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By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor
A new government study published this week reveals significant age and ethnic divisions for children in care awaiting adoption.
It is the first time the government has published adoption and special guardianship national statistics in which data is broken down into volumes, speed of decision making, and the ages and backgrounds of children moving into adoption.
The number of children placed for adoption fell from 2,700 to 2,300 in 2009-10. The figures reveal that black children aged under five wait in care for 1,300 days on average before they are adopted, compared with 955 days for white or Asian children. Overall, black children are three times less likely to be adopted than white children.
Statutory guidance says that a child should be placed within 12 months of the decision that he or she should be adopted. That decision should be made within six months of the child entering care. However, the study reveals that over the last three years on average children were placed for adoption 20 months after entering care.
Forty seven local authorities placed children for adoption within 18 months of entering care, on average, but without necessarily adhering to the timetable for earlier stages of the adoption process. Only five local authorities placed all children in the last three years within 12 months of the decision. Some 40 children nationally (1.4%) were not placed for adoption within three years in 2010.
In certain circumstances, the decision to place a child for adoption can be reversed. The study reveals that for children who were subject to such a reversal last year, the decision was made more quickly for black and minority ethnic children than for white children.
Nationally, there were 120 reversals due to the child's needs changing and 70 reversals where prospective adopters could not be found. Around half of the children whose adoption decision was reversed in the last year, had that decision reversed within two years while 47% waited more than two years and 29% more than three years.
The report supports claims that professional disagreement exists over `same race' placements. In February the government published revised guidance for local authorities on placing children from ethnic minorities in England.
The adoption guidance makes clear that local authorities must not deny children a home with adoptive parents only because they don't share the same ethnic or cultural background. In addition it also makes clear that local authorities should be welcoming enquiries from those wanting to adopt and no person should be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background.
This work provides commentary, checklists, procedural guides and precedents on the subject in a...