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Number of children adopted from care falls by 12%

Published: 29.09.16

Adoption UK is saddened, but not surprised, to learn that 670 fewer looked-after children were adopted in England in 2016, than in the previous year – the first fall in several years.
Number of children adopted from care falls by 12%

A total of 4,690 looked after children were adopted in 2016, compared to 5,360 in 2015, representing a fall of 12%, the latest government figures reveal.

This comes against the backdrop of a slight increase (1%) in the number of looked after children (70,440) in 2016, and the number of Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) increasing from 3,550 last year, to 3,830 this year.

Adoption UK believes the fall in adoptions is as a direct result of confusion over two landmark rulings in 2013, which resulted in adoption placement orders being halved.

The Re B and Re B-S rulings introduced the concept that adoption orders should only be made when – in the words of one of the judges in the Re B case – “nothing else will do”. In the year following, adoption decisions dropped 40% and placement orders fell 45%.

Hugh Thornbery CBE chief executive of Adoption UK, said: “I’ve feared for some time that there would be a dramatic fall in adoptions this year so the drop comes as no surprise. We expect to see a further fall in the current year.

“Adoption can offer the best chance to permanently break a cycle of neglect and abuse and give a child a second chance at fulfilling their potential with the support of a loving family - so we cannot stress enough the importance of clearing up any confusion over the 2013 rulings which has undoubtedly had a negative impact upon adoption decisions and placement orders in recent years.”

Adoption UK hopes that a Court of Appeal judgment in July, which provides social workers and local authorities with a steer on applying the 2013 rulings, will help redress the balance.

The fall in the number of adoptions was seen in the one to four year-old age group, which covers 72% of all adopted children in 2016. The number of looked after children aged under-one year who were adopted, and the number aged five to nine years who were adopted, remained stable in 2016 (230 and 1,020 respectively).

Click here to read the government’s statistical first release on the number of children looked after in England in 2015 to 2016.