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New adoption law seeks to speed up placement of children in stable homes

The Government has proposed a new adoption law that will force judges and social workers to take account of children’s need for a stable family to ensure that the ‘long-term stability and happiness’ of children comes first.

The new law comes after a significant decline in the number of children in the state care system being adopted since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2013, which said that no child should be permanently taken from its birth mother and father except as ‘a last resort’ and in circumstances ‘where nothing else will do’.

The ruling was subsequently reinforced by Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, in a series of court judgments that has led to the number of children put forward for adoption being cut in half.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the new law would make it explicit that the child’s recovery from abuse and neglect, and the need for a long-term home, should be the most important factor.

“Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability – and this simply isn’t good enough,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.

“We are changing the law on adoption to make sure decisions rightly prioritise children’s long-term stability and happiness, so that children are placed with their new family as quickly as possible, helping them fulfil their potential and get the very best start in life.”

The Department for Education has said that the new law will make it clear that councils and courts “must place children with the person best able to care for them right up until their 18th birthday, rather than with carers who cannot provide the support they need over the long-term.”

The Department added: “Concerns that life-long stability and high quality care that adoptive families can bring is not always given sufficient weight by councils and courts when they make decisions about where children should live – sometimes focussing on just who can support the child in the short term.”

Ministers also promised an additional £200 million of funding for adoption agencies to ‘break down bureaucratic barriers in the adoption system which can lead to children waiting in care for months longer than necessary’.

Hugh Thornberry of the charity Adoption UK, said: “This legislation and funding announcement is extremely good news for all of those involved in trying to improve services for adoptive families and adopted children.

“It is vital, when planning for permanence, that all the child’s needs are considered as we know from the experience of our members that many children require highly specialised and therapeutic parenting to overcome early traumatic experiences.”

Link: Education Secretary unveils plans to change adoption law