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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Adoption figures 'disappointing'
Just 30 children have been successfully adopted through the government's new adoption register, a report reveals.

Ministers set up the register last year to match prospective parents with children who have been put up for adoption.

The move was designed to boost the number of children who are adopted in England and Wales each year.

But figures published in the register's annual report show that while 600 matches were identified over the past year, just 30 children were adopted as a result.

The government pledged in 2000 to increase the number of children who are adopted by 40% within five years.

That year, just 2,000 children were adopted with a further 2,000 remaining in care homes.

'Surprised'

The charity BAAF Adoption & Fostering said the figures were disappointing.

Felicity Collier, its chief executive, said: "We are always pleased to see children for whom it has been difficult to find families being adopted.

We would expect to see a considerable increase in the next year
Felicity Collier, BAAF Adoption & Fostering

"But the fact that the register has helped to place just 30 children is disappointing.

"We are surprised that more children have not been placed at this stage. We would expect to see a considerable increase in the next year," she told BBC News Online.

Health Minister Jacqui Smith said the register had made good progress since it was set up last year.

"In only a year, the register has become an established part of the adoption process with a national co-ordinating role," she said.

It had also made good progress working wtih council adoption agencies and those in the voluntary sector to speed up the pace of adoption, she added.

"The register identified 600 viable links between children and potential adopters.

"Matches confirmed by agencies from register-generated links have been steadily building up with the majority coming in February and March 2003.

"At the end of April 2003, these stood at 30 - that is 30 placements which would not have happened without the register."

Plea to councils

But Ms Smith urged council adoption agencies to use the register to match children with potential parents.

"Responsibility for converting viable links into actual matches and adoptive placements remains that of agencies, not the register.

"Agencies need to engage with the register at the earliest possible stage to ensure that children's needs are met with the minimum of delay.

"Agencies also need to ensure that the register is kept informed of any changes to the circumstances of children and families to prevent records from becoming out of date."

The report was published as the government announced plans to introduce new checks on people hoping to adopt children from overseas.

Child trafficking

From 1 June, anyone in England and Wales trying to adopt a child from abroad will have to pass the same tests as people who are trying to adopt children in the UK.

Anyone who is found guilty of flouting the new rules could face 12 month in prison or an unlimited fine.

Ms Smith said: "We have now put in place legislation that strengthens the controls and safeguards for inter-country adoption to help protect everyone involved - especially the welfare of the children adopted."

The government is also set to ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co- operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.

This will pave the way for UK agencies to work with officials in other countries to prevent the abduction, sale or trafficking children.

Ms Smith also announced plans to boost support services for people who adopt.

From October, all local authorities will have to offer financial support to those families who need it.




SEE ALSO:
Computers to speed up adoption
07 Aug 01  |  Health
Internet adoption laws tightened
30 Apr 01  |  UK News


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