Letter: Adoption obstacles
Sir: In your article "Councils named in adoption crisis" (7 April) you suggest that low rates of adoption are due to social workers and local authorities having an "anti-adoption" culture.
However, many children are only "looked after" for a short period before returning to their families. Forty-three percent of children leaving care have been looked after for less than eight weeks.
Many children are already in suitable placements such as in permanent foster homes, specialist schools, supported lodgings or with their parents or other relatives and adoption is therefore not necessary.
Most children in care (80 per cent) are over the age of five. Many of these will have significant personal difficulties such as emotional and behavioural problems. Some will have links with, and loyalties towards, birth relatives that mean they would not want to be adopted. (All figures from the Department of Health Statistical Bulletin, 1998).
There is of course a group of children (a small proportion of the 51,000) who are in long-stay care, do not have a permanent placement and have no prospect of return home. Probably the most important influence on why such children are not being adopted is that there is a great mismatch between the needs of these children (many of whom are difficult to parent) and the kind of children that most adopters seek to parent (very young children without problems). Finding and supporting new parents is possible but requires time, money and specialist skills.
Professor JUNE THOBURN
Centre for Research on the Child and Family
University of East Anglia
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