White couples should not be barred from adopting children from different ethnic backgrounds, a Government minister has said.
Children's minister Tim Loughton said the "number one consideration" should be whether the would-be adoptive parents can provide a good home for the child.
Officials said Mr Loughton wants to encourage a cultural shift among social workers, some of whom are believed to take an inflexible approach to matching children with couples from similar racial backgrounds.
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, but black, Asian and mixed-race children usually wait three times longer than whites.
Social workers are required to give "significant consideration" to race when placing children, because of concerns that they may struggle to settle in new families from different cultural backgrounds. But the Department for Education said ministers feel that authorities should not be "over-sensitive" on the issue.
Guidance to local authorities and adoption agencies is to be reissued soon, and it is understood that there will be no radical change to the official position on trans-racial matches. But ministers want local authorities to take a fresh approach in the way the guidance is implemented on the ground.
Mr Loughton told The Times that 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," said the minister. "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 around 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.