A proposed new law will make “life-long stability” a priority for children in care, and will mean that courts and councils always pursue adoption when it is in a child’s interest.
A major reason for this initiative is to reverse the decline in the numbers being adopted. Over the last 2 years, the number of decisions for adoption made by courts and councils has fallen by almost a half. The government has issued important guidance to make clear that where adoption is in the best interests of the child, they must be placed with their new family as soon as possible.
The government also announced a change to increase the number of children adopted - including the news that the government was considering changing the adoption law to make sure the right decisions are being made - as well as plans to boost regional adoption agencies, allowing councils to merge and cutting the amount of time children spend in care.
This move follows concerns that life-long stability and high-quality care that adoptive families can bring is not always given sufficient weight by councils and courts when they make decisions about where children should live - sometimes focusing on just who can support the child in the short term.
For the first time, the law will explicitly state that councils and courts must prioritise the quality of reparative care the child will need in order to recover from episodes of devastating abuse and neglect, and whether the placement will last through the child’s adolescence.
Increased funding totaling £200 million will also be made available in 2016 to assist professionals to break down bureaucratic barriers in the adoption system which can lead to children waiting in care for months longer than necessary.
The money will:
- see the speeding up of adoptions of harder-to-place children
- support the creation of new regional adoption agencies to improve the recruitment of adopters - and the matching with children
- strengthen voluntary adoption agencies
- ensure social workers have the right knowledge and skills to make robust decisions about the best placements for children
In addition, the Adoption Support Fund will be extended for the next 4 years, so adoptive families can access funding for crucial therapy services from day one of caring for their child, rather than waiting months for the adoption order to be finalised.
The government has also announced plans to change regulations so councils have to carry out more thorough assessments of special guardians to make sure children are in the right home and with the right relatives, rather than distant family members they’ve never met.
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