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20 December 2012

Tackling adoption delays

Tackling adoption delays

The government has recently made several moves to speed up the adoption process and are planning to change the law to make the process easier this year. For many children in care the adoption process takes too long, and this delay is considered to have a negative impact on their welfare and development.

Right now there are 4,000 children waiting to be adopted and 8,000 more foster families are needed. For thousands of children this Christmas they have nowhere to call home.

Following announcements shortly after the government came to power in 2010 encouraging local authorities to speed up the process this autumn saw the publication of an adoption action plan. This set out proposals for tackling delays in the adoption process, and in particular introducing a new adoption process.

In November the government proposed two draft clauses for forthcoming legislation that would change how ethnicity is considered in the adoption process. The clauses would place a duty on local authorities to give preference to a 'Fostering for Adoption' placement – whereby children are placed for foster care with a potential permanent home. The new clauses would also remove the express duty on adoption agencies to give due consideration to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background. This change represents an increased emphasis on reducing delay when matching children with potential adopters.

During December a House of Lords committee which is examining adoption legislation issued an interim report considering these two clauses and the impact they would have. The verdict of the committee supported the intent of both clauses, to place children in homes more likely to be permanent and not allow issues relating to ethnicity slow down the process. However, the report cast doubt on the need for legislation to achieve these aims.

While children from ethnic minorities tend to have to wait longer to find a permanent home, the committee considered that from the evidence presented to them that such a problem as did exist did not warrant legislative change. Likewise, they suggested wider take up of concurrent planning that enables local authorities and other adoption providers to begin planning for a permanent placement earlier in the care process. The committee will publish a further, full report on adoption legislation in February.

The Evangelical Alliance is committed to helping the church play a role in responding to this ongoing need. In the spring along with Care for the Family and the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service a new campaign called 'Home for Good' will be launched.

The church is uniquely placed to help provide homes for children needing foster care and adoption. As a large social network with involvement of large numbers of families the church can help provide many of the carers needed. Once carers have been through the full process of assessment the church also provides an excellent community of support for families who are adopting or fostering children.

For more information please visit www.eauk.org/homeforgood

   Photo Credit: familylife