Memorandum from the Association of the Directors of Social Services - 1. INTRODUCTION

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 20 November 2001.

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Members of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) warmly welcome the Adoption and Children Bill and the changes that have been made since the Bill was previously introduced to Parliament on 15 March 2001 in response to evidence submitted to the Select Committee at that time.

At present in England and Wales more children from public are placed for adoption than any other European country. There has been a significant increase in the number of children adopted from care, 3,067 in the year ending 31 March 2001, in comparison with 2,700 the previous year. This represents a 12% increase from the year ending 31 March 2000 and a 40% increase from the year ending 31 March 1999.

Considerable progress is also being made in attempts to reduce the length of time children are looked after before an adoption order is made: for the year ending 31 March 2001 this period was on average 2 years 9 months, down from 2 years 10 months the previous year.

This progress is particularly welcome in the light of the continuing complexity of placing such damaged children with adoptive families.

There is a need for intensive preparation and care in placing children for adoption today, given the relatively few children who are relinquished for adoption, and that the majority have endured very damaging experiences which are likely to have life long implications for them and their families. It is also important to recognise that the adoption process must go at the child's pace; for older children it may take many months to prepare them for adoption, a process which cannot begin in earnest until after the outcome of care proceedings.