Adoption breakdowns doubles in five years

By Alice Cannet

Adopted children are increasingly returned to care homes due to their parents’ inability to cope with them, new data revealed today.

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act for Channel Four showed that the number of adopted children who were sent back to care homes has doubled in the past five years.

This number has increased by a third in the last year despite the number of adoptions falling significantly. In 2007, only 4,367 children were adopted, the lowest number since 1999.

Local councils do not have an obligation to retain data on adoption breakdowns and the majority of authorities contacted during the research had no or only partial records.

Out of the 450 local authorities in the UK, 92 had kept a record which showed that 57 children had gone back into care in the last year compared with 26 in 2004-2005.

If these figures are the norm across the country, more than 250 children would have been left their adoptive parents to go into care homes in the past year alone.

Experts said that the figures reflected the common problem of children being taken into care by social workers too late.

Children who suffered in their natural parents’ home could develop severe emotional and behavioural problems before they had a chance to be adopted.

Adoption UK, the charity which assists adoptive families, said that there was not enough support available for adoptive parents to help them create solid relationships with traumatised children.

Jonathan Pearce, director of Adoption UK, said: “The figures starkly illustrate the difficulties and complexity of modern-day adoptions from care and also highlight the lack of support for adoptive families in their challenging task of being therapeutic parents for traumatised children.”

The charity is concerned that the adoption system focuses too much on the approval process rather than on preparing prospective parents and assisting them once they have adopted a child.

This situation was meant to improve with the introduction of the Adoption Act 2002 which intended to make adoption easier and faster and avoid children being held in care for a long time.

Lord Laming set out recommendations on how to improve the country’s care system in the aftermath of the Baby P scandal.

He called on social workers to act more quickly when dealing with parents who had difficulties coping with children and be more realistic about parents’ ability to change.