£200m adoption boost

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Adoptions are to be fast-tracked with a £200m overhaul announced by education secretary Nicky Morgan.

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DfE: The changes would make it a legal requirement to ‘prioritise lifelong stability for vulnerable children’.

Rates have plummeted over the last two years with courts and councils granting around half the usual number of adoptions. Prime Minister David Cameron has previously pledged a push for numbers to rise. 

The ‘important and urgent’ moves will help deliver the Government’s commitment to ‘extend opportunity to everyone and make sure every single child gets the best start in life’, the Department of Education claims.

The changes will mean children can be matched with the right family with fewer delays, according to the DfE.

The multimillion pound boost is aimed at breaking down bureaucratic barriers in the adoption system that can lead to children waiting in care for months longer than necessary, claims the department.

The DfE said the changes would make it a legal requirement to ‘prioritise lifelong stability for vulnerable children’.

This will be achieved by setting up new Regional Adoption Agencies to improve the recruitment of adopters. The cash will also fund improved matching and skills of social workers, strengthen voluntary adoption agencies, cut bureaucracy, and expand the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) allowing families access to therapies from day one, it is claimed.

Courts and councils have sometimes been short-termist in their decision-making, said the DfE, resulting in children being placed in temporary homes that do not adequately aid recovery from emotional trauma or see youngsters through until they are 18.

Ms Morgan said, ‘Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough. We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.

‘That’s why we are changing the law on adoption to make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability and happiness, so that children are placed with their new family as quickly as possible, helping them fulfil their potential and get the very best start in life.’

Children and families minister Edward Timpson, who grew up with 90 fostered brothers and sisters including two adopted siblings, said he had ‘seen first-hand the benefits adoption can provide, where it is in a young person’s best interests’.

He added, ‘Where adoption is in the best interests of the child, we must make sure they are matched quickly with carers who are right for them – those who can provide love and care for a vulnerable young person until their eighteenth birthday and into adulthood.’

While welcoming the changes, children’s charity and adoption agency Coram called on the Government to improve families’ access to support funding, and to increase a fee paid to authorities when they place a child.

Jeanne Kaniuk, managing director of the charity’s adoption services, said, ‘Children in the care system are there because they have experienced profound adversity and damage.  We commend the courage of the Government in ensuring that legislation strengthens these children’s entitlement to lifelong stability and need for reparative parenting in decisions around where they should live.

‘We therefore encourage Government to enable more direct access to the Adoption Support Fund and review the level of the Inter-agency Fee to reflect the reality of providing the highest quality and consistency of services to adopters and children - no matter where they live or which kind of agency/service is supporting them.

Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson MP, also welcomed ‘any moves that help to improve the adoption system’ but slammed the Government’s recent record, claiming ‘ministers are failing on their own terms’.

She added, ‘More must be done to help all children in care and instead of putting all of their eggs in one basket, the Government should look at the care system in the round and not ignore other forms of care provision such as kinship care and fostering which can provide a loving home for many more children.’

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