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Adoptions decrease for first time in recent years

Placements for adoption fall by 18%

The number of looked after children who were adopted in the 12 months to the end of March 2016 decreased for the first time in recent years. 4,690 looked after children were adopted in 2016, down 12% on a high of 5,360 in 2015 which followed a period of growth since 2011.

In the latest statistical release, the Department for Education notes that the reduction in adoptions was anticipated because 2015 saw a reduction in the number of placement orders and a reduction in the number of children placed for adoption (9%).

That trend seems likely to continue, at least in the short term. In the year ending 31 March 2016, the number of looked after children placed for adoption fell by a further 18% (2,940). As referenced in last year's release, the National Adoption Leadership Board has linked this to the impact of the Supreme Court's judgment in Re B [2013] UKSC 33 and the Court of Appeal's judgment in Re B-S [2013] EWCA Civ 1146.

The fall in the number of adoptions was seen in the 1 to 4 year old age group, which covers 72% of all adopted children in 2016. The number of looked after children aged under 1 year who were adopted, and the number aged 5 to 9 years who were adopted, remained stable in 2016 (230 and 1,020 respectively). The average age at adoption rose slightly from 3 years and 3 months last year to 3 years and 5 months in 2016. However this is lower than in 2012 where the average age was 3 years and 8 months.

The average duration between entry into care and being adopted fell between 2012 and 2015, from 2 years 7 months to 2 years 3 months, but in 2016 it has remained unchanged. The decrease up to 2015 was largely down to a reduction in the time taken for the initial stage, the time between entry into care and the decision the child should be placed for adoption, which has fallen by four months from 11 months in 2012 to 7 months in 2016. This follows the Action Plan on Adoption that was published in March 2012 by the Department for Education which set out aims for reducing the time taken for a child to be adopted.

The number of looked after children has continued to rise; it has increased steadily over the last eight years. There were 70,440 looked after children at 31 March 2016, an increase of 1% compared to 31 March 2015 and an increase of 5% compared to 2012. The rise this year reflects a rise of 1,470 in unaccompanied asylum seeking children, compared to a rise of 970 in all looked after children.

In 2016 the number of children in foster care continued to rise; of the 70,440 looked after children at 31 March 2016, 51,850 (74%) were cared for in foster placements – the same proportion as last year.

For the full statistics, please click here.