The children waiting three years to be adopted: Youngsters enduring long waits despite Government attempts to reduce bureaucracy
00:24 GMT, 1 December 2012
Battle: The adoption process is still too long-winded
Children seeking adoption continue to languish in care for up to three years in some local authorities, official figures revealed yesterday.
Delays mean that youngsters endure an average wait of almost 21 months despite Government attempts to reduce bureaucracy.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson yesterday warned the slowest councils they ‘must do better’.
The delays were made public in a second set of adoption scorecards, which show how quickly children were adopted between April 2009 and March 2012.
They highlighted ‘continued and significant differences’ in the time councils take to place children from care into the families of prospective adopters.
In 15 authorities across England, the process lasts 16 months or less but 28 councils take two or more years. The average time was 636 days.
The worst offender, Kensington and Chelsea, takes on average 1,082 days or almost two years and ten months.
It is followed by Wolverhampton (936 days); Lambeth in south London (933) and East Riding of Yorkshire (885 days).
In the best authority, West Berkshire, the process takes 405 days or around 13 months.
The scorecards show that 63 councils missed the 21 month target for the average time it takes from a child being taken into care and moving in with an adoptive family.
In May, when the scorecards were first published, 59 councils failed to hit this threshold.
The new data shows that 48 missed another target regarding the average time between a council receiving court approval to place a child and then deciding on an adoptive family match.
Thirty-seven councils failed to meet both thresholds including Doncaster, Birmingham, Essex, Rotherham and Rochdale.
Mr Timpson, who has two adopted brothers, said that children awaiting adoption deserve to be placed with loving families more quickly.
He said: ‘It’s crucial that we make sure that paperwork and processes do not lead to unnecessary delays.
‘It is not acceptable that children wait several hundred days longer to be placed with adoptive families in some areas of the country. The slowest councils must do better.’
Sad: Despite the government attempting to cut bureaucracy, delays are ongoing in the adoption process
He added: ‘This data allows those who want to adopt to see which areas are working well. It also shows where the best practice is.
‘I hope in the long term scorecards will help to improve performance and place children in care with adoptive families, so that they have the chance of realising their full potential.’
John Simmonds, director of policy research and development at the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, said: ‘At the heart of the scorecards are children in the most vulnerable of circumstances.’
Councillor David Simmonds, (cor) chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: ‘Local authorities acknowledge that there is variation in performance across the country and recognise that at times the system has been risk averse in order to comply with the requirements of the legal system.
‘We are committed to tackling this and want to work with government to remove barriers that delay decisions’
The next adoption scorecards will be published next autumn.
The Government is reforming adoption to make the process swifter and place more children with loving families.
In July, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an overhaul which will enable youngsters to move in with their possible future permanent families before lengthy legal procedures are finalised.
Last year only 3,050 children in the care system were adopted, among them just 60 babies under a year old, the lowest total since 2001.