New figures released by the Office for National Statistics show a 6% increase in adoptions which took place following court orders in England and Wales in 2011 compared to the previous year.
There were 4,734 adoptions entered into the Adopted Children Register (ACR) following court orders made in 2011. This was a 6% increase compared with 2010, when there were 4,481 adoptions.
The proportion of children aged one to four who were adopted has steadily increased since 1998. In 2011, 62 per cent of children adopted were aged one to four, compared with 34 per cent in 1998. In contrast to the increasing proportion of adoptions of children aged one to four, the proportions of adoptions to other age groups has decreased. The percentage of adoptions of children aged under one decreased from 5 per cent in 1998 to 2 per cent in 2011. While for children aged 10 - 14, the percentage of adoptions has more than halved from 21 per cent in 1998 to 10 per cent in 2011.
Janet Smith, Adoption UK Director of Adoption Support, said: "It is encouraging that the number of adoption orders increased in 2011. Adoption offers positive outcomes for children from the care system, providing them with a permanent family that many of them might not have if they remained in the care system.
"We must be mindful that the ONS figures on adoption include not just children adopted from the care system but also adoptions by relatives and step-parents, whereas Government statistics do not."
She added: "We need to remain committed to recruiting more adoptive parents but it is important to remember that any focus on recruiting adopters must go hand-in-hand with good support packages, including financial ones, both to encourage new adopters and ensure the long-term success of adoptive placements."
The findings also revealed a slight increase in the number of children adopted who were born outside of marriage/civil partnerships. This increase is part of a continuing rise over recent years: in 2011, 82 per cent of children adopted were born outside of marriage/civil partnerships compared to 68 per cent in 1998.