnerable children in society" were to work.
It is estimated about one in five adoptions breaks down.
Another children's charity warned would-be adopters might mistakenly believe that because their area had a larger number of children, that they might find it easier or quicker to be approved and matched with a child.
Carol Iddon, from Action for Children, said: "Although the map may raise awareness of the numbers of children waiting to be adopted, we must be careful to not unfairly raise expectations of potential adopters.
"It is right that the assessment process for potential adoptive parents should be as rigorous as possible because children and young people being placed are some of the most vulnerable in our society."
The people in charge of adoption and other children's services in England's councils - the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) - say the new map is a "crude measure... which cannot be used to judge 'good' or 'bad' authorities".
Local councils have previously criticised the adoption scorecards as misleading, saying they do not give the full picture.
Andrew Webb, vice president of the ADCS, said: "The map does not give a full illustration of a complex and moving picture, but we hope it will help illustrate that there are still children waiting to be adopted in every part of the country and encourage those who are interested in adoption to come forward".
The information line is 0300 222 0022.