TheTimes reports (£) this morning that councils are increasing the number of children in care being offered for adoption and speeding up the process. However it adds that there has not been an equivalent effort to attract more couples to offer to adopt.
The report says:
More than 6,000 children are going through the adoption process with only 1,800 prospective parents approved and waiting to look after them at the end of it.
Official statistics show that slow recruitment of new parents is threatening to scupper a series of reforms that have greatly speeded up all other parts of the process.
I expect that many councils will respond with an advertising campaign to encourage more prospective adopters to come forward. That would be welcome.
I would also suggest that they write to those who made previous enquiries – say over the last five years – but did not pursue their application. What put them off? Writing to them might encourage some to reapply. However they should also be offered to the chance to could explain to someone in authority if they still wanted to adopt but felt they faced unreasonable obstruction. This meeting could be offered with someone in authority – perhaps the local councillor who serves as the Cabinet Member for Children's Services or the Director of Children's Services. Or an independent person who could offer a synopsis of the reasons given for applicants dropping out.
Often the marketing drive to encourage people to adopt centres on busting "adoption myths." The difficulty is when an applicant then finds these "myths" turn out to be true. There is still a terrible problem of intrusive and insulting questioning from bigoted social workers. The bureaucracy and delay remains a scandal. Discrimination against prospective adopters on the basis of age, class, race and religion remains officially sanctioned by local authorities.
Having served on an Adoption Panel I have encountered dozens of prospective adopters – incidentally abolishing such panels is one of the ways the process could be speeded up.
The sort of questions that Birmingham City Council asked prospective adopters should be banned. Discriminating against couples wishing to adopt for being white, or middle class or Christian or aged over 50 should also be illegal. It is also right that councils that keep more children in care than genuinely necessary should be have this responsibility removed from them. Doncaster Council are being stripped of responsibility for children's services and instead it is being given to an independent trust.
If a school is failing it's pupils it is taken over. Councils are failing children in care. They should similarly face having this power removed unless there is dramatic improvement. Just because they failures are widespread does not make them any less scandalous.