Number of children adopted from care in England drops for fifth year running

The number of children adopted from care in England has fallen for the fifth year running as numbers of looked-after children continue to rise, new figures show.

There were 3,440 children adopted from care in 2019-20 – down more than a third in five years, the Department for Education (DfE) said.

This is a fall of 4% from 3,590 children adopted from care over the previous year and follows a peak in 2015, when 5,360 looked-after children were adopted.

The figures show that the number of children in care has continued to rise.

As of March 31, there were 80,080 in care – up 2% from the previous year.

This is a rate of 67 per 10,000 children – up from 65 in 2019 and 64 in 2018.

The overall average time between entry into care and adoption remained at two years.

The charity Adoption UK said it was “deeply concerned” by the downward trend, and expects a further drop for 2020-21 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adoption UK’s chief executive Sue Armstrong Brown said: “There is no right number of adoptions, but this continuing downward trajectory is very worrying. It does not bode well for next year’s figures, which will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the pandemic.

“While we welcomed investment by the Government in this year’s #YouCanAdopt campaign, to recruit more adoptive parents, we must question whether this initiative will be enough.

“The fallout from the pandemic, particularly lockdown, will almost certainly lead to an increase in the number of children in local authority care. This, coupled with delays to the courts – which have seen adoptions being held up – is thwarting efforts to find homes for vulnerable children.”

It is hoped that the Government’s campaign will increase the number of prospective adoptees from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Adoption UK’s recent Adoption Barometer survey found that less than 5% of adopters in England come from the BAME community.

The DfE figures also showed that the majority (72%) of the looked-after children in 2019-20 were placed into foster care.

Some 13% were placed in secure units, children’s homes or semi-independent living with staff, such as hostels, and 3% were adopted.

Local authorities have a duty to provide accommodation within their area that allows the child to live near their home.

In 2019-20, placements inside councils’ boundaries accounted for 58% of all placements.

The majority of placements (73%) were within 20 miles of the child’s home but 20% were not and data was missing for the remaining 7%.

Councillor Judith Blake, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Councils are now looking after nearly 16,000 more children than they were 10 years ago.

“During that decade of rising demand, councils have lost £15 billion in core government funding. While councils have increased children’s social care budgets at the expense of other services, this has not been able to keep pace with demand.

“If children in care, and those on the edge of care, are to thrive, councils must have the funding they need to pay for the very best support, from help with education and mental health through to support for foster carers and nurturing children’s homes.”