According to statistics, there were some 65,520 children in the care system last year, of which 3050 were placed into adoptive homes.
There has been much talk in the press recently about the government’s plan to introduce a scorecard system, which aims to assess the performance and, primarily, assess how quickly individual local authorities place children for adoption. The ultimate goal is to tackle unnecessary delays in the process.
It currently takes an average of 21 months for a child to be placed with an adoptive family. The government is aiming to reduce this to a year and the approval process for prospective adopters to 6 months.
In principle, this seems like an effective approach. I of course would like to see an improvement and acceleration in the system. However, in speeding up the process, my fear would be that the quality of the placements may be adversely compromised, which in turn could lead to more adoption breakdowns. A points system which potentially consists of ticking boxes and meeting predefined targets, possibly over and above the needs of the child, could have a detrimental effect on the success of a placement. An adoption breakdown would have a devastating and damaging impact on a child.
My simple, layperson’s view – and I realise it isn’t as straightforward as this – would be to strike a much better balance between a more efficient system and the quality of the placement, taking account of other areas which affect the speed of the process, such as the difficulty in finding appropriate homes for the different types of children in the care system (sibling groups, ethnicity, special needs) as well as an improvement in the effectiveness of the family court process. I wonder whether performance indicators could create perverse incentives which may not always be in the interest of the child.
For me, adoption is about achieving a secure, permanent, loving base from which a child can grow. Any kind of conveyor belt approach of churning children out so that local authorities can stay in the government’s good books by attaining specified targets, makes me feel very uneasy. Children must not be deemed a commodity.
I wonder whether prospective adopters would be deterred if their local authority is underperforming?
Post-placement is a crucial time for adoptive parents. I wonder whether there should be increased focus on encouraging more prospective adopters to make the huge leap of faith by ensuring that they receive adequate support to guarantee a successful adoption outcome. Would it not be better for the government to invest in this support and provide families with much needed help so that the risk of breakdown is minimised?
All the efficient processes in the world are surely futile if there is no after-care for the parents.
Would it not also be helpful to increase support and monitoring of social workers to reduce their pressure, rather than applying additional stresses in the form of government-set targets?
Or maybe I am talking utter twaddle.
What do you think? Is this points system an effective enough and uncompromising approach to shortening waiting times for children in care and for prospective adopters?