Children in care face postcode lottery

Article ImageChildren in care face a postcode lottery in finding adoptive parents in South West London, according to a Department of Education scorecard report out today.

Both Merton and Kensington & Chelsea came joint third worst in the country with only 5% of children leaving care finding adoptive parents.

Only Solihull in the West Midlands and Croydon in south London came out worse with 3% and 2% respectively.

With a UK average of 625 days between a child entering care and finding adoptive parents, Merton averaged 982 days, and Kensington & Chelsea 855 days.

Only ten authorities failed to place a child within 800 days. The worst by this measure was Hackney averaging 1,017 days.

By comparison Hammersmith & Fulham averaged 38 days between a local authority receiving court authority to place a child and finding a family – the fourth best nationwide.

With 3,050 children finding homes across the UK last year, only 60 of which were babies, local authorities are accused of dragging their feet while the chances of a stable childhood tick away.

Councils however have hit back, arguing the figures are unrepresentative of the varying caseloads and the careful thought required in the measured placement of children.

A Council spokesman for Kensington & Chelsea said: “The figures released by the DfE are all about speed and even then they do not present a sophisticated picture of the complexities involved in certain adoption cases.

“Our performance can largely be explained by the very low numbers involved. We had five children adopted in total last year.

“In two of these five cases the children had complex needs and so we initially placed them with foster carers and worked with these foster carers who eventually adopted these children.

“We recognise the need to place children in a loving family in a timely manner but must guard against compromising on the quality of placements.”

Hammersmith & Fulham Council cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Helen Binmore, was pleased with the findings.

She said: “Our early and close work with families, who may be experiencing difficulties, has helped reduce the number of children coming into our care.

“Stable and permanent placements are the key to a happy future and we take rapid action to ensure the welfare of children is put first.

“We have a strong track record of success in this area but we are not resting on our laurels and we are working with the courts and neighbouring boroughs to speed up care proceedings even further.

“We make sure children only stay in our care for the shortest possible time and find appropriate placements that allow them to fulfil their potential and offer the best start in life.”

Children’s charity Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said: “Children spend far too long in care waiting to be adopted and we welcome efforts to speed up the process.

“It is incredibly important to move these children to a permanent, stable and secure family as quickly as possible, as the longer a child waits for a family the more they suffer emotionally and the less likely they are to be adopted.”

Ms Carrie says that adoption however is not the only answer.

“We desperately need to encourage more people to come forward to foster children,” she said. “Especially those children who wait longest for a family: siblings, disabled children, older children, and those from black or minority ethnic backgrounds.”

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