Some of the key themes identified include:
Ø there was a statistically significant decrease (about 18%) in the number of adoption orders between Quarter 4 of 2011-12 and Quarter 3 of 2012-13.
Ø comparing the same periods, there were increases in adoption matches and placements (up 13% and 15%, respectively).
Ø the adoption process for older children, disabled children, children from black or minority ethnic (BME) groups and sibling groups takes longer than the national average.
It takes an extra thirteen months for children aged five or older at placement.
It takes an additional two months if the child is disabled, if the child is considered for adoption as part of a sibling group or for BME children.
Ø in the third quarter of 2012-13 more BME children were placed with adoptive parents compared to the last quarter of 2011-12 (increasing by over 30%).
Ø as at 31 December 2012, there were considerably more children awaiting adoption than there were prospective adopters – about 6,600 compared to 1,800.
Ø applications for approval as prospective adoptive parents increased overall (by 4%) from the last quarter of 2011-12.
Ø approvals of new adopters increased by 25% during the same period.
Ø the timeliness from application to approval and from approval to matching improved across all quarters for adopters.
Data for the period January to March 2013 has recently been collected and the corresponding statistical analysis will be published in Autumn 2013.
No-one could seriously quarrel with the proposition that, where it is the best option for the particular child or children, the process of adoption should move as swiftly and efficiently as possible to that conclusion. However, those working within the process – social workers, guardians, lawyers – caution that adoption is not the only solution for children who cannot live with their parents. There may be children for whom long-term fostering is more appropriate, or whose interests would be best met through an intra-family placement (possibly supported by a special guardianship order).
This is not a popular view with government myrmidons pushing a particular approach in furtherance of a financial agenda. From a central government perspective, adoption is a cheaper alternative than ongoing local authority support. Every child adopted is one less requiring funding, as the baton of financial responsibility passes from the State to the adoptive parents.