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By Camilla Pemberton
October 15, 2009 / community care.co.uk
The number of looked-after children being placed for adoption has fallen by 11% since March 2008, according to statistics published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
The figures, said the British Association for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF), reflect a "worrying" downward trend in adoption placements, the first step in the adoption process for looked-after children. Children are first placed with their prospective adopters and, if the placement is successful, are then officially adopted by the family under an adoption order.
In the year ending March 31 2009, of the 60,900 looked-after children in England 2,500 were placed with potential adoptive families, compared with 2,800 the previous year. Although the numbers rose, from 2,700 to 2,800, in the year ending March 31 2008 - which resulted in a 3% increase in permanent adoptions this year - they have been steadily falling since 2005.
"This year's news of a 3% rise in adoption orders, after a rise in placements last year, is positive. But we are concerned about the 11% decline in adoption placements since then. This could result in a decrease in the number of permanent adoptions next year and should be seen as an early warning," said David Holmes, chief executive of BAAF.
"We are still in 2009-10 so we must try to reverse this downward trend. Adoption provides a permanent family for a child who might otherwise face the uncertainty and often poor outcomes of a life in care. The needs of children requiring adoption today are at least as complex as they were five years ago yet the numbers placed for adoption have reduced considerably," Holmes said.
"Social workers, health professionals, lawyers and the courts need to ensure that they focus on ensuring that all children who enter care have a long term plan for their future made as quickly as possible. Where adoption is the plan then it needs to be implemented with determination and confidence. We know that adoption can turn children’s lives around.”