Gove aims to clear adoption hurdles
The Government is to legislate to ensure that potential adoptions are not blocked purely because the would-be parents are not the same race as the child, Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced.
Mr Gove - who was himself adopted at four months - said it was "disgraceful" that black children are three times less likely to be adopted from care than white children, and "outrageous" for them to be denied a loving home because of a "misguided" belief that race is the most important factor in considering potential adoptive parents.
He will publish an Adoption Plan next month to sweep away bureaucratic hurdles and make the process of finding a permanent home for children in care in England swifter, simpler and more flexible. And he made clear that this will include changing the law on inter-racial adoptions.
"There are still parts of the country where the wrong values reign and where we are not doing enough to make sure children are adopted quickly enough," Mr Gove said. "We will be legislating."
His comments came as he answered questions following a speech in London in which he spelt out his ambition to "radically" increase the supply of adoptive parents and reduce the length of time children stay in care.
Mr Gove said he was "angered" by statistics showing adoptions have fallen by 17% in England to just 3,050 over the last decade, with only 2% finding new homes before the age of one and the average adoption taking two-and-a-half years.
He blamed "bloated" assessment procedures which exclude too many parents and dishearten many others. Along with groups of siblings and children with disabilities, those from ethnic minorities are the hardest to place, said Mr Gove.
While an ethnic match between adopters and child may be "a bonus", it was "outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor", the Education Secretary said.
Next month's Action Plan will cut back form-filling and streamline the assessment process in the hope of increasing the number of children adopted during their first year, when they have the best chance of settling successfully in their new family.
Barnardo's lead director for children in care, Jonathan Ewen, said: "Barnardo's agrees that the speed and quality of decision-making throughout the adoption process must be both transparent and urgently improved and we look forward to the Government's forthcoming action plan. From the moment a child is identified as being in neglect everyone should be mindful of the child's timescale - we must remember that 12 months is half a lifetime for a toddler."