Stable placement should be top adoption focus says leading Council

- 0% adoption breakdown rate in Hackney compared to national average of 7%

- Priority to drive down adoption timescales mustn t be at expense of stable placements

- Hackney Council successful in keeping children out of care - only 7 adoption placements last year meaning one case has skewed government statistics.

A leading London local authority, has welcomed the Government’s focus on adoption and the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to reducing court times for care proceedings.

However, Hackney Council, which is nationally recognised for its innovative approach to children’s social care, has warned that moves to drive down adoption timescales must not be at the expense of the stability of placements, and should not discourage authorities from working to find permanent homes for harder to place children.

Hackney has had no adoption breakdown in the last three years, compared to a 7% national average. The Council has been praised by ministers for its pioneering children’s social work, and for its success in supporting families to keep children out of the care system.

The adoption scorecards published this week place Hackney at the bottom of a table for placement times (based on time taken from a child coming into care to its being adopted). Hackney believes these are statistics misleading as a performance measure as they focus on one element of a complex and wide range of performance issues, are based on such widely varying sample sizes, and do not take into account outcomes for children.

Alan Wood, Hackney’s Corporate Director for Children’s Services said:

“Getting children adopted within timelines is clearly a priority for all local authorities. It is however critically important to get the placement right, first time.

"One of the most catastrophic things that can happen to an adopted child is for their placement to break down and for them to end up back in care. In Hackney we have had no placement breakdown over the last three years, compared with a national average of 7%. That is a figure that means we are getting it right, and one we are very proud of.

“We have a low rate of taking children into public care. That means the children we place for adoption are from highly challenging backgrounds, often with complex special needs and disabilities, from abusive backgrounds, sometimes in large sibling groups. It is always more challenging to find homes for children like this. They can sometimes take some extended time to place, but we don’t give up on finding permanent homes for them, and we acknowledge that has a negative effect on our figures. We ensure that while we find a good placement, our children are within stable, loving foster families rather than institutions or moved from place to place.

“We have been highly successful in keeping children out of care, and within their families, something for which we have been widely praised. As a result, last year only 7 children were adopted, meaning one case can totally distort the average. One of those was a highly complex case that had taken a considerable period to resolve. If you remove that case from the cohort, Hackney’s performance on the scorecard in that year would be above the national average. The single piece of data is not an effective measure of how a local authority is serving the children in our care.

“Hackney has lower rates of children in care than the rest of the country and significantly less than similar authorities.”