Many of the 70,000 children in the care of the state will have experienced abject neglect or abuse at the hands of parents unable or unwilling to provide the care and nurture that comes naturally to most families. While adoption will only be appropriate for a minority of these children, it can be transformative, offering them the best chance of growing up in a stable, permanent, loving home.
The 12% drop in the number of children being adopted in the year ending in March is therefore deeply concerning. Experts believe this will be followed by even steeper falls, as applications for placement orders, the first step in the adoption process, have fallen even more markedly.
This is an area fraught with sensitivity: the decision to remove a child from their parents’ care is one of the utmost gravity. Yet there is a great deal of evidence that in recent decades, courts have been too reluctant to make this call, at huge cost to children’s lives. Martin Narey, the former chief executive of Barnardo’s, observed in his 2011 investigation into the adoption system: “Frequently, a child is living in observed neglect for many months, years sometimes, before first being removed to care.” […]