The former head of the children's charity Barnardo's is to advise the government on adoption in England.
As the first ministerial adviser on adoption, Martin Narey said, he would try to radically increase adoptions and significantly cut the time they took.
In 2009 2,300 children were placed for adoption, compared with 2,500 the previous year, and 3,400 in 2005.
Mr Narey is also concerned that ethnic-minority children remain in care up to three times longer than white children.
This is due to a reluctance to place them with white adopters, he has said.
The government has asked councils and adoption agencies to make adoption "more of a priority" and do everything possible to reduce delays, particularly for older ethnic minority children.
The Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "Barely a week has gone past in the last year when I haven't spoken to parents who have adopted, potential adopters, children in the care system, and children who have benefited from adoption.
"I've been working to address problems in the adoption system for several years, and this has become a priority of the government.
"We now need to step up a gear to help vulnerable children."
He said Mr Narey would visit individual authorities that needed help to increase adoptions and improve the quality and sustainability of placements.
He would also report quarterly to a ministerial advisory group on adoption.
Key aims would be to:
- Raise awareness of the need to increase adoptions in England, where this is in the child's best interest, and reduce delays in the system
- Promote good practice
- Promote stronger collaboration between local authorities, adoption agencies and the courts
- Visit and advise local authorities "who may be struggling with their adoption processes"
- Carry out studies on "aspects of the system causing concern"
Mr Narey said: "Adoption can transform the lives of some of the most neglected children in the UK."