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The Adoption Leadership Board has published a briefing paper outlining its views on recent trends in adoption and permanency decision-making.

Andrew Christie, Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board, said: “This paper looks at the recent trends in adoption and highlights some significant differences in the number of decisions for adoption in different areas of the country. This suggests there may be different approaches to planning and decision making for children in different parts of the country.”

“More needs to be done to understand why, in some parts of the country, adoption seems to have been ruled out as an option for children where previously this would have been considered along with other options.”

Data collected by the Adoption Leadership Board suggests that while the fall in decisions for adoption and placement orders seems to have halted, this masks a high degree of variation in decision-making at a local and regional level. In many local authorities there has been a fall in adoption decisions of over 50%; while in other areas there has been a significant increase.

The paper also highlights the 560 children with placement orders that have been waiting for 18 months or more since entering care. This strongly suggests that more needs to be done to find suitable adopters to care for those children whose needs are well known and all too familiar – children with complex health needs or disabilities, children from minority ethnic, cultural, religious and language backgrounds, older children and sibling groups.

Click here to read the briefing paper in full. 

Scott Casson-Rennie, Adoption UK’s Head of Engagement and Delivery, said: “We’ve been aware for some time that agencies and council recruitment of adoptive parents has dropped off as a result of a reduction in online gambling for real money placements. This was inevitable as soon as it became clear that the number of approved adopters waiting was outstripping the number of children coming through for adoption.

“Firstly, it’s worth noting there’s a real postcode lottery around the rise-and-fall in adoption numbers. This is best illustrated by the fact that 30 local authorities have seen placement orders down by 50% or more over the last couple of years - whereas 16 saw an increase of 50% or more over the same time period. This suggests inconsistency in planning and decision-making across different areas of the country. It would good to know the reason behind these disparities.

“Secondly, a crucial point, which cannot be ignored, is that a significant number of children, deemed ‘harder to place’ have been waiting 18 months, or more, since entering the care system. This is why it’s vital that we expel the myth that adoptive parents are ‘no longer needed’. More still needs to be done to recruit adoptive parents who are willing and able to provide a ‘forever home’ for children with complex health needs or disabilities, as well as those from BME backgrounds and sibling groups.

“One of the main stumbling blocks for recruiting such adoptive parents is the perceived, and sometimes real, lack of post adoption support. The Adoption Support Fund has approved almost 11,000 applications – providing adoptive families with millions-of-pounds-worth of funding - since it was set up in 2015. But despite the significant amount of public money that has been made available to adoptive families through the ASF, there’s still a huge amount of need, especially in schools and mental health, which is still not being met.”