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The government has published revised guidance for local authorities on placing children from ethnic minorities in England.
The adoption guidance makes clear that local authorities must not deny children a home with adoptive parents only because they don't share the same ethnic or cultural background. In addition it also makes clear that local authorities should be welcoming enquiries from those wanting to adopt and no person should be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background.
The government wants local authorities to make more use of voluntary adoption agencies who have specialist expertise in finding families for difficult to place children - particularly older children, children with disabilities, sibling groups and ethnic minorities.
Progress in adoption has stalled in recent years, with the number of children placed for adoption falling by 15 per cent between March 2009 and 2010 and more children waiting longer to be adopted. Black children took on average over 50 per cent longer to be placed for adoption than children from other ethnic groups. And children over five were four times less likely to be adopted compared to children under five in the last year.
Introducing the new guidance, Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "Adoption can provide a permanent loving home for a child in care, so it's disappointing that the latest statistics show a decline in adoption rates and significant variation across the country. Some local authorities place just two per cent of their children in care for adoption compared to 16 per cent in other parts of the country. While there are many fantastic local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies, I want all the professionals involved in adoption to take note of the updated guidance. I want to see more children placed for adoption, where this is in their best interests, particularly those who may have been overlooked, like older children, children from BME backgrounds and those with disabilities.
"Over the coming months, I will be looking at whether the current inspection arrangements for adoption services can be strengthened. I also want local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies to welcome people who come forward to adopt. While not all people will be suitable, local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies should give everyone who approaches them a fair hearing and in no Circumstances turn them away because of their race, age or social background," he added.
David Holmes, Chief Executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering said: "We welcome the government's firm commitment to adoption and in particular the publication of this timely new guidance which we contributed to extensively.
"It is important to recognise that there is much good practice already in adoption although this is not always uniformly applied. The challenge is to ensure that every agency builds on best practice to ensure that no child is deprived of a loving adoptive home."