Scottish adoption system set for a revamp


By Clare Carswell

THE Scottish adoption system is to be revamped in a bid to increase the number of vulnerable children in permanent homes and make the process more straight-forward for potential parents.

The introduction of a National Adoption Register is to be announced this week as the Scottish Government continue discussions ahead of a pilot scheme due to start next year.

The new register will provide a comprehensive record of the number of children in need of a home and prospective parents in Scotland.

It is hoped that the adoption process will become simplified and encourage more people to consider adopting a child, and boost the number of cared-for-children finding a permanent home.

Recent figures show that only 203 children were adopted between April 2008 and March 2009 while in March 2009 there were still 15,288 children in care. 

The director of the Scottish branch of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Barbara Hudson, said: “There has always been discussion over what more we can do.

“Are there ways for us to search as widely as possible for a young person who needs a new family?  Are we sure every family that might be able to take a child is being considered? The register will do that.”

The Scottish register will mirror that of the one in England and Wales which has been in operation since 2004 and is managed by the BAAF.

Since the introduction of the register south of the border there has been an increase in the rate of adoption and it has helped to home the harder-to place children, such as those older than five years-old, those of an ethnic minority, disabled children or children in sibling groups.

Hudson said: “In England it has given an overview of the number and profile of children needing placement.

“It has shown where a shortfall was, and to say with authority what the needs are, which we were not able to do in Scotland.  In England they know the age, ethnic background, and profile of every child, all very helpful information if you are planning services and thinking about becoming an adopter.  We currently just have rough ideas in Scotland.”

At present the adoption process in Scotland is managed by the combined efforts of the local authorities and voluntary organisations. 

The register will benefit local authorities because they will be able to consider potential parents from outside their boundary.

It has been suggested that children may be placed on the register if they have not found a home within three months of their adoption panel decision, while prospective parents may have to wait 6 months after being approved by a panel to be included on the register.

Plans for a pilot scheme will be announced this week during National Adoption Week, by Children’s Minister Adam Ingram.

The pilot will begin in early 2011 and will be assessed for three years.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Although the numbers of children being placed in safe and secure permanent homes has been increasing since 2005 it still only represents 1% of the total number of looked-after children each year.

“Establishing a national register is just one way we can increase the opportunities to find more children a permanent home, which in turn will reduce the number of temporary placements in foster and residential care which children may have to experience.

“This will make a real difference to children’s lives, give them the security they rightly deserve and improve their overall life chances and life opportunities.”