17 November 2022 

Children in England with a plan for adoption are spending longer in the care system before being adopted, according to new government statistics released today. The Department for Education data reveals that these children are spending as long in care as they did in 2015 - two years and three months. The time it takes for a child to be adopted in England has been increasing since 2019, when the amount of time a child spent from entry into care to being adopted was one year and eleven months.  

Adoption UK's Chief Executive Emily Frith said: “Once the courts agree that adoption is in the best interests of a child, the sooner they can be matched with a permanent adoptive family, the better. Children in the care system have already experienced so much loss and upheaval. We know that outcomes are better for children who are adopted than for those who grow up in care. Permanence gives children the best chance of a bright future.” 

The Department for Education figures also show the number of children adopted from care in England has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, increasing by just 2% from last year, when there was a sharp 17% decline in the number of adoptions, largely due to a reduction in court proceedings. There were 2,950 children adopted in the year to 2022, falling from a peak of 5,360 in 2015, since when there has been an overall decline in adoptions. This sits against a backdrop of a rise in the number of children being placed into the care of local authorities– up by 2% this year, to an all-time high of 82,170. 

Emily Frith continued: “There is no right or wrong number of adoptions. The crucial thing is that the system must work well for every child with a plan for adoption. Despite a huge amount of work by the sector in recent years, there is still a lack of confidence within the adoption system. We need to improve judges’ confidence that the right families can be found, train social workers to be more confident about making good matches and give adopters confidence that they will be well supported once they adopt. All of us who are involved will have to redouble our efforts." 

Other trends include an increase in the number of special guardianship orders granted - up 1% on last year to 3,870. Special guardianship is a court order that places a child with someone other than their parents on a long-term basis.  Adoption UK is campaigning for parity of support for Special Guardians, including on access to funded therapy and parental leave allowances.