The Times this morning reports that only 60 children under a year old were adopted in the year to March 2011. In total 3,050 children were placed for adoption – a fall of 5% on the previous year. Last year 64,410 children were in care, "Looked After Children." This year it is 65,520. Measured per 10,000 children in the population that means an increase from 58 to 59. So a small rise. But the 2010 figure was already scandalously high. The Education Secretary Michael Gove, who was himself adopted, will be aghast that the situation has so far got worse on his watch.
There is a prejudice against adoption among far too many social workers. Although the interests of the child are supposed to be paramount often they are not. The child is kept in limbo in the care system just in case its failing family manages to sort itself out. This is because the social workers fret about the "social engineering" of placing a black child with a white family or a child whose existing family are on welfare into a middle class household.
Once it has finally been concluded, after years of delay, that a return to the "birth family" (often consisting of a single mother addicted to heroin) is not viable then the social workers declare that the child is too old to be placed for adoption. It is a self fulfilling prophecy.
The LA tables show the performance of individual councils. In my council of Hammersmith and Fulham the number of Looked After Children fell from 250 to 240. Our tri-borough partners saw sharper falls – in Westminster from 245 to 210, in Kensington and Chelsea from 155 to 130. In fact most inner London boroughs had falls – yet Islington and Haringey saw the numbers go up.
Birmingham (which I have been critical of in the past) saw a big fall from 2,025 to 1,900. Yet Sandwell saw a rise from 510 to 545 and Wolverhampton from 405 to 495.
Poor performance in this area is not inevitable. It should not be excused.