PM demands adoption service changes
David Cameron has called for an end to the "tick-box mentality" in adoption services as league tables naming poor performers were unveiled.
The Prime Minister said officials were spending too much time asking prospective parents "pointless questions" and urged them to show more "discretion" and "judgment".
He also warned local authorities that "go on year after year failing" children waiting for adoption that they will lose the right to run the service.
Mr Cameron said: "Time is not just money in these cases. Time can lead to tragedy."
During a visit to a children's centre in north London, he added: "Everyone wants to make sure that adoptive parents are asked the right questions and that we have proper checks and safeguards, but there are far too many stories today about pointless questions, very intrusive questions, and also a sort of tick-box mentality that means that people are looking at things like how long ago you gave up smoking, the age of your youngest natural child.
"There's too much ticking of boxes and not enough discretion, judgment and responsibility."
He continued: "We want to act to help some of those vulnerable children in our country, children who languish in the care system who have a terrible start in life. And often, as a result, go on and have really difficult lives. We want to do more to help those children.
"The state is responsible for them and frankly the current situation isn't working."
Hackney, in London, was named the worst performer over the last three years for placing children up for adoption quickly.
Just 43% of youngsters were found new homes within 12 months, the Department for Education's league tables show. The national average was 74% from 2008-2010.