There are currently around 4,000 children in the UK waiting for a family. The Government wants to increase the numbers of children being adopted and to reduce delays. On average, children wait almost two years between entering care and finding a family. In 2012, the Department for Education published 'An Action Plan for Adoption: Tackling Delay'. The Children and Families Bill responds to issues raised, including:
- 'fostering for adoption' so that children are placed sooner with the families that are likely to adopt them
- ensuring that search for a perfect or partial ethnic match does not become a barrier to finding a child a parent
- creating a new power for ministers to increase adopter recruitment by requiring local authorities to outsource their services to the voluntary sector.
In addition, the Government has launched the First4Adoption Information line (0300 222 0022) to guide people through the adoption process, including the range of approaches to family finding, such as: Be My Parent magazine, available in print and online (http://www.bemyparent.org.uk/); Adoption Exchange Days, (http://www.adoptionregister.org.uk/site/page.aspx?pid=49) and Adoption Activity Days (http://www.baaf.org.uk/ourwork/activitydays).
The Government also proposes to improve services and support for adoptive families so that:
- from 2015, statutory adoption pay and leave will be brought in line with maternity/paternity
- from September 2014, adopted two-year-olds will be given the offer of early education
- adopted children will be given priority in school admissions
- from spring 2013, the Adoption Passport will set our families' entitlements to services and support
- from summer 2013, families will be offered personal budgets so that they can have more control over the type of support they wish to receive.
These reforms have broadly been welcomed. However, David Holmes, from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said that while decisions needed to be made quickly, they had to be right for the children: '[These] are decisions that will reverberate for the rest of the child's life. And we need to make sure that when we find families for children, they're families that are going to last.'