More children to be removed from biological parents and placed for adoption under 'urgent' new rules

It will be a legal requirement that family courts and councils prioritise the 'long-term stability and happiness' of children

More children will be removed from their biological parents and placed for adoption, under “urgent” new rules to be announced by ministers.

For the first time it will be a legal requirement that family courts and councils prioritise the “long-term stability and happiness” of children, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said. The emphasis on placing vulnerable children in the care of families who can look after them right up until their 18th birthday is likely to see more adoptions – in attempt to reduce the number of young people bouncing in and out of the care system.

The change in the law comes after a 50 per cent drop in the number of decisions for adoption made by courts and councils. David Cameron signalled a drive to increase adoption rates in November, and the new legislation aims to clarify the Government’s view that finding a long-term, adoptive family, should be a priority – rather than courts or councils placing children in in short-term care placements.

A new £200m fund to help speed up adoption decisions will also be made available, the Department for Education said.

Hugh Thornberry, chief executive of Adoption UK charity, said the change in the law was “extremely good news”. Barnardo’s said any law change should put children’s long-term wellbeing first, but indicated that it wanted “greater clarity” on how the legislation would work in practice.

The move follows concern among ministers that courts and councils too often focus on short-term options for children taken into care. Ms Morgan said children should be placed with a new family “as quickly as possible”.

“Every single day a child spends waiting in care is a further delay to a life full of love and stability and this simply isn’t good enough,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to transform the lives of our most vulnerable children, making sure they get the opportunities they deserve.”

Under the new law, courts and councils will be required to recognise the importance of reparative care a child may need to recover from abuse or neglect in their early years, and will have to consider whether a placement with a family lasts until adolescence.

Mr Thornberry said the Government should also provide for robust assessments of children’s individual needs and warned over funding for “overstretched” Children’s Services Departments.

“It’s vital, when planning for permanence, that all the child’s needs are considered as we know from the experience of our members that many children require highly specialised and therapeutic parenting to overcome early traumatic experiences,” he said.

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