It was reported by the Department of Education that Adoptions are at their highest since 1992. There were 5050 ‘looked after children’ adopted during the year ending 31 March 2014: this is a 26 per cent increase from 2013 and a 58 per cent increase since 2010.
What is a looked after child?
Under section 22 of the Children Act 1989 a child is ‘looked after’ if they are in the Local Authorities care or provided with accommodation for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, subject either to a Care Order as per S31 of the Children Act 1989 or subject to a Placement Order as per section 21 Adoption and Children Act 2002.
This increase is despite the 47 per cent decrease in ‘Adoption Decision Maker’ decisions between July 2013 and September 2014, as reported by the National Adoption Leadership Board in December of last year following the case of Re B-S. ADM decisions are made in the second stage of adoption when all checks on the prospective adopters have been reviewed and the panel have made their recommendations. It was felt by the Board that the judgement in Re B-S created a great deal of uncertainty and resulted in the release of a myth buster in response to the comments made in the judgement, with the aim of clarifying and de-mystifying the law in this area in the hope that adoption decisions would subsequently rise and thus adoption figures would rise in turn.
Whether adoptions will rise further is yet to be seen but the increase so far has been partly attributed to the Action Plan on Adoption which was published in March 2012 and sought to reduce the time taken for a child to be adopted. The Department of Education reports that the average time from a child initially being taken into care and their adoption has reduced by 2 months. It was further reported that although most looked after children (37 per cent) are aged 10-15, those aged one to four made up the highest proportion of looked after children to be adopted. Research carried out by the Family Finding Study found that placement stability and quality was a significant factor in successful placements and this was largely attributed to younger children having fewer behavioural problems.
What is evident from the report published by the Department of Education is that although great headway has been made vast improvements need to be made in order to ensure that as many children ‘looked after’ by the Local Authority are placed in permanent homes.