KIRKLEES is ahead of the game when it comes to speeding up adoption of children in care.
The council is already beating the government’s target for approving new adoptive parents within eight months.
Council officials and staff have reduced the time this takes locally to just six months.
Last year they approved 21 new adoptive parents. This year they are on track to have approved 33 new adopters by the end of March.
In line with the national picture, the number of children needing permanent adoptive homes is on the increase, putting pressure on councils around the country to speed up the whole process.
Back in 2009, just 33 children were awaiting adoption in Kirklees. The council now has almost 90 babies and young children waiting for new families.
Council leaders have welcomed a new government initiative to tackle adoption and to accelerate the process.
One new measure is the introduction of Adoption Activity Days, pioneered by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering. Here prospective parents can meet children waiting for adoption and have the chance to make a genuine connection with a child.
Other national proposals just announced include:
More paid leave for people adopting a child.
Giving adoptive parents the right to take time off work to meet the children beforehand.
Trialling personal budgets, with more control for the adoptive parents, rather than the council.
Extending free early education for two year-olds to adopted children from 2014 and giving them priority school access from 2013.
Launching a new helpline manned by adopters this year.
Launching a National Gateway for Adoption, a new ‘one-stop-shop’ online service, making it easy for prospective adopters to find out more.
A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “We welcome the Government’s drive to offer more post-adoption support for families and to help ensure that more children get a stable, loving home without delays.
“Looking at options for opening up the Adoption Register, we’ll be working with the Yorkshire adoption consortium on how best to take these forward over the coming months.
“In the meantime, we recently trialled 10 DVDs of children and showed these to prospective adoptive parents during the recruitment process and they’ve proven really successful.
“Families immediately expressed an interest in six of the children, so these are being assessed for suitability already. We’ve also significantly reduced the timescales for approving new adoptive parents.”
Kirklees attributes its recent success to a number of new measures introduced over the last 12 months.
These include having social workers dedicated to assessing new adoptive parents, doubling the amount of training groups (now bi-monthly) and attending significantly more national adoption exchange events.
Kirklees also places adoptive parents and children waiting to be adopted on the National Adoption Register straight away, rather than trying to match them locally first as they used to do.
In November 2012, the council launched its first adoption recruitment drive.
However the spokesman stressed that, despite the big improvements locally, the council is actively seeking new adopters.
To find out more, visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/adoption or call 01924 483707.