Social workers should make it easier for white couples to adopt children from different ethnic backgrounds, a government minister said last night.
There is currently no bar on inter-racial adoption, but the children’s minister, Tim Loughton, said too many children languish in care because social workers hold out for “the perfect match” rather than deciding whether the would-be adoptive parents would provide a good home.
The result of this approach, combined with the shortage of non-white couples wanting to adopt, is that ethnic minority children are over-represented among the young people in care who never find permanent homes. It takes an average of two years and seven months to adopt; black, Asian and mixed-race children wait three times longer than white children.
Social workers are currently required to give “significant consideration” to race when placing children because of concerns they may struggle to settle in new families from different cultural backgrounds.
But the Department for Education said ministers feel authorities should not be “over-sensitive” on the issue. A spokeswoman said last night that guidance to local authorities and adoption agencies is due to be reissued “in the next couple of months”. There will be “no substantive changes” to the official position on trans-racial matches, she said, “because the law is already pretty clear”. But ministers want local authorities to take a fresh approach to the way the guidance is implemented on the ground.
Loughton told The Times there was “no reason at all” why white couples should not adopt children from different racial backgrounds. “If it is a great couple offering a good, loving, stable permanent home, that should be the number one consideration,” the minister said.
“Too many social workers are holding out for the perfect match, so suitable couples are turned away and children are staying in care for years as a result.”
“Social workers think that if they wait a few more years the right family will be found. But if there are no other issues, the couple offering a permanent home should be approved even if it is not an ethnic match.”
There are approximately 65,000 children in care, most of whom are not considered for adoption because they are too old or are moving in and out of the system.
Of around 2,300 approved for adoption last year, about 500 were of black or Asian origin.