A RADICAL overhaul of the adoption system has been given a mixed reception by Kirklees Council.
The Government has announced an action plan to improve the process and in particular the performance of local authorities.
According to the latest national figures, the average length of time between a child entering care and moving in with their adoptive family is 21 months.
In Kirklees, children have to wait even longer to be adopted. Two and a half years is the average time these children spend in care.
The Government claims the current system is too bureaucratic and takes too long for both potential adopters and children who need a stable, loving home.
The new action plan will include proposals for:
New adoption scorecards to hold local authorities to account. The first ones will be published in the next few weeks.
A revised approval process for new adopters, cutting the time to six months.
A national gateway for adoption, providing a first point of contact for anyone interested in adoption.
According to figures released by Kirklees, 26 children were adopted in the borough in 2011 and a further 73 children are currently waiting to be adopted.
A council spokesman said that recently published league tables for councils were over-simplified.
“The ‘league tables’ did not allow for the acknowledgment that some of the children successfully placed for adoption were older, had a disability or were part of a sibling group.
“While it may take longer to place these children, it is a positive outcome if adoption can be achieved.
“In focusing on timescales, there is a danger of losing focus on achieving the best possible outcomes for children with permanence through adoption.”
The council did, however, cautiously welcome the revised approval service: “We would agree that there is a need for timely assessments which avoid delay for both adopters and children.
“However, caution must be exercised in speeding up the process. The children placed for adoption are some of the most complex in society and it is important that potential adopters are fully prepared.”
The spokesman added that the national gateway, which would allow potential adopters to seek independent advice, was a positive step.