Council ‘snobbery’ putting off potential adopters, Education Secretary warns

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has called for an end to “narrow-mindedness” and “snobbery” during the adoption process amid claims it is putting off potential adopters.

The Education Secretary has called for an overhaul of the adoption process. Picture: Parliament UK
The Education Secretary has called for an overhaul of the adoption process. Picture: Parliament UK

He says that councils are making “too many lifestyle judgements” which is restricting the number of adoptive families available to find permanent homes for children in care.

There are currently 2,400 children waiting for adoption, according to latest government figures but only around 1,800 approved adopters.

Families that rent are being turned away as are potential adopters with a different ethnicity to children being considered for a permanent home, Williamson states citing anecdotal evidence received by DfE while highlighting latest figures by Coram gathered from local authorities.

“When it comes to adoption, what we have seen over a number of years is something I can only call narrow mindedness or even snobbery,” said Williamson.

“For example, some local authorities make it harder to adopt if you rent your home rather than own it, or if you’re not a perfect ethnic match. These outdated messages are putting off people who would otherwise come forward when the only qualification you need is the ability to love and care for a child.

“I am urging local authorities to help us break down these barriers so that we can unite more children with the families they deserve so much.”

A statement from DfE added: “There is no acceptable reason why adopters should be blocked from registering simply because there are no children of the same ethnicity waiting to be adopted."

Next month a government campaign, targeting religious and community groups, is to launch in London and Birmingham to “encourage more potential black and other minority ethnic adopters to come forward”, according to the DfE.

Williamson's comments coincide with National Adoption Week (12-18 October).

He added that the shortfall in approved adopters meant that children awaiting a permanent home are being “bounced around the system”.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would provide an extra £6.5m to councils and voluntary adoption agencies to help adoptive families facing stress amid the Covid-19 health crisis.

Williamson has also announced a further £2.8m in funding for voluntary adoption agencies to ramp up the recruitment of adopters amid the pandemic.

Maggie Jones, chief executive of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies welcomed the additional funding.

“It has enabled us to continue our vital work supporting hundreds of adoptive families at a time of great stress and preparing new adoptive parents to provide forever, loving homes for many children who need them," she said.

“VAAs provide a quarter of all adoptive placements and the choice they offer is particularly important for the black and minority ethnic communities with whom we work. We really appreciate the confidence the government has shown in VAAs and we will continue working with partners across the social care system to create positive futures for our most vulnerable children.”

Meanwhile, Krish Kandiah, founding director of fostering and adoption organisation Home for Good, said he was “encouraged” by Williamson’s comments around addressing racial disparity in adoption.

“We are grateful for the funding that the government has made available for this work,” he added.

“We recognise that lasting change is a marathon and not a sprint, so greatly look forward to working together to find a loving, safe and permanent family for every child who needs one.”

Javed Khan, chief executive at Barnardo's said: “In these uncertain times emergency funding is vital in ensuring Barnardo’s and other voluntary adoption agencies can continue finding forever families for vulnerable children.

“However, we are concerned that the pandemic is likely to increase pressure on the care system, with our own foster services already facing a significant increase in demand.

“In the longer term we need a step change in support for children who cannot live with their birth families. This includes further support for children and their adoptive parents, support for relatives providing care, and better matching systems to ensure all children find the right family as soon as possible.

“The government has already promised a review of the care system and this must now progress with urgency, so it can respond to any increase in demand as a result of the pandemic and help ensure more children in care achieve a positive future.”

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