Norfolk has been highlighted as an “adoption hotspot” with one of the country’s highest number of vulnerable young people waiting for a new family to come forward and welcome them into their home.

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The department for education yesterday published a map for the first time to show would-be adopters where youngsters were most in need.

Norfolk, which has more than 1,000 looked-after children in total, came out as the local authority with the joint ninth highest number of young people on its waiting list for a permanent placement.

Last night Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children’s services, said she was confident the authority was making the right decisions for the county’s children.

But she added: “Most people out there have no idea that there are all these children needing the local authority’s support and all these children out there that potentially need people to come forward and either be adopters or foster carers.

“If that map – showing Norfolk as one of the areas with high numbers – means the message gets out that, actually, while we think it’s lovely and leafy here there are problems and children who need you to come forward, that can only be a good thing.”

When the figures were collected by the government in March 2012, there were 110 children waiting for an adoptive family in Norfolk.

The figure was considerably higher than its nearest geographical neighbours in Suffolk (70), Cambridgeshire (40) and Lincolnshire (45).

But the government data also found Norfolk had considerably more children in need of new families than the majority of its “statistical neighbours” – areas like Cornwall, Cumbria and Northumberland that are considered similar in terms of their make-up.

Last night, figures from Norfolk’s children’s services said Norfolk did not make decisions to take children into care lightly.

County councillor Sue Whitaker, children’s services spokesman for the Labour party, said: “They make every effort to try to keep children with their families.”

Mrs Thomas urged people to treat the overall figures with caution, particularly when comparing them with other counties.

She said Norfolk’s high population – with more than 160,000 people under the age of 18 – would always put the county ahead of many others.

She also stressed that its so-called “statistical neighbours” often did not included a county’s urban centres.

Mrs Thomas said Norfolk had four areas with particularly high levels of deprivation – Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and Thetford – which went some way to explain the high numbers.

“Those urban areas are where there is the highest need for intervention. That is why the numbers are going to be higher,” she said.

Last night Tom Rahilly, from children’s charity the NSPCC, said: “The department for education’s adoption map highlights the scale of the number of children waiting for adoption across England. It shouldn’t be used as an indicator of local authority performance, and there are a lot of underlying issues that need to be understood, but it does highlight one aspect of the challenges facing children in care.”

Norfolk County Council said it was not interested in “massaging” the figures to try to make Norfolk look better on a league table.

Mrs Thomas said the government figures also showed that between 2009 and 2012, just 4pc of children were taken off the adoption waiting list in favour of a different option – one of lowest percentages in the country.

The cabinet member said that meant the authority was refusing to give up on the hope of finding them a “forever family”.

“We continue to search for a family for longer rather than saying we’re going to abandon it and that child remains in care for the rest of their childhood,” she said. “For me, it’s all about our children.”

One child had to undergo three years of therapy to help them reach a point where they were ready to be adopted and is now settled with their new family. Mrs Thomas said: “We could have given up on them but we said we still have time to find them a forever family.

“Forever family sums it up. That’s how we describe it to the children.”

Liberal Democrat spokesman Mervyn Scutter said early intervention had to be the focus to stop more children having to be taken into care.

While the county council insisted it was working hard to support families as early as possible, Mr Scutter urged it to put more money into those efforts.

“I don’t think we put enough resources into ensuring this situation doesn’t arise,” he said.

Norfolk County Council urged anyone considering adoption to get in touch to find out more. Contact the adoption team on 01603 638343.

7 comments

  • no doubt its because we are to fat to thin wrong political persuasion smoke or drink socially all will bar you from fostering or adopting then you wonder why we have a problem

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    MrB

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • As there are so many kids waiting adoption, perhaps ADOPTION should be the preferred method for childless couples rather than IVF? It would certainly help the NHS budgets.

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    Lord Elf

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • Thanks for letting usd know your personal story, Norfolk lady, it shows that there is more behind Ms. Thomas smile and figures quoted. Child poverty, rising under labour has gone sky high under this coalition and more children are trafficked and sexually abused, a NSPCC study said yesterday. I'm with Electra, if these children cannot be found homes due to the reasons mentioned by Mr. B, then Ms. Thomas should stand aside. But not for turncoat Phil Hardy, he knows nothing about adoption services.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • Consider the facts. Maybe Norfolk has fewer potential adoptive families-according to statistics we have a large number of older people in the county. Also the places -Yarmouth, Thetford etc.,which might have more children needing adoption could be hotspots because of inward migration and are those which might also have more people of low income with insecure futures who cannot consider adoption. It could be that poverty in these areas is leading to more older children who are harder to place in families, being taken into care.It could also be the case that Norfolk services take a more measured approach to adoption, and behave as if it is not the first option to be followed and recognise that it is better to place children carefully than to have the heart break of an adoption which fails because social services and families have been too optimistic or ignored difficulties. There are recorded instances of adoptions breaking down when placement officers ignored or concealed the behavioural problems adoptive parents would have to cope with. Solutions have to be the best for the children, this might not always be adoption and the government should look at ways of improving care for those who are hard to care for. Adoption is not about a family getting a kid , it is about a kid getting looked after properly.

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    Daisy Roots

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • So Ms Thomas, Norfolk is the ninth worst county in the country. What were they when you became cabinet member for sorting this out eh? I dont why you are happy to have your picture grinning out from above this article when you have presided over all of this. Get on with improving the situation or go and get someone more efficient to deal with the problem. These poor children.

    Report this comment

    Electra

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • I have read the above article with interest, my Great Grandchildren are on the list of Children looking for "Forever Families". This make me laugh as they already have a loving family that wants them back. They were taken in May under the Heading " At risk from future emotional harm " , what harm that was we do not know as they were never harmed before. Does Norfolk Social Service have a Crystal Ball that can look into the future and tell us when this harm is about to happen. After all my Granddaughter does not drink ,take drugs or raise her hand to the children, do the Social Service know something we dont. Like when she is about to start doing these things. The only thing wrong with this loving family was their Father has a slight Learning Disability and the little boy had one too. The little boy also has Hypo-Mobility which the ss say is down to bad parenting, if he was born with it how is that so.The little girl ,4, soiled herself, there is a letter from the hospital saying she would grow out of it as it was common with children that age. County councillor Sue Whitaker, children’s services spokesman for the Labour party, said: “They make every effort to try to keep children with their families.”Made me laugh, there was no effort at all just a 10 min visit from a social worker every week. I agree there is some children that need adoptive parents and all the effort should be put into finding them a "Forever Family " but SS should make every effort to make sure they do not split loving families up. As I see it Social Services need a big overhaul in their dealings with vulnerable parents instead of bulling them into doing what they say. The Social Workers right reports and twist the words what the parents have told them . Every door we try to get through to talk to anybody in Authority gets slammed in our face. We want these Children back and will go all the way till we get them xx

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    NorfolkLady

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • It could be worse Electra, it could be her deputy Phil Hardy leering out of the screen at you. (Although, he probably IS in the picture but has engaged his lizard-like abilities to turn invisible, much like his contribution to the people of Norfolk thus far.)

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    User Removed

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

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