I am determined to eradicate underperformance in the adoption system. The Department has already published two rounds of adoption scorecards for local authorities as part of a tougher approach to driving up the speed of the adoption process. Our most pressing priority now is to increase the number of approved adopters, and it is crucial that all parts of the system focus on that goal. I hope to make an announcement shortly.
I thank the Minister for that response. I have been made aware of a case involving a couple seeking to adopt, who have been piloting concurrent care with their local authority. The judge initially ruled that the placement order had to be completed within 26 weeks of the birth of the child, but it now looks unlikely to be completed before 44 weeks, at best. Is the Minister listening to the experiences of carers undertaking such pilots to ensure that he understands what they are saying and is able to improve the process across the country?
It is disappointing to hear of the experience of my hon. Friend’s constituents, who are trying to help some of the most vulnerable children in our society. We are keen to promote all ways of improving approaches to concurrent planning, and to fostering for adoption, that are child-focused and that will ensure that children are placed as soon as possible. We are working with Coram to develop practice guidance that is informed by the experience of carers themselves, including—I hope—those in my hon. Friend’s constituency, in order to improve people’s and professionals’ understanding of how those placements work. We will also be legislating in the forthcoming children and families Bill to ensure that care cases are completed as soon as possible within the 26-week time limit.
Adoption is successful for many children and families, as I can confirm from personal experience, but as the Minister knows, there is a shortage of adoptive parents coming forward. Will he confirm that it is important that we improve care standards in residential care and among foster carers, and that we make an investment in those people as well as, rightly, trying to speed up the adoption process?
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has huge experience in this area. We need to ensure that we have the right placement available for the child at the right time. That could involve a variety of potentially permanent placements, but we need to ensure that the child has the opportunity to thrive whatever the placement. We believe that there are more children who could benefit from adoption, but we need to ensure that the whole system is fit for purpose.
May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the progress that he is making on adoption, an area in which he is particularly well qualified, professionally and personally? What progress is he making on driving out the political correctness that makes it difficult for white parents to adopt children from ethnic minorities even though there is a shortage of adoptive parents?
We know that that is still a problem in the adoption system. For example, it takes over a year longer for a black child to be adopted than a white child. There is also concern that there is still too much emphasis on getting a perfect ethnic match in the adoption system. That is why we will be legislating to ensure that all factors that are relevant to the characteristics of the child are taken into consideration, but that none, including the child’s ethnicity, should be overriding.