Organisation: Department for Education
Published 26 September 2013

Policy: Improving the adoption system and services for looked-after children
Topic: Children and young people
Minister: Edward Timpson MP

New figures show that almost 4,000 children in care were adopted in 2012 - an increase of 15% and the highest ever since records began.

The annual looked-after children statistical first release shows that 3,980 children were adopted between April 2012 and March 2013, up from 3,470 the previous year. This is higher than in any year since 1992, when comparable records began.

Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, said:

It is hugely encouraging that the number of children adopted from care has risen to the highest level yet - but too many children are still waiting too long for stable, loving homes.

More needs to be done to recruit adoptive parents. That’s why we have made the £150 million Adoption Reform Grant available for local authorities to spend on recruitment reform, and this summer I gave voluntary adoption agencies a further £16 million to expand and recruit more adoptive parents. I hope to see this funding deliver results.

The government is radically reforming adoption so that children who are waiting to be adopted are provided with stable and loving homes much more swiftly, giving them the opportunity to settle and bond with their adoptive families.

In February 2011, the government issued new guidance for local authorities making clear adoption should be considered as an option for more children. Comprehensive legal reforms are currently progressing through Parliament. We have also launched First4Adoption online service and information line which provides all the information and advice prospective adopters need in one place and are speeding up the approval process. This summer we also announced a new Adoption Support Fund to help adopters to access therapeutic support for their children.

Adoption is not the right approach for every child. We are improving the skills of social workers so they are able to judge what is best for each child and taking forward comprehensive reforms to fostering services and children’s residential care. Our reforms will ensure children are given the stability they deserve and the care that best meets their needs.

Notes to editors

  • See the statistical first release: Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2013.
  • Today’s statistics also show:
    • 50,900 children are in stable foster care placements, an increase of 2% since last year - and 16% since 2009
    • a 4% increase - from 5,840 to 6,090 this year - in the number of care leavers being provided suitable accommodation - with a 4% increase in the number of young people staying with their foster families
    • a fall in the percentage of care leavers not in education, employment or training (NEET) to 34%, or 2,360 - reversing the trend
    • a significant improvement in local authorities recording information on children missing from care so, for the first time, we can accurately identify where improvements are needed
  • Today’s figures show the highest number of adoptions of looked-after children since the current data collection began in 1992. It is not possible to make direct comparison to any figures prior to 1992 due to considerable difference in how the data was compiled and published.
  • In February 2011, the government issued new guidance ‘Breaking down barriers to adoption’ to local authorities which made clear that councils should be considering adoption as an important option for more children and should be pursuing this with more vigour. The guidance also made clear that:
    • local authorities must not deny children a loving home with adoptive parents only because they don’t share the same ethnic or cultural background
    • adoption should be considered for children who may have been overlooked in the past - such as older children or those with disabilities
    • local authorities should be welcoming enquiries from those wanting to adopt and no person should be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background
    • local authorities should be making full and effective use of the adoption register which helps to match adoptive parents with children
    • local authorities should be making more use of voluntary adoption agencies who have specialist expertise in finding families for difficult to place children - particularly older children, children with disabilities, sibling groups and black minority and ethnic (BME) children
  • We have made the £150 million Adoption Reform Grant available to local authorities, which they can use to improve the support available, alongside developing new approaches to encourage more people to adopt.
  • This year we launched the First4Adoption, the dedicated information service for people interested in adopting a child in England. Callers to the service can speak to friendly, trained advisors to get information about adopting a child. The service can also put callers in touch with adoption agencies in their area. First4Adoption is run by the charities Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Coram and Adoption UK. It is funded and supported by the Department for Education. Anyone interested in adopting can call the First4Adoption information line on 0300 222 0022 (open 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or visit the First4Adoption website.
  • Research published by the department this spring suggests that up to 650,000 people are considering adoption, but many are put off because of myths and misconceptions about the process. View the ‘Understanding attitudes, motivations and barriers to adoption and fostering’ research, conducted by Kindred and Work Research.
  • Find out more about the Children and Families Bill.
  • See the government’s Action Plan for Adoption.
  • Find out more about the Adoption Support Fund.
  • See the government’s response to the consultation ‘Adoption and fostering: tackling delay’. In July the following reforms came into effect:
    • the new the 2-stage approval process for adopters, making the system more focused on the adopter and replacing unnecessary bureaucracy, so the majority of adopters are approved to adopt within 6 months
    • a new legal obligation on all adoption agencies to refer prospective adopters to the Adoption Register within 3 months of approval, and a duty to ensure that the information on children waiting to be adopted is kept up to date, as well as referring the children within 3 months of the adoption decision
    • a new, streamlined, assessment and approval process for foster carers that was introduced in July
    • giving foster carers the authority to make day-to-day decisions about their foster children - such as haircuts and school trips - allowing them get on with the job of looking after the children in their care.
  • Find out more about the government’s planned children’s residential care reforms. Our reforms to residential care will ensure all homes are safe and secure places where children are properly looked after and children at risk of running away are given the appropriate care and support.
  • See the Care Leavers Charter. We have been clear with local authorities that they should give care leavers the money they need to set up their first home, make sure they are living in safe, secure accommodation and offer young people help accessing further education or employment. We are also changing the rules so young people leaving care get the support that they need, and 16- and 17-year-olds only leave care when they are ready.