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When every 'child in care' costs £25,000pa why are rates of adoption falling?

By Tim Montgomerie

This week is National Adoption Week and the Independent on Sunday notes that the number of adoptions are falling despite the huge personal and social costs of vulnerable children languishing in local authority 'care'.

In 2006, only 3,700 children were adopted. But the latest figures show that the number has declined even further, to just 3,200 children.

Local authorities complain that the adoption process, involving assessment of potential parents and post-adoption monitoring, is too expensive at £35,000. But that one off cost is good value for the taxpayer given that the annual average cost of local authority care is £25,000.

What is more, research by Demos has pointed out that the long-term costs to taxpayers of children being socialised by the care system is enormous. The costs are "tens of thousands of pounds more in benefits, prison, health and social care costs". Unfortunately local authorities lack the incentive to make the short-term investment that will repay itself in terms of long-term reductions in their own and wider state spending. A leader in the Independent on Sunday spells it out:

"This is a classic case of a situation where dividing up public spending by department makes a rational cost-benefit analysis difficult. The immediate costs of adoption – recruiting and assessing parents; paying social workers to monitor children; legal fees – are heavily loaded upfront and come out of a local council's annual budget. Thus, in the short term, it is always going to be cheaper to keep children in foster care than to pay these large one-off costs. The long-term costs of not adopting, on the other hand, come out of the benefits, police, criminal justice and health service budgets over the lifetime of today's children."

LOUGHTON TIM I know of parents who travel to Russia and China to adopt children because it is so much harder in Britain to go through all of the politically correct hoops favoured by the British social work system. Children's minister Tim Loughton MP tells the IoS that he wants more adoptions and he wants them to occur with less delay. Children in care are some of society's most vulnerable members. They deserve to become a much bigger priority.


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