Failing to meet adoption targets

STEVE DOWNES Hundreds of East Anglia's neediest children are being moved around for care placements because of a shortage of people wanting to foster or adopt them, it was revealed last night.

STEVE DOWNES

Hundreds of East Anglia's neediest children are being moved around for care placements because of a shortage of people wanting to foster or adopt them, it was revealed last night.

Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire are all likely to miss a key government target to have 80pc of children in care living in the same place for two years or placed for adoption.

The three counties are among 148 of 150 local authorities that are adrift of the target, despite concerted efforts to recruit foster carers and adopters.

Only West Berkshire and Havering have managed to get to the level of at least four out of five long-term looked-after youngsters in one place for two years - although both have relatively few children in care.

The latest figures released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show the situation on March 31 this year.

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In Norfolk, of 330 children in care for at least two-and-a-half years, 220 had stayed put in one place for two years or been adopted. The figure is 67pc - up from 57pc in 2004.

In Suffolk, of 255 children in long-term care, 170 were in the same place for two years or adopted - 66pc, down from 70pc in 2004.

And in Cambridgeshire, 80 out of 120 children in long-term care were in one place for two years - 66pc, the same as 2004.

Peter Ward, head of adoption and fostering services at Norfolk County Council, said the 67pc figure was "short of the government's target", but represented "real, lasting placement stability" for Norfolk's children.

It was improving, and was better than the average figure for the county's statistical neighbours, he said.

"This performance indicator is based on the number of children who have been looked after for more than two-and-a-half years. A significant proportion of these young people have emotional and behavioural difficulties and require special carers to look after them."

He added that efforts to increase the number of adopters and foster carers had borne fruit in recent years.

The chief executive of the Fostering Network charity, Robert Tapsfield, said the national figures were an "outrage", and demanded more action from the government and local authorities.

The instability of care placements is believed to be a major factor in historic poor educational attainment by children in care. Last year, 12pc of children in care achieved five A*-C passes at GCSE, compared to 59pc of all children.

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