Social Workers under Fire over Falling Adoption Rates

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Byline: Eleanor Harding

FEWER vulnerable children are being adopted than ever before, official figures have revealed.

Adoptions in England and Wales are now at their lowest level on record, despite a chronically long waiting list of parentless children.

In 2010, a total of 4,472 adoptions were recorded - a decrease of 4.1 per cent since 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The number was the lowest since figures for court adoption orders were first recorded in 1997.

The alarming dip has sparked demands for social workers to be bolder in matching children with new homes, saving them from a childhood in care.

Local authority officials have often been criticised for interpreting adoption guidelines too strictly and using them as a reason not to make a match.

Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo's, urged social workers to be 'braver' and 'act fast' to assign a new permanent family a child's birth parents cannot cope.

She said: 'Yet another drop in adoption rates is very disappointing, not least for the 1,000 children each year who are never found an adoptive family.' In February, education secretary Michael Gove vowed to end the practice of denying a child a family because of racial or religious differences.

He said some social workers were taking guidelines asking for 'due consideration' into ethnic background too literally.

Ethnic minority children wait an average of three times longer than white children to find new parents, with many never being adopted at all.

Last year, around 20 per cent of the 2,300 children waiting to be adopted were black or Asian. …