Adoption in England: A Failing System

Adoption lawyers have seen the level of adoption in the UK fall to an all time low. In 2010/11, a total of 60 babies were adopted. This figure alone is alarmingly low, but when you take into account that those 60 babies adopted were out a total of 3,050, it becomes even more tragic.

At the moment a child will spend on average 2.7 years in care before being adopted. This is a vital time for the development of children and the bond formed with their parents. Whilst a child’s welfare must be paramount, it seems there is not enough being done to ensure the process is quick enough to give adopting parents the best time frame to bond with their child.

The graph below says it all. Since 2007 the number of children being adopted has declined and since 2008 there has been significant growth in the number of children taken into care. Local authorities and central government need to come together and find ways of speeding up the process of adoption whilst maintaining the best interests and safety of the children.

The Data

Looked after children

There were 65,520 children in local authority care in England on 31 March 2011 – a 2% increase from 2010. Of these:

  • 56% were boys and 44% girls
  • Most (62%) came to social services? attention due to abuse or neglect
  • 48,530 (74%) were in a foster placement. A total of 2,450 children were placed for adoption at 31 March 2010 – 50 less than last year.


The average age at adoption was 3 years 10 months

  • 6% (3,660) of children in care in England on 31 March 2010 were under one year old
  • 18% (12,020) were aged between one and four years o ld
  • 18% (11,830) were aged between five and nine years old
  • 37% (24,160) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
  • 21% (13,860) were aged 16 and over


During the year ending 31 March 2011, 3,050 looked-after children were adopted – a decrease of 5% from 2010. Of the children adopted:

  • 51% (1,560) were boys; 49 per cent (1,500) were girls
  • 2% (60) were under one year old
  • 71% (2,170) were aged between one and four years old
  • 24% (730) were aged between five and nine years old
  • 3% (90) were aged between 10 and 15 years old
  • 84%?were of White British origin, 10% of mixed ethnic origin, 2% Asian or Asian British and 2% black or black British
  • 72% were placed for adoption due to abuse or neglect, 12% due to family dysfunction, 8% because the birth family was in ‘acute stress’

Adoptive parents

  • 91 per cent (2,900) of looked-after children who were adopted in the year ending March 2010 were adopted by two people,?nine per cent by one person
  • Most adopters were married (82%)
  • In 2010,?6% of adopters were an unmarried couple (different gender), 2% was an unmarried couple (same gender) and 2% were civil partners

*In 2010, 72.4% of children who were adopted during the year ending 31 March 2011 were placed for adoption within 12 months of the decision that they should be placed for adoption.

Adoption Register for England and Wales

A total of 335 children were matched between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011.

The key facts are:

  • Manchester has the highest rate in England – 142 children per 10,00 under 18s are being looked after by the local authority, which is 1,385. Of those, only 9% were adopted in 2010/11, one of the lowest figures in the country. Another 37% were taken into care
  • 66% of the 455 children looked after in Rochdale were taken into care, the highest figure in the country
  • Birmingham has the highest number of looked-after children – 1,900, a rate of 75 per 10,000 under-18s in the area. 42% of those children are taken into care and another 12% adopted, again a relatively low rate
  • 27% of Peterborough’s 310 looked-after children were adopted – the highest figure in England

Of the bigger authorities, Suffolk, with nearly 800 looked-after children, had the highest adoption rate, 21%

If you have any family law enquiries please contact us on 02083 432 998 or complete the enquiry form online.

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