Adoption - fostering children through to adoption
Continuity is crucial for children. Josa Young looks at a pilot scheme, which can take a child through fostering to adoption with the same parents
Adoption in the UK is widely seen as a shambles. There are 2000 children in England and Wales spending up to three years hanging around in care (often with multiple foster families), waiting for adoption. Meanwhile, 1200 families want to adopt.
Disrupted attachments in early life are known to damage children emotionally, and make it difficult for them to form proper relationships as adults. On average, children adopted in 1998 were 14 months old when they went into care, and two and a half years old before they were finally adopted. Adoptions did rise by 10% in that year, but only 4% of those in care were adopted.
The older the child, the more damage done, and the more challenging he or she will be to adopt. Up to 20% of adoptions fail and the child is returned to care, which has a bad name these days.
Revelations of abuse in childrens homes going back years have at last forced the government to act
In February 2001, Tony Blair took personal charge of a review of adoption policy. The government will now set up a national adoption register to match potential parents with children, and establish national standards. An Adoption and Permanency taskforce will attempt to clear the huge backlog waiting for adoption and enforce the national standards.
Research found wild variations in proportions of children adopted in different authorities. Sutton in south London achieved a commendable 20% passed for adoption, while Lambeth has a dismal 1% adoption rate. Attachment difficulties were the least of these childrens problems.
At last, some imagination has been injected into the debate
The old system of shunting children around foster homes for months before they hit the pay dirt of an adoptive family can be modified. Why not make one follow the other in the same family, thus eliminating damaging disruption? In a pilot scheme called concurrency adoption, initially in Manchester, London and Brighton, potential adoptive parents are offered a new format.