Among measures proposed will be a new two-stage approval process for adopters, as well as a fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt.
This would mean that fostering agencies would no longer be required to interview a prospective foster parent's personal referees, if the carer has already been approved in the last year and a reference is available from their last fostering service.
The government also wants councils to increase the use of what it calls “fostering for adoption”, which means that prospective adopters act as temporary foster carers to children that they hope to eventually adopt.
The consultation meanwhile recommends introducing new duties on councils, which would require them to refer looked-after children to the adoption register, if a local family cannot be found within three months of the child being put forward for adoption.
Councils would also be subject to a legal requirement to make sure that children’s details on the adoption register are kept up to date.
The government has pledged £8m funding to help councils implement the reforms, which it wants local authorities to spend on redesigning local adoption services and training for professionals.
Edward Timpson, minister for children and families, said his own family experience has taught him that adopting and fostering can transform young lives for the better.
“I want more children in care to have the opportunity of a stable, loving environment where they can reach their full potential, whatever their start in life,” he said.
“Sadly I have come across too many potential adopters who have given up, frustrated by the system and foster carers exasperated by the bureaucracy required for every day tasks.
“Vital safeguards will remain, but no one benefits from pointless paperwork. By cutting back the rules that only hinder I hope that more and more people will come forward to become adopters and fosterers to enrich their own life, as well as the lives of the many children who deserve a decent childhood.”
Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said local authorities work together and share good practice to make the most of the opportunities presented by the government’s adoption reforms.
“Adopters and foster carers provide essential care and support to some of the most vulnerable children in the country,” she said.
“It is important that they are rigorously assessed for their suitability to perform this important job, but once they have been approved, it is right that they are matched with a child as soon as possible and that they can then make day-to-day decisions about the child that they are looking after.
“The proposals to speed up adoption assessment are sound and well-supported by ADCS and other experts in the sector and we will be giving the proposals about foster care careful consideration over the consultation period.”
The consultation closes on 7 December.