THE success of the adoption system in Wales will hinge on the support given to parents, a leading charity said a day after the UK Government unveiled plans to accelerate the process.
Welsh Government ministers will be asked if they want Wales to be included in Westminster legislation that would help prospective parents adopt children from ethnic minority backgrounds by stopping councils waiting for the “perfect match”.
The NSPCC warned that the focus should be on the welfare of children and not the speed of the system and Ann Bell of Adoption UK said support for parents is the critical factor in Wales.
She said: “It is fair to say that ethnicity is less of an issue in adoption in Wales than it is in England. In Wales at the moment there is a very serious shortage of any adoptive parents coming forward of any ethnicity whilst the numbers of children – predominantly white – being taken into care continues to rise.
“There are significant delays at each stage of the process due to a range of causes and the Welsh Government is currently consulting on some major proposals to address these problems and has set up an expert group on adoption to work on proposals for a single national adoption service.
“Adoption UK is clear that a national service will only achieve its aim of increasing the number of successful adoptions if post-adoption support is an integral part of the adoption arrangements.”
In 2011 there were 5,415 children in Wales in the care of local authorities but only 250 were adopted, the number as half a decade earlier.
Des Mannion of the NSPCC said: “We welcome the UK Government’s action plan to improve the adoption system… However, we need to ensure that the welfare of the child is central to these reforms. There is a risk that a sole focus on speed means that this critical issue is sometimes overshadowed.
“The Government needs to put in place safeguards to ensure this is not the case… We must remember that adoption is only an option for a small minority of those in care.”
The NSPCC supports measures in the Welsh Government’s Social Services Bill to improve the adoption process.
Wendy Keidan, Welsh director of the British Association for Adoption & Fostering, said: “Most of the children in Wales who need adoptive homes are of white Welsh/white British ethnicity and there is no evidence in Wales of delay in matching children with adoptive families being caused by a search for a perfect racial match. Ethnicity is just one of many matching considerations.
“Adoptive families are selected as a possible match based on their capacity to meet the child’s needs in relation to a wide range of factors as well as taking into account the child’s wishes and feelings.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have our own distinct agenda in relation to social services and adoption. The adoption service in Wales is set to undergo significant reform.
“Sustainable Social Services, our plan for social services, identified that local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies needed better ways of working together. We believe that establishing a National Adoption Service will help to transform and simplify the adoption service, provide greater equity in after adoption support and provide permanent placements for children who cannot be reunited with their family.”
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams MP called for more foster parents and said the process of adoption must be conducted with “extreme care”.
He said: “While mixed-ethnicity adoption is to be encouraged, it should also be approached with a strong degree of sensitivity as research examining cases of Afro-Carribean children shows that mixed adoption can lead to problems of self-identification.”
A Welsh Conservative spokesman said: “The UK Government has prioritised the speeding up of the adoption process and the Welsh Government should do the same.”
Aled Roberts, Liberal Democrat spokesman for children, said: “In the UK, it is a sad fact that black children take twice as long to be adopted as children from other backgrounds.”