Following the unveiling last week of an upcoming review of residential children’s care homes, Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday (2 November 2015) his intentions to implement measures to increase the number of adopted children in England and minimise 'unacceptable' delays in the process.
Reforms to the current system will aim to double the number of children already placed with families as early as possible (10%), ensure stricter regulations are being enforced for local authorities to carry out thorough assessments to confirm that children are being suitably placed (ie not with unfamiliar or distant relatives under Special Guardianship Orders), and encourage the merging of councils in order to provide children with higher chances of being adopted. Currently 140 councils out of 150 nationwide have announced plans to merge, but, using new legislative power under the Education and Adoption Bill, government intervention should ensure that all are included in regional agencies by 2020.
Local authorities will also be required to disclose the number of children who go to live with adoptive families early; it is hoped that this movement will halve the amount of time families currently spend waiting for legal processes to be completed.
On average, the wait for a child to commence living with a ‘forever family’ is 17 months (a decrease of 22.7% since the period 2012/13). Doubling the numbers of councils using early placement schemes at the present time would mean around 500 more children being placed and settled with prospective adopters sooner.
During a visit to children’s charity CoramBAAF, David Cameron yesterday commented on the importance of children being placed with adopters as quickly as possible: ‘It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family – we have made real progress, but it remains a problem.
‘I want to make sure… that children are placed in a loving home as soon as possible, giving them the best chance for a happy and fulfilled life.’
The reforms were welcomed by adoption groups. CoramBAAF’s Director of Policy, Research and Development, John Simmonds, reiterated the significance of speed and efficiency where adoption placements were concerned: ‘When children have been abused and neglected, and local authorities and the courts have to intervene to safeguard them and ensure that they are placed in a stable, secure and loving family, then that must be done with the minimum of delay.’
Carol Homden, chief executive of Coram, was also positive about the plans to speed up the current process: ‘For vulnerable children who have been taken into care, there is nothing more beneficial than being placed as early as possible with a loving family.’
The new measures will be implemented with immediate effect.