The charity Adoption UK is calling for urgent action  as the number of children adopted from care in England has fallen for a fourth successive year, as revealed by the latest official figures.

The Department for Education figures show the number of looked after children who were adopted during the year ending 31 March 2019, has fallen by 7% since 2018, to 3,570.

Adoptions have been consistently falling year-on-year, down from 5,360 in 2015.

The fall in numbers of adoptions is partly offset by increases in kinship care placements - these children are still leaving care for loving homes.

But this does not explain the whole drop, which is why Adoption UK is very concerned that delays in court processes and low numbers of prospective adopters are leading to long waits for children needing a permanent family.

Adoption UK chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: “We urgently need to see improvements in the way adopters are recruited, trained and supported to ensure these vulnerable children find the loving, stable homes they deserve.

“We are calling on the future government to give us an adoption sector that provides adoptive families with the support they really need.”

Abuse or neglect was the highest (74%) main category of need for of children who were adopted, while family dysfunction was the second highest (14%) main category of need.

The number of children ceasing to be looked after through a special guardianship order (SGO) increased by 11% to 3,830, when compared to the previous year. Most SGOs were to relatives or friends – 90% - the remainder were largely to former foster carers – 9%.

Dr Armstrong Brown continued: “There is no right number of adoptions. However, the decline in recent years, despite the number of children coming into care increasing, has been a cause for concern for all.

“It is pleasing to see this concern finally translated into action following the Department for Education announcement that will provide £645,000 to regional adoption agencies (RAAs) in a bid to find more adoptive parents.”

It is hoped the number of people coming forward to adopt will be significantly increased, particularly those from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community.

Children from black and minority ethnic communities wait longer to be placed for adoption because of a shortage of prospective adopters from ethnic minority backgrounds. Adoption UK’s recent Adoption Barometer survey found that less than five per cent of adopters in England come from the BAME community.