Charity Calls To Cut Adoption Delays

Leading adoption organisation Adoption UK will today appeal for Ulster’s Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to tackle lengthy delays in the adoption process here.

The call comes after latest statistics show that children in Northern Ireland wait, on average, almost four years from the time they come into care until they are formally adopted into their new family through the courts.

The move has been organised by Adoption UK to mark the start of National Adoption Week.

Research also shows that the move from foster care or residential care to adoptive families often takes two years or more.

Whilst in England three-quarters (77 per cent) of children moving to an adoptive family do so in less than 12 months, just a quarter of children in Northern Ireland in the same position are able to make the move within that time.

Adoption UK director Jonathan Pearce criticised the current situation as being completely unacceptable.

“It’s obviously very stressful for would-be adopters but the real victims are the dozens of children in foster or residential homes who should be in a permanent family and are facing a needlessly lengthy wait,” he said.

“These children are spending, on average, nearly a quarter of their childhood in care.

“All the evidence shows that this type of delay often causes long-term psychological and developmental problems for children.

“That, in turn, makes adoptive parenting more of a challenge and can blight the lives of these youngsters, even as adults.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Tim Elliott is amongst those speaking at the reception, to be held in Parliament Buildings at Stormont, where he will relate the frustrating four-year wait he and his wife had to endure before they were able to adopt their daughter, now five years old.

He said: “While my wife and I found our own wait to adopt very frustrating, we’re more concerned about the fact that our daughter could have been adopted much sooner.

“It was evident from birth that adoption was the only viable way forward for her, yet it took two years for her to be placed with us.

“There is no excuse for delays like this and the Health Minister must act now to address this issue.”

Adoption UK has called for a clear set of standards and timescales for making decisions about children’s lives when they come into the care system to be established in the Province.

The charity also wants the Health Minister to make family finding a regional priority for children who need to be adopted.