A statistical report by Ofsted, published this week, shows that between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013 the number of final adoption orders rose by 332, or 9.6 per cent, compared with 2011/12 figures.
The rise was 198 lower than stated in the Department for Education’s statistical release on looked-after children, published in September, which put the annual rise in adoption orders at 530, 15.3 per cent higher than the previous year.
The Ofsted report, compiled with returns from all 152 local authorities and 32 voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs), found there were 3,782 children adopted in 2012/13, up from 3,450 in 2011/12. The DfE’s earlier statistical report put the latest figure at 3,980.
The Ofsted report recognised the discrepancy between the two sets of figures, but said this could have arisen due to the different way it collects data compared to the DfE.
Increasing the number of adoptions has become a key plank of the government’s policies on children in care, with the prime minister strongly supporting it.
The Oftsed data shows that of the 10,177 children subject to an adoption plan, 4,682 were still waiting to be matched to adoptive families.
The report also reveals that the number of sibling groups placed for adoption rose by 40 per cent: from 680 in 2011/12 to 955 in 2012/13. Despite this rise, the proportion placed together – at 82 per cent – was the same. Five per cent were placed apart despite the assessment stating they should stay together.
In addition, the report highlights the encouraging 18 per cent growth in families approved for adoption, rising from 4,263 in 2011/12 to 5,011 at March 2013. Over half (55 per cent) of these families had children placed with them, seven per cent were matched to children and 38 per cent were still waiting to be matched.
The vast majority (84 per cent) had been approved by local authorities with the remaining 16 per cent approved by VAAs.
There were 27,080 initial enquiries made about becoming an adopter last year, of which around one in five converted into an application. Of these, 4,093 were approved, a rise of 34 per cent on the previous year.
Only 148 of the 4,767 children placed for adoption in 2012/13 experienced a disruption to their placement, a rate of three per cent.
Alan Wood, deputy chief executive of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, said the report contained a mixture of good and bad news.
“The increase in new adopters by nearly a fifth is very encouraging. However, the fact that nearly half of children who have been subject to an adoption plan were still waiting to be matched shows that adopter recruitment must still remain an important area of focus for all those involved in adoption.
“The news that 43 groups of siblings were separated despite an assessment that they should be placed together reflects how important it is to find more people who are able to parent a group of brothers and sisters together, and who understand the rewards and challenges that adoption of single children or siblings offers,” he added.