The government has published a £48 million plan to improve the adoption process in England, thereby ending the ‘postcode lottery’ that many families face.
Whilst many of the goals set out in the 2016 report entitled Adoption: A vision for change have been achieved, including the development of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) and the delivery of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), issues still remain. The 2021 report overview states that 50% of children are spending more than 18 months in care while they wait to be matched with a family – a fact the report authors deem “unacceptable.”
This is due to a combination of factors, the report states, including a mismatch between the characteristics adoptive parents are looking for and the children who are waiting to be placed, matching processes that take too long, and insufficient adopter recruitment. Too many families are also still missing out on the vital post-adoption support they need, while the COVID-19 pandemic has also placed significant strain on the current system.
Calls for support
In June, Adoption UK published its annual Adoption Barometer, which was heavily cited in the government’s report. It found serious flaws with current post-adoption support, for example:
• 71% of those who had obtained the adoption order did not have a written post-adoption support plan in place
• 80% felt that their child needed more support in school than peers
• 60% were satisfied with the quality of support received from their adoption agency.
Concerningly, it also revealed that adopted children are facing what it has termed a “mental health emergency.” The findings showed that 64% of adopted people over the age of 16 had sought help with their mental health, and that almost half (46%) of adopted 16-25-year-olds were involved with the mental health services in 2020, compared with a national figure of 17%.
And, for the third year running, seven in 10 families said they faced a continual struggle for support.
The National Adoption Strategy 2021
The recently published strategy therefore pledges £48 million for 2021-22 to improve adoption services, help place more children with families, and provide increased post-adoption support. This comes in addition to the extra £200 million spent by the government since 2015 on support for adoptive families.
The funding will be used as follows:
• £1 million for RAA leaders to improve adopter recruitment and improve consistency in the approval process
• £500,000 to improve Early Permanence arrangements and increase the number of children in Early Permanence placements (this refers to adoption placements for babies and toddlers)
• £46 million to support families through the Adoption Support Fund
• £500,000 to employ a National RAA strategic leader to progress collaborative working on agreed priority areas.
Looking beyond 2021-22, the government aims to introduce a framework of national standards for adoption, to ensure that “services are delivered to the same high-quality standards across the country” and thereby ending the ‘postcode lottery’ that sees experiences varying wildly according to where adopters live.
Adopters from “every walk of life”
The report also reveals that those children most likely to wait the longest to be adopted are those over the age of five, children from ethnic minorities and children with special educational needs and disabilities. One of the reasons for this is that the adopters currently recruited through the system aren’t diverse enough, and there are concerns that others are put off from trying to adopt due to their ethnicity, sexuality, age or social background.
The strategy therefore aims to encourage a wider diversity of adopters into the system, whilst ensuring that “prospective adopters from every walk of life are warmly welcomed and supported in a system that is never threatening or judgemental.”