City takes action to speed up adoptions

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CHILDREN in care are starting new lives with adoptive families in Sheffield within a tough new Government timetable revealed today.

Ministers say it should take no longer than 21 months for a youngster to pass through a local authority adoption system - in Sheffield it takes around 19.

But on an alternative measure the city is failing to make the grade.

A child has to wait an average of 263 days to be matched to a family after the council has received authority from a court to make a placement - the second slowest council in the Yorkshire region.

That isn’t good enough, according to a new target which says the whole process should take no longer than 213 days - or seven months.

To improve its services Sheffield is drawing up a three month action plan to speed up the whole process.

And it is to launch a campaign to encourage more people to consider adoptions, as numbers are currently declining.

The national timetables will be gradually toughened up over the next four years, ministers say.

The city does still see more adoptions from its care system than the national average - 19 per cent as opposed to just 12. In 2011-12 46 children in care were successfully placed.

But Executive Director of Children’s Services Dr Sonia Sharp said that while babies were quickly adopted, it took longer to place older children.

“We believe it can be worthwhile taking a little longer to place youngsters as long as they end up with the right family or parent,” she said.

Sheffield argues it is equally important to look at how successful adoptions are, not just the speed of the service.

Officers say they are proud of the low failure rate, with only one placement failing to work out last year. To help parents post-adoption support services are in place.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children’s services, added: “We recognise getting a child adopted as quickly as possible is important and so we are working to make sure we do things in a prompt way.

“At the end of the day it is about doing the right thing for these children.”