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The state makes for a bad parent. The number of children it brings up should be kept to a minimum

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on Wed, 07/18/2012 - 11:38
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Changes: David Cameron has said that new government plans will see babies placed with approved adopters who will foster first, and help provide a stable home at a much earlier stage in a child's life

Children leaving care are more likely to end up in prison than university. So it is excellent news(£) in The Times this morning regarding the Government's determination to reduce the number of children in care, by increasing the number placed for adoption.

It reports:

Babies taken into care will be looked after by the families who hope to adopt them under government plans to reduce the disruption young children suffer in early life.

Quicker process: Babies will be placed with foster families who want to adopt them under plans to reduce the disruption to children in care

David Cameron has told The Times that ministers will legislate to make fostering by approved adopters “standard practice” for infants under 1, so they can have a more stable start.

3,660 children under the age of one are in care. It takes an average of two years and three months for a child to be adopted - invariably being shunted around different foster carers including those providing respite care.

This cause great emotional damage, so often there is a grotesque self-fulfilling prophecy.  The social workers decide that the child has become too wild in its behaviour for prospective adopters to cope, and the child remains in care.

Of course, the length of the bureaucratic delay is a scandal and should be sharply reduced. The delay varies sharply from one council to another as the transparency rules have now made clear.

But it also makes sense that, for however long the delay, the child should be placed with the couple lined up to adopt it, with the couple's status being foster carers.

The arrangement is not perfect - the prospective adopters would have the intrusion of endless social worker visits until the adoption was confirmed. There would also be the possibility of the adoption not being confirmed, and the courts deciding that the child should be taken from them and returned to its birth mother. But the foster first arrangement is still better than the alternative. The charity Corum trains prospectve adopters who are willing to foster first - "concurrent planning" as the arrangement is called.  Of the 57 children placed, three were not adopted, but of the 54 who were, the results were a success.

David Cameron says:

“These new plans will see babies placed with approved adopters who will foster first, and help provide a stable home at a much earlier stage in a child’s life.

“This way, we’re trying our very best to avoid the disruption that can be so damaging to a child’s development and so detrimental to their future wellbeing. I’m determined that we act now to give these children the very best start in life. These babies deserve what every child deserves: a permanent, secure and happy home environment to grow up in.”

The change will come in under the Children and Families Bill will also prohibit that pernicious piece of political correctness that denied a loving home to black children on the grounds that an "ethnic match" could not be found in placing them for adoption.

Unfortunately it is necessary for some children to be taken into care. Their birth mother might have become a heroin addict and be incapable of looking after them. Indeed often the delay is too long before action is taken to rescue the child. But the presumption should not be for the child to stay in care for a prolonged period but to be placed for adoption.

For those children who do remain in care where possible they should be with foster carers rather than institutional children's homes. However boarding schools provide excellent results and far more children in care should be placed with them.

Caution: Labour's spokesman on children Lisa Nandy warned that a speedier process should not be at the expense of getting the right placement

Following the evidence to secure the best interests of the child should triumph - not the ideological prejudices of left wing social workers.

It also makes financial sense. There are 65,520 children in care, costing the taxpayer £3 billion a year. Most are shunted around foster carers. But around 11% are in institutional children's homes at a cost per child per year of £126,000 (Eton costs £31,000 a year).

There is nothing inevitable about the number of children stuck in the care system rising. In Hammersmith and Fulham, where I am a local councillor, the numbers have steadily fallen from 394 in 2006 to 223 now.

The state makes for a bad parent. The number of children it brings up should be kept to a minimum.

By Harry Phibbs