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Secret adoption register opened to would-be parents
Potential adopters will be allowed to search previously secret registers containing photographs and video of children needing homes
Would-be adoptive parents are to be allowed to browse photographs and videos of children needing families, previously kept strictly confidential, as part of an effort to speed up adoption.
For the first time, people who have already been through a strict vetting process will be given direct access to the adoption register to enable them to search for children across the country for whom they could potentially provide a home.
It means they will be able to help choose the children themselves, instead of relying of social workers or adoption agencies to make a suitable potential match.
Ministers hope that it will not only speed up the process but that allowing parents to see the children and learn about their lives will ultimately make them more likely to adopt.
Studies have suggested that exposure to personal material about the children even before they meet them could help parents form an emotional connection which could underpin their future family life.
It follows the introduction
of so-called “adoption parties” at which would-be adopters
are allowed to meet children face to face in a neutral setting to spur
the process along.
Children’s names and details of where they are living will be redacted from the registers to prevent would-be parents making direct approaches to them or their birth families outside the adoption process.
But the Department for Education said that pictures, home videos and even material such as letters written by the children will be available.
The change, initially being trialled in nine areas, will be introduced under new draft legal guidelines for adoption which have been published.
A consultation paper issued by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, and Edward Timpson, the children’s minister, explains: “This will significantly speed up the matching process, particularly for those children who may be harder to place.
“At present, despite the chronic shortage of adopters, some approved prospective adopters wait for months and sometimes years to be matched with a child.”
The new regulations also set out how the birth families of children being placed for adoption can provide a “memory box” for them containing important mementoes such as their tag from the maternity ward.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: “Giving adopters access to photos, videos and letters can encourage them to find out more about children that they may not have considered.
“We anticipate that out reforms to the Adoption Register – giving adopters access to this type of information for the first time – will lead to more adoptions more quickly, especially for harder to place children.
“In January we announced that we would be providing further funding for the British Association for Adoption and Fostering to continue to offer the valuable Register service to would-be adopters and children waiting for loving homes.”
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) said: "We are very aware from our members that the Government’s reform agenda around adoption has led to local authorities already making significant strides to develop their practice in the areas that have been identified.
“It is so important that social workers are given the credit they are due for the effort they put in to adoption work that has resulted in improvements in adoption rates."