Only 60 babies were adopted by their first birthday in England this year, according to figures released by the Department for Education. Overall, adoption numbers have fallen by 5%, while the number of children in care waiting for adoption has risen by 9% to 65, 520 - the highest figure since 1987.
Apparently, children in England are now waiting around 2 years and 7 months to be adopted. In a quarter of cases, the adoption process can take over 3 years, reports the Telegraph. But why?
Anne Marie Carrie, the chief executive of children's charity Barnado's, said that the adoption system was partly responsible.
"It's imperative that decision-making is sped up at every stage of the adoption process, as we know that by the time a child is four years old they already have a far lesser chance of being adopted than a baby," said Anne Marie.
If you are over 21 and can provide a permanent, caring and stable home you are eligible to adopt, according to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) But to apply, you need to go through an adoption agency, which can take at least six months for them just to undergo rigorous checks including interviews, references and health examinations, before the process can really go ahead. With the added on time of delays in court, adoption cases can take up to 60 weeks to process, meaning that children under the age of one are almost impossible to adopt.
"It is a tragedy for those people who have come forward who want to be parents and adopt a child. We treat them enormous suspicion, and we set thresholds for people who want to be adoptive parents that frankly mean you and I would not be allowed to adopt our own children," Anne Marie added, reports the Daily Mail.
It's the social workers who decide whether families are eligible to adopt or not, and they are under a great deal of pressure, fully aware of the long-term consequences their decisions could have on the child and everyone involved, according to the Guardian.
While there are of course many families and children who have made it through the adoption system happily, some couples and families are beginning to turn their back on adoption due to its lengthy, and intrusive, process. This means that many children will remain in care for most of their lives
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The Government are determined to change the negative situation, according to children's minister Tim Loughton, and have issued new guidelines to tackle the myths surrounding adoption and encourage prospective parents to step forward.
"Everyone involved in the care system needs to be braver and should 'act fast' to place children with a new permanent family when it is clear that, even with support, the child's birth family is not going to change and cannot cope," added Anne Marie.
"Fostering must be a priority for both local and central government. In particular, it's essential that investment in foster care is protected and, wherever possible, increased, in order to ensure that all children who need it can live with the right foster family," explained Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of The Fostering Network, as reported by the Mail Online.
What do you think about the adoption process? Are you trying to adopt? Please share your stories below.
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