Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A statistical analysis of recent adoption trends, and the pursuit of a financial agenda

The government has today published the latest round of adoption statistics for England and Wales.  These focus on Quarter 3 of 2012-2013.  The patterns emerging are identified in the Department for Education’s Quarterly Adoption Survey.

The report examines data collected through a voluntary survey, covering the characteristics of children who were at any stage in the adoption process, and the timelines of their journey.    

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                  the time from a child entering care to placement with adoptive parents saw a 7% decrease (around 43 days) between quarter 4 of 2011-12 and quarter 1 of 2012-13.

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 doubt, the positive aspects of the statistics from Quarter 3 of 2012-13 will be used by the government as demonstrative of its commitment to improving the adoption process.  I have looked at whether there is any substance to that expressed commitment in real terms in a couple of recent blogs – here and here.
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.

This blind rush towards adoption as the only “good” outcome is starting the have a pernicious effect.  In my day-to-day practice, I’m seeing instances of local authorities advocating adoption as the only solution, and not even paying lip-service to other alternatives.  Speaking with other practitioners, it appears these are not isolated occurrences.  This is hardly surprising, when the local authority’s government paymasters make it plain that the adoption agenda must be pursued over all others, and that continuing funding is dependent on arbitrary targets being achieved.  I’d be interested to hear from others whether they have had similar, or indeed different, experiences.    

Hearkening back to a theme I looked at last week, I’d like to see an analysis of the support provided to adoptive parents by local authorities after adoption.  What happens once the spotlight is no longer shining on the process?  What help are families actually being offered to adjust in the aftermath of the adoption order?  How many adoptions break down subsequently due to lack of effective support?  For obvious reasons, I doubt these are statistics the government will be looking to collate and publish any time soon. 

1 comment:

  1. The government has today published the latest round of adoption statistics for England and Wales . feng shui