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Adoption timescales are in the spotlight
CHILDREN in Hampshire have to wait on average 18 months from being taken into care to moving in with their adoptive parents.
The first-ever adoption “scorecards” for local authorities show Hampshire County Council meets basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents.
However, the authority would fail new tougher targets ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove to place children in care with a permanent new family within 14 months.
At Hampshire County Council, the average wait from care to adoption over the last three years was 540 days.
Over the last three years, just nine per cent of children in care in Hampshire were adopted – below the national average of 14 per cent.
The scorecards also highlight how most of the children adopted were under five. Only three per cent of 130 children leaving the care of Hampshire County Council for adoption over the last three years were aged five or more.
The figures also show 40 children in Hampshire were waiting for adoption as of March last year.
County chiefs say there is a “mismatch” between children cleared for adoption by the courts and potential adopters.
Many would-be adopters want a healthy baby while those on the waiting list include sibling groups and children with developmental and emotional problems.
The scorecards are part of a Government clampdown on widespread delays in the adoption system.
Hampshire County Council is one of three local authorities piloting a new assessment process, aimed at speeding-up the system and removing duplication between the family courts and adoption panels.
Steve Crocker, deputy director of children and families services at the county council, voiced fears the scorecards could create “perverse” incentives. He said it could mean there is less time to find the right permanent family for children with complex needs and sibling groups who are harder to place.
Speaking at a meeting of the county council’s children and families advisory panel, Mr Crocker said: “It may be difficult but if it is the right thing for the child, we ought to try... even if it means we might over-shoot timescales.”
Councillor Jackie Porter, opposition spokesman for children’s services, warned the longer children are in care, the more difficult it is to sever ties when they are adopted.
She said: “They will not only be grieving for their parents but also for their foster carers.”
The council is looking to increase the number of people who are “dual registered” to foster and adopt. This means a child can move in with them as foster parents before being legally adopted.