ONE of the biggest challenges facing Nottinghamshire County Council with adoption is finding permanent homes for older children and keeping brothers and sisters together when they’re placed.
This year’s Barnardo’s Fostering and Adoption Week (ending 27th January) focuses attention on children in the UK who currently wait the longest to be adopted with some of them never finding new parents.
The charity is appealing to people to consider adopting older children as it isn’t just babies who need a permanent loving home. Another of its pleas urges people to come forward who have the space and energy to adopt more than one child so that siblings don’t have to be separated.
Councillor Philip Owen, committee chairman of children and young people’s services said: “It’s good to see that Barnardo’s is working hard to raise the profile of fostering and adoption. In Nottinghamshire, there are currently more than 40 children we’ve identified as hard to place because they are boys aged five to eight – and many of these are part of sibling groups of two and three.
“If families are thinking of adopting just one child, we’d ask them to consider adopting a boy or an older child, and think about whether they could provide a loving home for brothers and sisters together.”
Out of the 112 children discussed at the Council’s homefinding meeting earlier this month, for example, it was unable to match 36 of them with adoptive families. Of those, there are three sibling groups of three; four groups of two; three children with disabilities; nine single boys and seven single girls.
“We placed 50 children last year and expect to find adoptive homes for nearly 70 this year, but this means there are always some children waiting. Sadly we had to withdraw 22 adoption plans last year, just because we couldn’t find the families,” explained councillor Owen.
Barnardo’s says that the proportion of children being adopted drops from one in three when a child is age four or younger to one in 15 when that child turns five.
Shelagh Mitchell, the Council’s adoption service manager said:
“The main challenges include siblings who are all one gender, particularly where one is aged over six, and single boys aged four, five and six.
“We realise that the idea of adopting more than one child in one go can be daunting, but during preparation, we encourage potential adopters to open their minds to all children.
“And whilst the speed we’re matching children to families is improving, we still need more potential adopters to get in touch with us.”
The Council currently has 889 children in its care.
The Council shares these children’s profiles and tells families who are waiting about those it is finding difficult to place.
“Our adoption activity days, which bring together potential adopters and children awaiting adoption, also work well because once they’ve met the children, families tend to take a broader view of those they’d consider adopting.
“So on paper, a family might prefer a girl, but may well change their minds and in fact be drawn to a boy or brothers they meet at one of these days, for example,” added Shelagh.
As well as adoption activity days, the Council holds information exchange evenings where adopters can meet social workers and see a range of children’s profiles. And it also attends events further afield to try to find homes for children it’s been unable to place in the county.
Councillor Owen explained: “We’re doing everything we possibly can to speed up the adoption process and our performance continues to be strong, but the need for adoptive parents remains high. We’ve decided to keep three adoption approval panels sitting each month until at least the end of the year due to the high volume of matches and approvals.
“We also match our families with children as soon as they are approved, so most families have a child or children joining them within four months of approval. And for some, the time can be even less.”
The County Council offers excellent packages of support to its adoptive families including social worker support; activities for children/young people; and ongoing training and development.
If you’re interested in adopting, please call the Council on 0845 301 2288 or find out more at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering