Ofsted speeds up adoption process
A new move to speed up the adoption process has been launched.
Inspectors Ofsted warned that only local authorities that ensured all children identified for adoption were placed within 12 months would be able to achieve an "outstanding" judgment under new inspection arrangements.
A spokeswoman said: "Age is the most significant indicator of a successful adoption; the younger a child is placed the better the outcomes."
She continued: "Delays in adoption can have severe impact on children's health, development and ability to make new meaningful attachments and can impair their chances of enjoying a successful adult life. Inspection will have a key focus on how quickly adoption agencies place children when adoption is in their best interest."
Ofsted is also launching a new inspection framework for fostering and revisions to the children's homes framework introduced a year ago.
John Goldup, deputy chief inspector, said: "Everything we are publishing today is about raising our expectations for our children. Under these frameworks, it will be much harder to get a 'good' or an 'outstanding' judgment from inspectors.
"It is essential that children in care, often the most vulnerable, get the very best support to have a happy, stable and fulfilling childhood. That is why we want to raise standards further and focus on what real difference is being made to children's lives.
"Our scrutiny of delays in the adoption process will help focus and bring forward a smooth and quicker adoption process. The earlier children are identified for adoption and placed with a family the better the chances that adoption will be successful."
In addition to looking at delays, inspection will look at whether adoption has been considered as an option for all children in local authority care. Inspectors will look at evidence that adoption has been considered early in the planning process and not as a last resort.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "I welcome this change to the adoption inspection arrangements. Finding stable placements for vulnerable looked-after children must be a top priority for local authorities, but there is currently too much inconsistency and variation."