Overhaul to adoption system needed, says Williamson

To mark National Adoption Week, the Education Secretary has called for an overhaul of the ‘overly bureaucratic’ adoption system.

Gavin Williamson said that ‘too many lifestyle judgements’ are made on potential adopters, with the consequence that there are not enough adoptive parents to go around. The shortfall is resulting in children being ‘bounced around the system’ as they wait for a family, he added.

New figures show that there are currently around 2,400 children waiting for adoption but just over 1,800 approved adopters who are ready to give them a home.

The government is committing £2.8 million in funding for Voluntary Adoption Agencies, which will allow them to continue to deliver their adoption activities during the pandemic, including recruiting adopters to be matched with children waiting. £6.5 million was provided to local authorities and regional adoption agencies to help adoptive families facing greater stress during the coronavirus pandemic.

Williamson said: “When it comes to adoption, what we have seen over a number of years is something I can only call narrow mindedness or even snobbery. For example, some local authorities make it harder to adopt if you rent your home rather than own it, or if you’re not a perfect ethnic match. These outdated messages are putting off people who would otherwise come forward when the only qualification you need is the ability to love and care for a child. I am urging local authorities to help us break down these barriers so that we can unite more children with the families they deserve so much.”

Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils are committed to finding loving homes for all children who need them, including encouraging people of all backgrounds and circumstances to come forward to adopt if they are able to provide loving, stable homes. Progress has been made in recent years, with delays cut significantly and the Adoption Support Fund providing invaluable support to families, including preventing adoption breakdowns.

“In the face of significant funding reductions, large increases in the number of children needing help and working through government-mandated reorganisations of the adoption system, councils and their voluntary sector partners have continued to do all they can to ensure that children are safe and in loving permanent homes.

“Finding the right match for a child is not simple, and councils and their partners rightly take a holistic view of children in their care to make sure they thrive in their forever home and do not go through the trauma of an adoption breakdown. For many children, placement with a family of the same ethnic background is exceptionally important for cultural and identity reasons, and this must not be overlooked.

“We must also remember that adoption is not right for every child in care and for this reason we must continue to invest in the full range of permanency options, including foster care, kinship care and children’s homes. We call on the government to use the forthcoming Spending Review to fully resource children’s social care to ensure every child can be found a loving, stable home, whatever their needs.”