|Adoption rate for toddlers hits 35-year-high|
|Written by The Telegraph|
|Wednesday, 08 August 2012|
The number of toddlers and young children being adopted has risen to its highest level for 35 years amid a Government drive to move more children in care to stable families.
But official figures show that older children, who are considered to be harder to place, are continuing to lag behind and fewer babies were adopted last year than at any point since records began.
According to the Office for National Statistics there were 4,734 children formally adopted in England and Wales last year, up six per cent on 2010.
Almost two thirds of them – or 2,953 – were aged between one and four.
Within that age group adoptions were up more than 11 per cent in a year, to the highest level since 1977.
But the figures also showed that there were only 76 children under the age of one adopted in England and Wales last year.
Twenty years earlier the number of babies placed with permanent families was 12 times that level.
And the number of children aged between five and nine adopted last year was also down slightly, as was that for those between 10 and 14.
Among teenagers, often the hardest of all to place with permanent families, there were only 164 children aged between 14 and 17 adopted, a third of the level 20 years earlier.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has spearheaded a drive to speed up the adoption process, accusing social services departments and courts of moving too slowly and promising new legislation to reduce red tape.
Mr Gove, who was himself adopted as a four-month-old baby in 1967, said recently that it was highly unlikely that he would have been so fortunate today because of the complex legal process.
Children in care in England wait an average of 20 months to move in with adoptive parents but recent figures highlighted dramatic variations between different areas.
In one corner of London the difference can be up to 15 months depending on what side of a street they live on.
Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said the overall increase was “heartening” but said adoption was not always the best option for children.
He added: “Social workers are working with a system that has five times more children waiting for adoption, than we have adopters.
“Everyone knows that it is much easier to find loving parents for a newborn child, but we still need more willing people to come forward to help councils find stable homes for groups of siblings, older children and those with health issues or disabilities.”
Janet Grauberg, UK director of strategy for Barnardo’s, said: “The fact that more children are being adopted and at a younger age, is very good news.
“But the increase, although heartening, is still small.
"We need to strive to move these children to a permanent, stable and secure family as quickly as possible, as the longer a child waits the more they suffer emotionally and the less likely they are to be adopted.
“Children who wait longest for families are siblings, disabled children, older children, and those from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.
"We desperately need more people to come forward to adopt children – especially for these groups.”