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Volume 543: debated on Monday 16 April 2012

As I said earlier, the Government have published “An Action Plan for Adoption”, which aims to reduce delays in adoption by legislating to prevent local authorities from spending too much time seeking a perfect adoptive match; accelerating the assessment process for prospective adopters; and making it easier for children to be fostered by their likely eventual adopters in certain circumstances. We will also shortly introduce an adoption scorecard to focus attention on the issue of timeliness; this is linked to a tougher intervention regime.

I commend the Government on the action they have taken to speed up the adoption process, but concerns remain about the level of support provided to families after that process. Will the Minister therefore expand on the action the Government will be taking to support families once they have actually adopted?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point, which was covered slightly in my earlier answer. I am concerned about getting good pre-adoption support, peri-adoption support and post-adoption support, because the worst thing that can happen is a breakdown in adoption. There is scant evidence about breakdown in adoptions, but some of the highest-performing adoption agencies in the country, be they local authority or independent, are those that invest in adoption support, which means that adoptions do not break down. That results in not only a financial saving for that authority, but, more importantly, a social gain for the child, who gets a safe, stable and loving home—permanently.

I was recently contacted by some adoptive parents in my constituency who unfortunately are experiencing a breakdown with one of their adopted children, many years after the child was adopted. They felt that they were not given enough information before the adoption, particularly about attachment issues. In the push to increase the speed of adoption, what will the Minister do to ensure that the preparation for adoptive parents is not too fast and that the right information is given to enable them to deal with the issues when children are placed?

The hon. Lady, too, is an expert on this subject. In trying to provide better timeliness, rather than leaving a child in limbo in care when there is no safe way back to their birth family, we will not sacrifice quality. We will beef up the assessment process so that prospective adopters are given a clear insight into what becoming an adoptive parent is all about. If they are up for it, they should be helped and supported through the process as quickly as possible. It is necessary to ensure that a suitable match is provided, which they are capable of taking on, along with all the support that needs to go with it. It is a false economy—financially and, more importantly for the child, socially—not to do that.