Adoption services in England are “a crisis facing the country”, according to a leading adoption lawyer.
Nigel Priestley, a senior partner at Ridley and Hall in Huddersfield, blamed government cutbacks and reorganisation, and claimed that more must be done to recruit and support adopters.
“There is austerity, so local authorities are under pressure; they’ve reorganised by grouping local authority adoption services into regional sections; there’s a shortage of foster carers; and there are still a high number of children coming into the system,” he said.
“If adoption is the government’s key policy in terms of long-term care for very needy children then obviously you’ve got to increase the resource.”
His comments come as a government shakeup of adoption services sees the closure of England’s National Adoption Register on 29 March.
A specialist matching service for difficult-to-place children is also closing.
Both services were run by Coram and the charity’s chief executive Dr Carol Homden claimed children will lose out.
“There won’t be anyone there proactively to find them the adoptive family that they need,” she said.
“So the risk is, that up to 300 children who might otherwise be matched will not be,” she warned.
Government figures show adoptions fell 18% in 2018 to 2,230, while Coram says England is facing the biggest shortage of adopters in 18 years, with three children waiting to be adopted for every family willing to take a child.
In a statement, the minister for children and families, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “Every child deserves to have a loving, stable home that’s right for them, and thousands of adoptive families have had their lives transformed by adoption.
“Children continue to be matched with caring and devoted families, with adoption agencies using a variety of systems. We are working closely with the sector to see how technology can support better use of data and further improve services for children.”