Merton works to speed up adoption process as new bill goes through parliament


The government hopes to make the processe easier to understand


By Laura Mitchell 

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.” – NiaVardalos, Instant Mom.

The desire to have a family is the primary reason people choose to adopt, but the specific reasons that motivate each adoption vary.

Some adoptive parents choose to adopt a child because they are infertile and given the large number of women who have chosen to put off having a family until they have established careers, this problem is increasingly common.

Some may have learned that they are at risk of passing on serious genetic or medical conditions and so choose not to attempt a natural pregnancy.

Single people or homosexual couples might choose to adopt a child rather than use a sperm donor or surrogate mother.

And others choose to adopt because they believe they will be saving a child by giving them a loving and supportive family.

There are thousands of children waiting to be adopted in the UK and the government have made it a priority to speed up the adoption process-in the hopes that the number of adopters will rise.

There is currently a Children and Families Bill going through parliament which aims to make the process easier to understand and undertake.

British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering Facts

  • There were 67,050 children waiting to be adopted in England on 31st March 2012


  • A total of 3,450 children were adopted from care during the year ending 31st March 2012


  • Children in care in March 2012 were 55% (37,020) boys and 45% (30,030) girls


  • 72% (2,480) children were placed for adoption within 12 months


Merton council are one of the authorities that have already fast-tracked the adoption process after a three year study, published in 2012, showed they had the second lowest rate of adoption in the UK.    

The first ever adoption scorecards for English councils revealed children in Merton wait an average of nearly three years to be adopted.

That is more than twice as long as new minimum standards ordered by Michael Gove, the education secretary, who has said every child in care should be placed in a family within 14 months.

Merton Council spokesman said: “We are behind the Government agenda to reform adoption and ensure that, children who need to be adopted are found families as fast as possible.

“So that irrespective of a child’s age or needs their attachment and bonding to their new family be that a single, same sex or a heterosexual couple adopter/s can begin as soon as possible.”

The council spokesman said it was too early to tell whether the new system had increased the adoption rates in Merton but said the recruitment interest had improved.

“We are looking at a much higher number of assessments in process, which will mean a much improved choice for children,” he added.

The assessment process from start to finish is now a formal two-stage process which is completed within 6 months of applicants confirming that they wish to adopt with Merton.

However the statistics below show that so far this year no children have been adopted in Merton, compared with five last year and four the previous year.

No. of children adopted in Merton



January 2011 – June 2011


January 2012 – June 2012


January 2013 – June 2013

No. of children fostered in Merton



January 2011 – June 2011


January 2012 – June 2012


January 2013 – June 2013


Some people who have been through the adoption process are happy to hear that the process has been simplified.

“It’s a hard process, we definitely found it very tough and unapproachable and in the end we decided against it all together,” said a couple who do not want to be named. 

“I think making the process faster and easy to understand is great because it will encourage more people to adopt.”

However not everyone agrees that fast tracking is such a good idea and feels the government is putting too much pressure on local authorities. 

Gareth Crossman, 45, Executive director of policy, fund raising and communications for TACT, said: “There has been a lot said about delays in the adoption system and there are some ways the process can and should be speeded up particularly around people who have adopted before.

“However what you’re dealing with are the most vulnerable children in society and you’re finding people who are going to be their permanent family -I mean that’s so important and it’s going to take time.”

He said that the government seemed to be concerned that not many under ones were being adopted but emphasised that the adoption process takes nearly a year so this could be the reason numbers were so low.

According to these statistics the average age for adoption in England 2012 was 3 years 8 months.

There are concerns that the government’s emphasis on the speed of adoption could mean that other important areas are neglected.  

Mr Crossman said: “Some families have put off adoption because they are not happy with the support post adoption and this is an area that remains a real problem.”

He explained that one thing that is often forgotten when the statistics are reviewed is that the majority of children that come into the care system are not suitable for adoption because they are older or in big sibling groups. 

He added: “The worst thing that can happen for a child is for the adoption to break down its just tragic for everyone but it’s really catastrophic for the child and I’m worried this will increase if the process is too fast.”

 Photo courtesy of DanieleCivello, with thanks.

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