ADOPTION has proven to be the best option for children in care, but only 60 babies were adopted in the UK last year.
Star reporter Rachael Clegg talks to the council’s adoption specialist Sue Clarke about how Sheffield fares on adoption.
GO back in time to the 70s and around 4000 babies were adopted each year. Fast forward to 2010 and that figure dropped to 60. In fact, last year, only 3,050 children under the age of 16 were adopted in total, throughout the whole of the UK.
And 60 of the children were placed in permanent homes by Sheffield City Council, which is making a concerted effort to encourage families to adopt.
Jon Banwell, of Sheffield City Council’s children’s and family services, said: “We want anything that helps us find more adoptive places - there is a shortage of families wanting to adopt and this is possibly because of the economy.”
But while times are tough financially, the rewards of adopting, according to Sue, are high. “Some families are not able to have children and others already have children but being able to offer their parenthood to another child is very rewarding.”
Jon wants more families to come forward to adopt.
And he’s not alone.
This week, the government stated that it intends to overhaul and speed up Britain’s adoption system. Ministers claim the process takes too long and turns down families that are in fact suitable prospective parents.
David Cameron, who wants more children to go to adoptive homes, said ‘this country must become pro-adoption.’
The government wants to do this by cutting down on the bureaucracy involved when screening parents.
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: “The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective. Dedicated social workers are spending too long filling out forms instead of making sound, common-sense judgements about someone’s suitability to adopt.”
But Jon said: “We are always supportive of new initiatives but recognise that there also has to be a robust process. While we want to make it easier, we want to go to great pains to ensure that families are thoroughly prepared for adoption.”
While there are national reports of families being turned down as adoptive parents on ground that they smoke or are overweight, Sue Clarke, manager of adoption services, says this is not the case in Sheffield.
“We don’t place children under the age of five with smokers and prospective adopters have a medical as part of the screening but a prospective parent would not be turned down for being overweight. There are some strict offences that exclude adults from being able to adopt, such as offences against children.”
Sue oversees adoption placements and ensures that families are supported throughout the entire process.
“We have a support system for parents as long as they are in Sheffield and for families adopting outside of Sheffield we provide up three years’ support.”
This support service is invaluable to many parents.
“One of the most common issues is attachment and forming attachment with a child and this is often determined by a child’s previous experience. If a child has had a neglectful exoerience that may may it harder to adapt and form attachments with new parents.”
The emotional, social and intellectual stimulation a child has been subject to before adoption is a key factor. During the mid 90s, when many British families were adopting babies from orphanages in Romania, some parents found that the babies were developmentally behind, with limited emotional ability. But Sue says that this can be overcome. “We include information on preparation for adoption and give advice on adequate stimulation.
“I read some research about how stimulation from the main care-giver can help the brain develop.”
It’s for this reason that families tend to prefer babies, but Sue’s keen to encourage more people to adopt children as well.
“Adoption is a really rewarding experience for parents and we are keen to hear from anyone who is keen to adopt.”
According to Jon it will be March before new measures are announced in terms of an overhaul of the adoption system. Until then, as far as Sheffield’s concerned, the more prospective parents the merrier.