Reducing delays in the adoption process: Landmark UK law

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Every year a child waits to be adopted their chance of being adopted reduces by 20%. Delays in the adoption process also cause lasting harm to children. Plus, potential adopters often describe the current UK adoption process as “disempowering and debilitating”. To help address these problems, a landmark law has been passed to encourage and welcome potential new adopters.

Future changes to the adoption process

On March 13, 2014 a new Act, which outlines many new reforms to the adoption process, received royal assent. It is called the Children and Families Act 2014.

Reducing delays in court hearings

This new Act makes it clear that court hearings on children in care should not last no longer than 26 weeks, thereby helping to reduce delays in the adoption process. Only in exceptional circumstances should court hearings take more than 26 weeks to complete.

Encouraging fostering for adoption

‘Fostering for adoption’ is also to be encouraged. This means that more children will be placed with approved adopters who will foster the child while they wait for court approval to adopt.

Same entitlements as birth parents

Changes to entitlements are also set to be enforced – encouraging new adoptive parents. From 2015, adoptive parents will be given the same rights as birth parents when it comes to pay and leave rights.

Same-race placements

Unnecessary delays caused by trying to perfectly match the ethnicity of the child waiting to be adopted and potential adoptive parents will also be reduced. The old “same-race” placements are being replaced with an emphasis on making sure parents handle challenges related to ethnic diversity. For example, paying attention to being sensitive to racism, which can help facilitate the child’s development.

Direct registration with the Adoption Register

Also, prospective adopters will be able to register directly through an Adoption Register, such as the Adoption Register for England.

Funds to improve the adoption process

New adoption support funds (£19.3 million) will be introduced to help improve the adoption process. The voluntary adoption sector will receive £16 million and £50 million will be given to local authorities during 2015–2017 to broaden and find new adopters.

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