The adoption rate has collapsed because of prejudice towards ethnic minority children being placed with white parents, according to the outgoing chief executive of the UK's largest children's charity.
Martin Narey from Barnardo's said the adoption rate of babies should increase fourfold, and more toddlers and older children also needed to be placed with new families.
He told The Guardian: "Only 70 babies were adopted last year compared with 4,000 in 1976.
"We need that figure to get back into the thousands so we need to quadruple it over the next few years - and quadruple it again.
"Early adoptions are particularly successful and yet it remains out of fashion."
He went on to say that local authorities and adoption agencies were reluctant to allow white couples to adopt children from different ethnic backgrounds.
"The law is clear. A child should not stay in care for an undue length of time while waiting for adoptive parents of the same ethnicity.
"But the reality is that black, Asian and mixed-race children wait three times longer than white children," he said.
Mr Narey, who ran Barnardo's for more than five years, said attitudes needed to change and that some social workers and local authorities believed adoption to be "an entirely unreasonable intervention".
He has been replaced in his role by Anne Marie Carrie, former deputy chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea children's services.