Twelve English councils have admitted to setting targets for the adoption of children, legal campaigners have announced.
Established last month, the Transparency Project works to increase public understanding of the legal system through commentary and liaison with TV, radio and newspapers. The campaigners made Freedom of Information requests to 172 councils. Amongst the responses received, the 12 councils who admitted to targets quoted either an annual number of children in care or a percentage figure.
The Project undertook its research to address long-standing rumours that targets were in place amongst local authority social workers, encouraging a focus on adoption at the expense of other options for children in care.
The campaigners believe such targets could lead to the individual needs and circumstances of each child being overlooked and said that any perception that this was happening could be as harmful as it happening in reality.
Chair Lucy Reed said:
“In law, the decision that a child should be placed for adoption must be solely based on the needs of that individual child. The setting of targets to encourage faster placement of those children for whom adoption has been identified as the right outcome are unobjectionable, but targets to increase the absolute number or proportion of looked after children who are approved for adoption are in tension with the very clear law in this area that ensures that each child and family is treated as unique.”
The Project had hoped to “lay to rest” concerns that the possibility of target-driven non-consensual adoption, she continued.
“Unfortunately our enquiries suggest the picture is more complicated.”
More work was needed, she said, to provide a clearer picture of the situation.