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The main argument of the social work establishment for keeping children in care rather than placing them for adoption is that the adoption breakdown rate is already high. That placing even more children for adoption, given their challenging background, will only make things worse as the placement would breakdown.

Given the experience of being in the care system frequently means the disruption of being shunted from one foster carer to another the relative disadvantage of being placed for adoption and then being taken back to care would often be marginal anyway. There would, of course, be the bitter disappointment at the  expectation of a permanent, loving home not being fulfilled. But often the emotional upheaval of being moved from one foster carer to another is pretty considerable as well.

It seems to be accepted that in the great majority of cases adoptions are successful. But how small is the minority where they fail? Astonishingly we don't know. Despite all the swathes of data this crucial piece of information is missing. I suspect that true figure is much lower than that claimed by the anti adoption lobby. Anyway according the The Times (£) this morning in future Local Authorities will have to keep records of their adoption failure rate.

The normally admirable Times correspondent Rosemary Bennett writes of a "best estimate than as many as one in five break down." But as Martin Narey pointed out in a report her paper a study of 165 Romanian orphans adopted in the UK found only two breakdowns – despite predictions that this groups would have an exceptionally high failure rate. A More4 survey of those councils that do keep records also implied a much lower breakdown rate than usually claimed.

Anyway now we will find out. What is the failure rate? Why is it higher from one authority than another? Does a higher adoption rate actually mean a higher rate of failure in adoption?

This transparency will encourage councils to place children with families where the breakdown in the placement is least likely rather than where the ideological box ticking is fulfilled.

Also Ofsted will in future judge local authorities on the speed of adoptions and will no longer be able to achieve a top rating in an agreed adoptions takes more than a year to implement. Inspectors will also check that adoption is at least considered as an option for each child.

John Goldup, Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector, says:

“If in one local authority only 4 per cent of children in care are being adopted and in the next-door borough the figure is 20 per cent, we will want to know why and see the records of those children not considered for adoption.”

This follows another report (£) last week that the Government will legislate against placements being delayed to secure an "ethinic match." It is now accepted that guidance is not enough.

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