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The government has written to directors of children’s services across England urging them to prioritise adoption for children in the care system and to ensure that prospective adopters are not turned away when they are actually eligible.

The Government wants a focus on adoption from all local authorities. In particular, the Government has requested Local Authorities to review their practices. This follows a fall in the number of assessments recommending adoption as the best option for a vulnerable child.

The statistics:-

  • Figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) in December 2019 show that the number of adoptions in England has fallen by a third in the past four years, dropping to 3,570 in the year up to the end of March 2018 from a peak of 5,360 in 2015.

Adoption UK, the national charity for adopters welcomed the approach from the Government. However, critics state that only small minority of children in the care system are suitable for adoption, yet adoption appears to be the top priority as opposed to alternatives, such as kinship care. Andy Elvin, the chief executive of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity, said: “I had hoped that politicians had moved beyond this insulting language and unthinking devotion to adoption.“Children in foster care are not ‘waiting for a permanent, loving home’: they are living in one. Long-term stability is vital and it is achieved in different ways for different children. “For some it is returning to birth parents, for some it is going to live with a relative who has selflessly come forward, for some it is long-term foster care, for some it is residential care and for some it is adoption. There is no hierarchy to these options, it depends on the individual child’s circumstance.”

The Department for Education has published new advice for councils, clarifying that age, income, sexual orientation and marital status should not be used as reasons to reject prospective adopters.

The letter to children’s services directors from Michelle Donelan, the minister for children and families, also states that agencies should not prioritise trying to find the “perfect” ethnic match. The latest data shows that of the 2,700 children waiting for adoption, almost 40% have waited over 18 months. Of these, 24% were from BAME backgrounds.

Cathy Ashley, the chief executive of Family Rights Group, added: “Adoption is the right solution for some children. However, far more children who cannot live with their parents flourish in the care of wider family, yet the latter receives negligible recognition, support or finance.”

Sue Armstrong-Brown, the chief executive of Adoption UK, welcomed the government’s renewed commitment to adoption. “This means investing to value adopters and the love and stability they provide for the most complex and vulnerable children in society.”

At Ramsdens, we regularly act for both children and parents in a variety of Public law proceedings. There is no “one size fits all” approach for children and their families. What is clear however, is that if adoption is determined as being in the best interests of a children, those wishing to adopt should be fairly considered.

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