The number of children who have been adopted fell for the first time in four years in 2016.
Figures published by the Department for Education have revealed that 4,690 ‘looked after’ children were adopted this year. This is a 12 per cent drop from the 5,360 last year.
The fall is the first since before 2012, but it has not surprised experts. Many anticipated the drop as there have been far fewer children placed for adoption in recent years. This trend followed a 2013 ruling from President of the Family Division Sir James Munby. In Re B-S, a mother appealed against the adoption of her two children. During the case, the President criticised the “recurrent inadequacy” of many applications and declared that local authorities must provide evidence they had considered all possible alternatives before they could proceed. This has become known as the “nothing else will do” test.
Sir James later said that he did not intend his comments to be regarded as a change in adoption law, but the number of placement order applications has noticeably dropped since Re B-S. Such orders allow local authorities to find a new home for children who need one and they can often lead to the child’s adoption.
Hugh Thornbery is the Chief Executive of charity Adoption UK. He said he had “feared for some time that there would be a dramatic fall in adoptions this year so the drop comes as no surprise”. He also expects a further drop next year.
Sir James’ 2013 ruling “undoubtedly had a negative impact upon adoption decisions and placement orders in recent years” Thornbery explained, adding that it was vital for any confusion around the implications of the case to be cleared up as soon as possible.
Adoption is important as it can “permanently break a cycle of neglect and abuse and give a child a second chance at fulfilling their potential with the support of a loving family” he insisted.
Read the DfE figures here.