Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Saturday, 21 June 2008 09:38 UK

Adoption matches 'too stringent'


One mixed-ethnicity adoptive family who are thriving

Some councils are too stringent in getting an exact match for ethnic minority children who are up for adoption, charities claim.

The children's charity NCH says councils should be putting more focus on the needs of youngsters.

Figures show non-white children spend many months longer in care waiting for adoption than their white counterparts. The UK's adoption association said it was important that children should be helped to be proud of their heritage.

Jean Smith, from NCH, said local authorities should not be "militant" about finding an exact match.

"Sometimes you are never going to find that," she said.

"I think children can suffer because they need to be placed for permanency as soon as possible and meet all their attachment needs and affects them growing up.

'Best placement'

"I think what needs to happen is people need to think outside the box, and actually think about the needs of the child, and how that family, whoever they are, can meet the needs of that child."

Official statistics show babies from ethnic minority backgrounds spend an average of 10 months in care before being adopted, compared to just 3 and a half months for other babies.

As children get older, ethnic minority children are still in care for around 14 months before being adopted compared to just nine months for other children.

Les Lawrence, from the Local Government Association, told the BBC that local authorities are "always aiming to get the best placement for every child".

He said: "We will never get a 100% perfect placement, but local authorities do have a duty that parents that adopt or foster are right and proper and can provide the right environment for the young person that is being placed.

"If we didn't do that we would be rightly criticised for not raising the needs of the young person first and foremost."

Harvey Gallagher, from the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, told BBC Breakfast that ethnicity was very important when placing children with adoptive parents, but it was not the only factor considered.

"What an adoption agency is looking for is the best possible family for that child, so they take a range of factors into consideration, and the child's ethnicity, their heritage, their culture, their background is really important.

"It is important that a new family can be found for that child who can help them to understand that and help them to be proud of that but it's not the only factor."

Statistics suggest children who spend long periods in care are disadvantaged later in life, so adoption groups say its often more important to get them out of care than get a perfect ethnic and cultural match.

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