In its response to the Adoption and Fostering: Tackling Delay consultation, the government has outlined measures to ensure adopters are approved more quickly and to overcome blockages in the legal system that slow the adoption process.
Changes include a two-stage approval process for adopters to ensure the majority of adopters are approved to adopt within six months. A fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt will also be introduced.
There will be a legal obligation on all adoption agencies to refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register within three months of approval, and ensure information on children waiting to be adopted is kept up to date.
Minister for children and families Edward Timpson said prospective adopters had been dissuaded from adopting children in the past because of delays.
“So we’re overhauling the system to encourage more people to adopt, and making it swifter, more effective and robust,” said Timpson.
“The Children and Families Bill will place a new duty on local authorities to inform adopters about the support available to them."
According to research published by the DfE in March, about 658,000 people feel they are very likely or certain to consider adopting at some point in the future, but may be put off by misconceptions about the process, including lack of support.
Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services welcomed the introduction of the two-stage adoption process.
“The pilots of the new two-stage adoption process have shown the process to be quicker and will allow local authorities to assess up to 50 per cent more adopters with the same level of resources whilst remaining sufficiently rigorous and robust,” he said.
However, Janet Grauberg, director of strategy at Barnardo’s, also warned that the measures announced would fail to deliver results if the government went ahead with proposals to outsource local authorities’ adoption recruitment and approval services.
“Councils currently recruit around 80 per cent of adopters, yet government is threatening to shut down this recruitment stream,” said Grauberg.
“Common sense dictates that prohibiting local authorities from sourcing adopters will not increase numbers of adoptive parents. To source more adoptive parents, all means of recruitment must be allowed to work in tandem with each other.”
Alongside the changes, the DfE has developed an online guide that explains the support available to adoptive parents.
Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopters is intended to help adopters understand services provided by local authorities, such as access to counselling, training and financial provision.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, described the guide as a “step in the right direction”.
“But we want to see post-adoption support become a statutory right at any point when it is needed by adoptive families,” she added.
Her call was echoed by John Simmonds, director of policy and practice at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. He said the government needed to invest more to provide broader support services for adoptive parents and families.