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INTRODUCTION

Of the 60,000 children in care in the UK, the vast majority will go home to their families. A quarter of these will be over the age of 16. Only 15 per cent are aged between 0 and 4 years. Most of these children will also go back home to their families. There are between 4,000 and 5,000 adoptions in total each year, which includes private law adoptions like step-parent adoptions. 3,067 children, slightly more than half the total, were adopted from care during 2000-01, of whom only 200 were babies. This was 12 per cent more as a total than in the previous year, and over 40 per cent more than in 1998-9 (Department of Health statistics). A further 1,000-2,000 children in the care system could and should be adopted from care annually. On average a child in local authority care can expect to wait a little under three years before being placed with an adoptive family. These figures vary enormously between local authorities, for a number of reasons. In some councils, 10 per cent of children looked after are adopted, whereas in others the figure is less than 2 per cent, but often like is not being compared with like. Adoptions are often like buses; in some months you get none at all because of circumstances, then several come in a rush. And sometimes, for perfectly good reasons, adoption isn’t what’s needed for children in a local care system.