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Lifestyle judgements made about prospective adopters need to stop, says Williamson

“Too many lifestyle judgements” are made on potential adopters resulting in too few adoptive parents to go around, the education secretary has warned.

Gavin Williamson said that an overly bureaucratic system that places too high a burden on parents who want to adopt is making it harder for people who want to give a child a stable home.

The shortfall is resulting in children being “bounced around the system” as they wait for a family, he added.

Gavin Williamson said: “When it comes to adoption, what we have seen over a number of years is something I can only call narrow mindedness or even snobbery.”

“For example, some local authorities make it harder to adopt if you rent your home rather than own it, or if you’re not a perfect ethnic match. These outdated messages are putting off people who would otherwise come forward when the only qualification you need is the ability to love and care for a child.”

“I am urging local authorities to help us break down these barriers so that we can unite more children with the families they deserve so much,” he added.

Currently, there are around 2,400 children waiting for adoption but only just over 1,800 approved adopters who are ready to provide them with a home.

But the adoption process is appearing daunting for many and discouraging them from coming forwards. While safeguards should not be relaxed and checks must remain in place, Mr Williamson said he intended to change the process and end the lifestyle-judging.

Children from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds often wait the longest to be adopted and the education secretary said that the “obsession with finding the perfect ethnic match for children” needs to end, adding that there is no acceptable reason why adopters should be blocked from registering simply because there are no children of the same ethnicity waiting to be adopted.

The government is launching a national campaign next month to reach out to churches, mosques and other community groups starting with a pilot service in London and Birmingham, to outline these points and encourage more potential Black and other minority ethnic adopters to come forward.

Dr Krish Kandiah, Founding Director of Home for Good, said: “We have been delighted to play our part in addressing the persistent racial disparity in adoption and are so encouraged to see a continued commitment to this critically important issue from the Secretary of State today. It has been our privilege at Home for Good to assist with training hundreds of social workers across the country in faith and cultural literacy and to pilot a new project helping to find adopters of Black children waiting for adoption.”

The government confirmed that £6.5 million was provided to local authorities and regional adoption agencies to help adoptive families facing greater stress during the Covid-19 pandemic and which funded activities such as virtual peer to peer support, access to helplines, couples therapy and online counselling, given the social distancing measures. This is alongside the government’s Adoption Support Fund which has provided nearly 61,000 adoptive and special guardianship order families across the country with therapeutic support since its launch in 2015, backed by nearly £175 million.

The government has also confirmed that it is making £4.3 billion available for local authorities to manage the impact of COVID-19, including on children’s services. Additional funding has also been provided to support the extension of the role of Virtual School Heads to promote the education of children who have left care through adoption, special guardianship or child arrangements order. This is the third year of this funding, which supports the new duties which came into force in September 2018.

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