Sonja Anker For Avadis & Co. Solicitors
A new plan published by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is aimed at providing more children the chance to find a new family, and to accelerate the adoption process so that they are able to get into a permanent and caring home as soon as possible. This plan is only supposed to be the first step in wide reforms set to be put in place by the government in order to improve children’s opportunities in life.
The need for a reform seems urgent considering that the number of adoptions has fallen dramatically over the last 2 years; having over the last decade never been lower. Reasons for these numbers include the mere bureaucracy that would keep Local Authorities from giving children new homes, under circumstances where suitable families are indeed available.
The government now seeks to introduce a new system that advances the process of adoption whilst at the same time ensuring accountability of councils and agencies when causing delays.
Firstly, the plan proposes to enlarge the number of possible adopters by providing a nationwide point of contact in the form of a hotline or website, where those who are considering adoption can easily inform themselves with regard to all facets of the decision. Also, with support of a £14 million practice and innovation fund, local agencies are expected to establish more effective methods in terms of actually placing the children. While the assessment of first-time adopters will be limited to 6 months, second-time adopters shall proceed through a fast-track in the future.
To make sure agencies do not delay the process, the government will monitor the work of local authorities by introducing scorecards that will indicate how fast and effectively they have matched children to families.
Furthermore, the government also aims to amend the law in order to clarify that adoption placements should always be given preference by courts and councils, when deciding where to place a child. As long as this decision is in line with the child’s best interests, the new criteria shall give rise to choosing adoption over short-term placements that cannot provide as much stability and guidance.