Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) show that in the three months between April and June this year, the average duration of care proceedings was 40.8 weeks.
The figure has been falling each quarter since the end of 2011 when it stood at 54.6 weeks, but is still well above the new 26-week limit that is due to come into effect from April 2014.
The new limit is intended to ensure children can be found a home within six months.
The hope is that cutting out delays will mean more children can be found a permanent home quickly, avoiding exposing them to potential risk or harm to their development.
But concerns have previously been expressed that local authorities will struggle to meet it.
The Association of Lawyers for children warned that many councils do not have adequate resources to be able to speed up the process.
However, the MoJ has said that the figure of 40.8 weeks is skewed by a few cases that have been running for a long time.
It states that the median duration – the time within which half the cases are concluded – provides a “more representative measure”, although this is still more than nine weeks above the 26-week target at 35.1 weeks.
Last week, CYP Now revealed that dozens of care proceedings cases initiated more than three years ago remain unresolved.
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) figures show that 33 care applications launched in 2010/11 are still to be closed.
Local courts have also been adopting revised practices, outlined in revised legal guidance, since July.
The revised public law outline changes the current working target of 40 weeks to a strict deadline of 26 weeks.
The 26-week limit is one of a series of reforms to the care system included in the Children and Families Bill, which is currently going through parliament.