Figures published by the Adoption Leadership Board show that 740 placement orders were granted between October and December 2014, compared with 780 in the previous three months (July to September 2014).
Numbers have more than halved since the three months between July and September 2013 when 1,550 orders were made.
The falls have been blamed on a ruling made in September 2013 by Sir James Munby in the case of Re B-S in which he criticised the “sloppy practice” of social workers and said that local authorities must provide evidence that all alternatives to adoption had been considered before bringing a case to court.
The figures for the most recent quarter come despite attempts to clarify the situation and buck the trend.
In November, the Adoption Leadership Board issued “myth-buster” guidance to provide local authorities with clarification about recent court judgments on adoption and what that means for social work practice.
The number of children waiting to be adopted has also fallen, dropping by more than a third in the space of nine months.
As of 31 December 2014, there were 2,960 children waiting to be adopted. This compares with 4,680 children waiting as of 31 March 2014 – a decrease of 37 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of people registering to adopt children has fallen by nearly a quarter in the space of three months.
Registrations to become an adopter have decreased by 24 per cent from 1,340 between July and September 2014 to 1,020 between October and December 2014.
Andy Leary-May, chief executive of Adoption Link – a social enterprise that works on behalf of local authorities to match children with registered adopters – said that some agencies are “turning adopters away” because they do not have sufficient numbers of children to place with them.
“Agencies are pulling back on recruitment and are starting to turn adopters away,” he said. “It is because the rate of placement orders being granted by the courts has dropped so much.”
Andy Elvin, chief executive of fostering and adoption charity The Adolescent and Children's Trust (Tact), said the issue is whether children are being denied access to permanent, stable and appropriate families due to the fall in adoption placement orders.
"The equivalent rise in special guardianship orders (SGOs) suggest that children who might previously have been subject to intra-family adoptions are now placed within extended family on SGOs," he added.
"The wider challenge is whether we are getting permanence right quickly enough for all looked-after children.
"The numbers of children who still endure multiple placements would suggest we still have a lot of work to do and it is that we should focus on rather than forensically focusing on adoption numbers.
"Adoption is an excellent permanence outcome for some children, but so is permanent foster care, SGO’s within extended family or with foster carers and, in some cases, residential care”