New guidance will tell social workers that they should allow white couples to adopt black and ethnic minority children, it was revealed today.
The guidelines, to be unveiled by Education Secretary Michael Gove on Tuesday, will not change the law but will make clear that race should not be a "deal-breaker" if the prospective adopters show that they are able to parent the child.
Ministers feel that social workers have until now been over-zealous in seeking to place children with adoptive parents of the same racial background, with the result that ethnic minority children wait on average three times longer than white children to find a permanent home.
The new advice will state explicitly that, where a family can meet a child's emotional and development, ethnic origin should not be a barrier.
Barring adoption on ethnic grounds "is not child-centred and is unacceptable", says the document, obtained by The Times.
"A prospective adopter is able to parent a child with whom they do not share the same ethnicity, provided they can meet the child's other identified needs.
"It is unacceptable for a child to be denied adoptive parents solely on the grounds that the child and prospective adopter do not share the same racial or cultural background."
Current advice states that social workers must give "due consideration to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background", but does not make clear whether race should be regarded as trumping other factors.
The new guidance will say that social workers should not delay adoption in the hope of finding an ethnic match for children.
"Time is not on the side of the child and a delay in placing a child with a new family can damage their development, contribute to further emotional harm, reduce their chances of finding a permanent family or increase the chance of adoption breakdown," it warns.
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