At last there’s help for people adopting neglected
About a quarter report major challenges in caring for
Published at 12:01AM, April 15 2014
Since The Times launched its campaign in 2011 to increase the rate
of adoptions, there has been a 30 per cent rise in the number of
children finding permanent families. Last year, 4,000 children
were placed, the highest since the current data started being
collected in 1992.
But we still need more adoptions and more adopters. There are
about 6,000 children waiting for new parents. The Children and
Families Actgiven royal assent just a few weeks ago will make a
difference, addressing as it does, the urgent need to place children
with their adopters sooner, often in a fostering capacity, and the
need sometimes to separate siblings when it is manifestly in their
More importantly, the new act will end the well-intentioned but
frequently unnecessary ethnic matching of adopters and children,
which means that black children spend a year longer waiting for
adoption than white children.
At the same time, a landmark report from the University of Bristol
has punctured the myth that 20 or 30 per cent of adoptions fail.
When, in 2011, I wrote a report on adoption as part of The
Timescampaign, I suggested that the real rate was about 10 per
cent, and lower for children adopted in infancy. Last week’s report
from Bristol establishes the overall failure rate at just 3.2 per cent,
which will offer reassurance to potential adopters.
But the report also demonstrates that behind this encouraging
statistic there are many adopters who are struggling. That doesn’t
surprise me. During the past three years I have come to know
adopters who are little short of heroic in their parenting of children
damaged by neglect. About a quarter report major challenges in
caring for their children, and many struggle to obtain adequate
This has begun to be addressed. The new act places a duty on local
authorities to inform adopters of their entitlements. And last year,
the piloting of individualised support budgets began, allowing
adopters to buy in the support — child therapy, perhaps — that
they need. But providing adequate support remains a huge
The gap between children waiting and the number of parents
willing to adopt will not be closed unless prospective adopters are
confident they will not be alone if the going gets tough.