The number of children living in care in the United Kingdom is increasing and has reached 67,000, whilst adoptions have dropped to historically low levels due to bureaucratic red tape: the whole process can take over two years.
Many children find themselves either abandoned by their parents or, in some cases, denied access to them due to imprisonment, death or disappearance. The resultant children find themselves defenceless orphans and adoption represents a real method of improving their lives.
Many caring families or those with fertility problems apply for adoption. In the United Kingdom, the process has been dubbed ‘very costly’ and in recent years the figures have shown record lows.
Associations such as Banardo’s Children’s Charities have admitted that many parents have ruled out adoption as an option due to the overly painstaking and costly application process which is required prior to the granting of custody of a minor.
According to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Edward Timpson, last year more than 25,000 people showed an interest in adopting but “ended up being put off by the lengthy and rigorous nature of the process”.
In England, evidence of this can be found in statistics provided by Ofsted for the 2011/2012 financial year, where a total of just 3,450 children were adopted out of 4,623 approved applications.
Anne Marie Carrie, President of Barnardo’s Children’s Charities, points out that currently 4,600 children are awaiting placement with an adoptive family, and many organisations like her own are finding themselves in a situation whereby they need “to find a further 9,000 foster families willing to take them in over the next twelve months”.
It is estimated that in the UK an average of 4,000 children are in need of adoption each year, but we are a long way from meeting these figures. Despite the fact that last year 6,800 children were identified as being in need of adoption, only 3,500 of them were successfully placed.
The tough application process which prospective adoptive parents must go through in order to adopt a child lies at the root of these poor figures. Marie Carrie admits that applicants are treated “with suspicion” by social workers and the criteria used “would, quite frankly, make it difficult for us to adopt our own children”.
These rigorous controls are there to safeguard children and only those parents deemed to have the correct qualities are chosen, avoiding the possibility of individuals with the potential to abuse slipping through the net.
On the internet, a variety of criticisms have been voiced as regards the application procedure. Ana, a UK civil servant with an Indian ethnic background, stated that after her application had been refused twice, “a social worker told us that adoption was a competitive marketplace and I had to sell myself more”.
The civil servant says her ethnic background presented a stumbling block when it came down to adopting – though this alone is not the only thing looked at; your job, salary and standard of living are also considered and constitute some of the factors which scupper the success of many applications getting through.
Faced by this undesirable reality and with the aim of improving these figures David Cameron has spoken out on the matter, announcing changes seeking to increase the numbers of adoptions and make the process of adoption quicker and more flexible.
At the moment, one in every five adoptions fails due to the long applications process. To date, the process could involve up to a two year wait, despite the fact that the guidelines require the authorities to place any given minor with a prospective family within a maximum period of twelve months.
Among the measures announced, it is expected that there will be more transparency during the process, giving applicants the possibility of viewing children on the adoptions waiting list. Also, prospective parents will be encouraged by the increased benefits available, such as free childcare and employment leave which to date they have not had.
Although successful adoptions account for less than half of all adoptions carried out – in the order of 4,000 per year – local authorities and adoption organisations have confirmed the trend is on the rise owing to the new changes introduced.
According to the latest study, using figures collected between April 2011 and March 2012, 3,450 children and teenagers were adopted by the 4,623 families approved by the system in the UK.
The report carried out also gives more specific figures, such as the fact that the majority of children adopted were white (78%), followed by mixed race (16%) and then Asian children (4%).
Adoption of babies is one of the categories which has fallen the most: just 60 children under one year were adopted in 2011 – a statistic which is down on the 150 of 2007.
In addition, it was noted that older children as well as those from ethnic minorities or with disabilities or other siblings, are less likely to be adopted: and, as such, a white child has three times as many placement prospects as a black child.
Placing a child with an adoptive family falls under the responsibility of the local authorities in the UK. Experts point out that this highly decentralised adoption process represents a significant stumbling block in terms of swiftly reducing the high numbers of children currently in care.
In recent years the number of children and teenagers under local authority care has significantly increased from 58,000 in 2008 to the current 67,000.
The category of child most commonly found in care are teenagers between the ages of 10 and 15; representing a total of 24,150.
The UK government is asking local authorities to make the process easier for prospective adoptive parents – in addition to making improvements in the way the latter are treated during the applications process.
This stance is supported by organisations which rally for those heroic individuals who decide to embark on the important and munificent undertaking of bringing happiness into the lives of those less fortunate children in our society.
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)