UK adoption reforms to be made law

The UK government released guidelines to local councils last year to speed-up the adoption process, particularly for black children.

Black children on average wait twice as long to be adopted than white children, meaning more time spent in care and more uncertainty for them.

Despite the new guidelines the government believes that many councils have not changed the way they operate. The government believes that many councils are still waiting too long to find the “perfect” ethnic match for black children, and are not considering white families who may wish to adopt a black or ethnic minority child.

Some councils believe that mixed raced adoption is not ideal, and that it is better to wait longer to find a suitable black family. Some have even described mixed race adoption as “internal colonialism” or even as a “new form of the slave trade”. These views are clearly extreme and come from bitter experiences of mixed race adoption in previous decades.

Attitudes and culture have moved on, (though they have further to move), but the changes in the attitude to race in the past 10 years have been significant. This is partly due to the rise in mixed race couples, couples that have their own mixed race children or in some cases seek to adopt children.

The government has now decided to push ahead with legislation to enforce time limits on councils. Once legislation is enacted councils will have only 3 months in which to find a suitable local match, before a child is placed on the national adoption register.

The government has also proposed that people (who are already approved adopters) may be able to foster children before that child is placed for adoption with them. The idea is to provide stability for the child as soon as possible, and while the adoption process takes place. Obviously this policy will help remove children from care, but many professionals in the field believe that it raises both risks and hopes, particularly if the child in question is not in fact adopted by their foster carer.

The government (particularly David Cameron and Michael Gove) has clearly got serious momentum behind adoption reform, which is more than welcome.

Of course not all councils drag their feet or resist change, and some are already implementing the guidelines introduced last year.

However, Andrew Flanagan chief executive of the NSPCC has warned against speed being the sole focus of adoption reform.

Reform must come soon, there are too many children in need of loving homes - race and colour should not be a barrier.