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The BBC's Karen Allen
"Today's survey highlights unacceptable delays in different parts of the country"
 real 28k

Felicity Collier
"Potential adopters should not be discouraged"
 real 28k

Sunday, 9 April, 2000, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Adoption red tape 'unacceptable'
Thousands of children await adoption
More than 5,000 children are waiting to be adopted in England while potential families face up to a year before assessment even begins.

A survey published on Sunday reveals wide variations in the speed with which local authorities process applications.

The government says the situation is unacceptable, and is to draw up new guidelines for reform.

Potential adopters can wait up to a year to begin the process to become a parent. This is just not good enough

John Hutton

The Social Services Inspectorate found that a pool of 1,297 approved adopters had no children placed with them.

The survey also found less than half the social services departments had target timescales for achieving adoption plans and the length of time prospective adopters had to wait before assessments began varied enormously.

Health minister, John Hutton said: "Potential adopters can wait up to a year to begin the process to become a parent. This is just not good enough.

Adoption services vary widely around the country
"Whilst the report showed that there are pockets of good practice on adoption, there is obviously a hardcore of local authorities who are still lagging behind.

"I am determined to overcome this unacceptably bad performance and make sure that adoption is used as the positive option that it is."

But Anne van Meeuwen, principal policy officer for Barnardo's, thinks the problem is not going to be easily solved. "These figures sound very stark but perhaps it isn't as simple as it may appear.

"There may be a mismatch between the families who are approved and the children who are waiting. It might be that more of the families want younger children and that it is the older children who are having to wait," she said.

Full report

The Health Minister said a full report on adoption practice would be sent to the prime minister by the end of May and this would inform the prime ministerial group which has been set up to review adoption law and policy.

The Department of Health has also commissioned the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) to draw up a set of national standards which will be published for consultation next year.

BAAF chief executive Felicity Collier said: "Many local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies do provide a good adoption service for children and families, but there are still considerable differences across the country.

"The UK working party will identify best practice and consult widely with everyone working in the field."

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See also:

17 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Blair reviews adoption law
14 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Tories set up adoption body
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