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Councils pressed to speed up adoption process

The Government is putting greater pressure on councils to speed up the process of placing a child with adoptive parents, as the national campaign ‘Give a Child a Home’ is launched today.

Ministers could be set to impose a six month target from the parents’ decision to adopt a child, reduced from the current target of 12 months, which itself is only achieved by a few councils, on average. At the moment, children wait on average for two years and seven months before being adopted.

Councils which fail to meet these standards may have their services taken over by more efficient councils, or by an independent agency.

The latest tables show that Hackney in London has the worst rate, with only 43% placed within 12 months – although overall outcomes for children in the borough were relatively good. York had the highest performance, with 100% of children placed within this timeframe.

Prime Minister David Cameron will say at the launch: “It is shocking that, of the 3,600 children under the age of one in care, only 60 were adopted last year – this is clearly not good enough. We will publish data on how every local authority is performing to ensure they are working quickly enough to provide the safe and secure family environment every child deserves.

“We need more people to think about fostering and adoption so, this National Adoption Week, I would encourage anyone who is considering adoption to find out more about whether they could provide a home for a child.”

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: “If they’re not taking notice of us around a whole range of areas in terms of getting more children adopted, speeding the whole process up, making sure they're doing better by children in care and their outcomes, then we will want to put a very strong spotlight on them and say ‘are you really the right one to be running this service?’

“If not, we'll need to get someone in who is going to do a better job for children in the care system.”

However, councils argue that lengthy and complicated court cases slow down the adoption process, as the system demands expert witnesses and a large amount of assessment to be carried out.

The Association of Directors of Children's Services’ president Matt Dunkley told the BBC: “We agree that there are changes required to the adoption process to speed up the recruitment and matching of vulnerable children with potential adopters, as well as the decision that children should be put up for adoption, but not at the expense of depth and quality of decisions that risk adoption breakdown.”

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