A proposed change in the current adoption law will shift focus towards longer placements, the government has announced.
Under the proposed change, courts and social workers will have to make a child’s “long-term stability and happiness” their first priority in care cases. The new law will make it “crystal clear” that children should be placed “with the person best able to care for them right up until their 18th birthday” rather than someone who can only meet their immediate needs.
Officials from the Department for Education had previously expressed concern that “life-long stability and high quality care that adoptive families can bring is not always given sufficient weight” by local authorities and courts.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that any delay in finding a new adoptive home for a child in care “simply isn’t good enough” and hoped the law change would make sure “children are placed with their new family as quickly as possible”. The government has a responsibility to “transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve”, she insisted.
This proposed change comes in response to a fall in the adoption rate since a 2013 court decision from President of the Family Division Sir James Munby. In Re B-S, Sir James said that too many councils failed to consider alternatives to adoption. He advised that because adoption legally severs the relationship between a child and his or her biological family, it should be treated as a last resort.
In November, Prime Minister David Cameron called for the number of local authorities which place children in adoptive homes quickly to double.