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Councils told to focus on adoption for children in care

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is asking councils to review their practices following a drop in the number of assessments recommending adoption as the best option for a vulnerable child.

The Department for Education (DoE)  has also published new advice for councils today which it says makes clear that age, income, sexual orientation and marital status should not be used as reasons to turn away prospective adopters.

Instead, councils are being urged to prioritise adopters’ ability to provide a stable, loving home and whether they would provide the best environment for a young person to grow up and flourish in.

This comes amid concerns that prospective adoptive parents are being turned away despite the law being clear they are eligible. Education secretary Gavin Williamson said:

‘Adoption can transform the lives of children waiting in care for a permanent, loving home. I applaud the hard work and commitment of the social workers who dedicate themselves to giving children the kind of home environment that many of us take for granted and urge them not to shy away from putting children forward for adoption.

‘As long as adoptive parents can offer love, care and the stable home every child in care deserves, I want them to be considered. This government will continue building on the increased support we are giving new adoptive families by making it clear to every council that if they think it is in the best interest of the child, I will back them 100% in recommending adoption.’

In a letter sent by Children and Families minister Michelle Donelan to every director of Children’s Services in the country, the government has backed councils to prioritise adoption, and challenged the myths that exist around who can or cannot adopt a child. She said:

‘Since becoming Minister, I have been struck by the incredible work that social care professionals do to protect and support children in care – but too many children are still waiting for a home to give them the stability they desperately need and together we must do more.

‘There are a number of misconceptions about who can and cannot adopt that I worry are putting off potential adoptive parents. Neither age, ethnicity nor sexual orientation should be a barrier to adopting; what matters is the love and protection a parent can provide. That is why I have written to councils asking them to make sure they are following the law correctly so that no-one is wrongly excluded.’

A spokesman for the DoE said 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.

As a result, health bosses say that more than £1 million will be provided for Regional Adoption Agencies, working with voluntary organisations around the country, to run recruitment campaigns in 2020 aimed at finding adoptive families for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) children.

The regional recruitment drives will have a particular focus on finding families for these children, as well as groups that the system has not previously prioritised, including siblings and older children, helping make sure there are enough adopters around the country and helping reverse the trend in data swiftly.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA) said it is vital that all parts of the system work well together to ensure children’s needs are met.

‘Councils share the Government’s ambition to make sure that children in care have stable, loving homes, including through adoption where appropriate, however we don’t believe that any one form of permanence is superior to others. What is most important is that children’s needs and their voices are at the centre of any decision made about their futures.

‘Whichever option is best for a child, it is vital that all parts of the system are working well together, from councils and adoption agencies to the family courts, and we are keen to work with the Government to make sure this operates as well as it should.

‘Councils have long welcomed applications from people of all backgrounds who are interested in adoption, and will continue to support those who are able to provide a loving, stable home for a child in care.

‘Additional funding for Regional Adoption Agencies to recruit prospective adopters is good news, as is the extension of the Adoption Support Fund which has helped so many families. We urge the Government to also consider investing in the recruitment and support of foster carers to make sure that we have the most suitable placements available for all children.’

Sue Armstrong-Brown, Chief Executive of Adoption UK, said:

‘Adoption is a critical route out of care for children who can’t return to their birth families and I welcome the government’s renewed commitment to ensuring the adoption sector is fit for purpose.

‘This means investing to value adopters and the love and stability they provide for the most complex and vulnerable children in society. Adoption changes lives and adoptive families deserve lifelong support.

‘Adoption UK stands ready to work with RAAs and the government to help ensure that adoptive families thrive.’

Photo credit – Pixabay

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