Under government plans featured in the Children and Families Bill being debated in the House of Commons today, the Education Secretary would be able to force councils to outsource the recruitment and assessment of adopters to a voluntary adoption agency.
The LGA and Barnardo’s, which is itself a voluntary adoption agency, say the “draconian measure” would severely damage the prospect of finding families for children and are calling for a rethink.
They have warned MPs that removing councils from the system would “lead to a disjointed and confusing system for potential adopters and could jeopardise recent improvements”.
Instead, they want government to allow time for other recent reforms to improve the system to take effect.
These include a website launched in April that will act as a national “gateway” for prospective adopters, and an Adoption Register that finds homes for children who cannot be placed locally.
David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said improvements have already led to the number of children being placed with adoptive parents almost doubling last year.
“Councils know that there is more to be done, and we have plans in place to reduce the number of children waiting for a loving adoptive home by this time next year,” he said.
“Removing councils from the process of recruiting adopters at this crucial time would be a reckless gamble that risks jeopardising the significant progress being made.”
Councils currently recruit and assess four in every five adopters.
Puja Darbari, UK strategy director of Barnardo’s, said her organisation and other voluntary agencies “play a vital role in recruiting adoptive parents, particularly for those children who are hardest to place”.
“But any blanket move to forcibly remove local authorities from this process is deeply worrying and could lead to a reduction in the total number of adopters,” she said.
“The best way to increase numbers of adoptive parents would be to remove Clause 3 from the Children and Families Bill, enabling voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities to continue to work in tandem with each other, not in competition.”
Other amendments to the bill being sought today include:
- The National Young Carers Coalition and the Children’s Society are calling for young carers to be given equal rights to adult carers.
- The Labour Party wants the current child-to-staff ratios in early years settings to become statutory, after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg aborted plans to change them last week.