It was revealed that the number of babies adopted in England fell to just 60 last year – compared to 3,660 under one year olds in care – according to the latest statistics from the Department for Education. Children are now waiting two years and seven months on average before being adopted with the process taking over three years in a quarter of cases.
‘An increase in care numbers, coupled with another consecutive drop in adoption rates and of children being placed for adoption is deeply worrying,’ commented Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie. ‘Everyone involved in the care system needs to be braver and should “act fast” to place children with a new permanent family when it is clear that even with support the child’s birth family is not going to change and cannot cope.’ She argued that it was ‘imperative that decision making is sped up at every stage of the adoption process, as we know that by the time a child is four years old they already have a far lesser chance of being adopted than a baby’.
You can read Liz Fisher Franks’ blog here.
Meanwhile, ministers promised a review of adoption practices to ensure that black children are not left to languish in the care system. In a speech to Conservative party conference in Manchester, the prime minister David Cameron announced a ‘new focus on the 65,000 children in care’. The government’s adoption adviser Martin Narey said that it was ‘no urban myth’ but black children were ‘three times less likely to be adopted than white children’. Narey continued: ‘ Over time, a practice has developed where there is a great emphasis on finding a cultural and ethnic match for non-white children. This despite the fact that Tony Blair issued guidance to local authorities in 2000 asking for no ethnic considerations to be made.’
From the Department of Education:
- 65,520 looked after children at March 2011 (2% up from 2010 and 9% since 2007;
- 27,310 children started to be looked after during the year ending March 2011 (a decrease of 3% from the previous year but an increase of 14% from 2007); and of these 27,310 children 35% were classed as being taken into care;
- 3,050 looked after children were adopted during the year ending March 2011, 5% down from 2010 and 8% since 2007;
- For those children who started to be looked after during the year the main reason why they were provided with a service was because of abuse or neglect (54%). This percentage has increased each year since 2008 when 48% of children were.
You can find the DoE release here.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award