A child waits two years and seven months on average to be placed with a new adoptive family, but in Harrow, they’re matched within six months (on average in four months).
With a 5% drop in the number of children adopted in England since 2010, the London council is now blueprinted as the one to follow.
Harrow’s approach focuses on early intervention, swift matching and removal of children from the care system. This also results in a saving of £440,000 a year.
Harrow began improving its services in 2006 in a partnership with children’s charity Coram, gaining access to its pool of prospective parents.
Aware of cases and looking for matches long before they get to the adoption stage, Harrow council makes sure there is always a potential family ready when a decision is made.
The council even has a system pioneered by Coram called ‘concurrent planning,’ where newborn babies go to foster carers while the birth parents are being assessed. If the baby doesn’t return to her birth parents, the foster carers become the adopters so the child is not moved around during crucial developmental stages.
“It’s very effective and means they have a good stable start. We want to be child-centred,” says Peter Tolley, adoption placement manager at Harrow Council.
The adoption process in the UK has been criticised before for its rigid rules, which sees many would-be parents refused.
This is not the case at Harrow, as Peter explained: “We don’t go for the ideal family, but the best family available at the time.”
Mr Narey, former head of Barnardos, recently described Harrow’s approach as “just uplifting.”
He said: “At Harrow they’ve just gripped the whole thing of adoption. They don’t have a single child waiting for adoption who is not already with adoptive carers.
“That’s where it’s going wrong in most of the rest of England; you find that’s rarely the case – as a child is cleared for adoption, they are then waiting for a placement,” he said.