Urgent examination of why such delays take place is needed, said the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering which added the figures were "shocking", leaving too many children in a "sad and vulnerable position".
The BAAF published Children Adopted From Care, the first analysis of information on children adopted out of public care in England during 1995/6, to coincide with the start of National Adoption Week. It found that more than half of those adopted came into care before the age of one and half of these were in the first month of their life. Only one in ten of the children adopted had entered care aged five or over.
It took on average four years before the children were adopted. Children waited nearly two years before they were placed with the families which would later adopt them and a further two years before the adoption order was made. One in six children freed for adoption had still not been placed with adoptive families two years later.