Family Law Blogger in London
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Children kept waiting for adoption because of court delays
Ofsted has recently published a report into the causes of delay in the adoption system. The report find that the most significant cause of delay for children needing adoption is the length of time it takes for cases to be completed in court. The average time taken to complete care proceedings in the cases inspectors examined was almost 14 months.
Not intervening early enough, and cases being left to ‘drift’ prior to care proceedings, were also key factors that hindered successful adoption in the cases reviewed. The report found that some children had been known to children’s social care for a considerable length of time prior to care proceedings being initiated.
Typically, these cases were characterised by long-standing concerns about either neglect or emotional abuse, or both. Delays jeopardised good outcomes for children. The children were older when they entered care, and their life experiences had resulted in some significant behavioural challenges for potential adopters.
The report also found many good examples of practice where local authorities worked to minimise delays. Overall, there was good parallel planning when children were taken into care or about to be placed for adoption. Most of the cases tracked showed a clear commitment to early planning for adoption at the same time as rehabilitation was being pursued. This ensured that if children could not go back to their birth family then the process for adoption was already in place.
Of those adopters that were interviewed, the majority were happy with the overall service that they received. Most did not feel that they had experienced significant delay, although nearly all considered that there had been some kind of delay, however minor. Nearly all adopters felt they had received a welcoming and sensitive response when they first enquired about adoption, and that assessment was necessarily thorough.
The report found that processes for matching children with adoptive placements were generally robust and of the authorities surveyed, there was little evidence of delay caused by an unrealistic search for a ‘perfect’ ethnic match.
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