CHILDREN taken into care on Wearside face the longest wait in the North East before they are adopted.
On average, it takes Sunderland City Council 738 days to find youngsters a suitable home, almost 100 days longer than anywhere else in the region.
The Government has produced a set of scorecards which show how long the wait is for each council.
They have threatened to remove the right to run adoption services from under-performing councils.
The target set is no longer than 14 months, or 425 days.
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said: “Adoption can give vulnerable children the greatest possible chance of a stable, loving and permanent home.
“Hundreds of children are being let down by unacceptable delays right across the country and throughout the adoption process. Every month a child waits to be placed, there is less chance of finding a permanent, stable and loving home.”
But Sunderland City Council today defended its record.
Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Pat Smith, said: “We believe Sunderland has a very positive story to tell.
“If you look at our performance in terms of the number of children adopted, 21 per cent of Sunderland children who left care between 2008-11 did so through adoption compared with the national average of just 12 per cent.
“Last year we managed to increase that figure to 28 per cent – more than double the national average, with 48 children placed with adoptive parents.
“The adoption scorecards place Sunderland in the top 10 of local authorities in relation to the proportion of children being adopted from care and in the top four in the country in terms of the number of older children being adopted.
“We accept that the average length of time it takes for children to be adopted in Sunderland is higher than the national average. This is mainly because we have a far higher number of older children adopted, aged five and over, than other councils.
“In Sunderland 12 per cent are aged over five against a national average of five per cent.
“Last year, 79 per cent of Sunderland children waited less than a year to be placed with their adopted family once the adoption decision was made.
“We have been successful in finding adoptive families for larger groups of brothers and sisters who we think should be adopted together.
“We are by no means complacent about the time taken to find adoptive families and are working with Barnardo’s to speed up the adoption process.
“The service has also recently been praised by Ofsted which just last month highlighted the adoption service for its ‘good track record’ in its inspection of Sunderland’s Safeguarding and Looked After Children services.”