Linda Colling: North East children languish in care

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IT’S a tragedy that any child should be locked out from the chance of a loving home.

And the scandal is that only 60 children under the age of one in care in England last year were adopted. And the number of under-16s being adopted overall has fallen year-on-year.

No wonder, given the average time taken for a child being taken into care and being adopted is two years and seven months.

Yes, it is a tortuously difficult process balancing the needs of the child against those who are up for adopting and getting it right.

And while there can be nothing worse than an adoption breakdown and the children having to go back into care, turning the spotlight on these shocking statistics has to turn up the heat on poorly performing councils.

Why are they doing so badly? If South Tyneside can turn in a top performance of 96 per cent and Hartlepool 95 per cent in enabling children to go to new families within one year, why can’t the rest?

Anne Marie Carrie, chief of Barnardo’s charity, hit the nail on the head: “We set thresholds for people who want to be adoptive parents that frankly mean you and I would not be allowed to adopt our own children.”

There needs to be less bureaucracy and suspicion of would-be adoptive parents.

Complex as it is finding a child a home and a new beginning, too many are being left in the care system for far too long, just as we are leaving children in abusive and neglectful homes, seriously damaging their chances of living a fulfilling life.

Julie McVeigh, assistant director of Barnardo’s North East, says one factor is that we do not cherish prospective parents enough and they are treated with “enormous suspicion”.

“We need to stop being obsessed with trying to get a perfect ethnic match between children and prospective parents – this obsession with ethnic matching is to the detriment of children,” she said.

“With the right support and systems in place, any parent, regardless of their ethnicity, can provide a loving, stable home for a child desperately in need.

“This includes gay couples. We must not be prejudiced at the cost of children’s stable homes.”

It’s a tragedy all round for the children languishing in the care system and those who have come forward.

It’s the hardest job in the world bringing up your own children, never mind someone else’s, who will come with emotional baggage that can bring you to your knees. That’s why I have the utmost admiration for those who have adopted – and I’ve met many.

There are the childless and those with children of their own, who like friends of mine, decided to have four children – two of their own and two adopted. One they nearly sent back as a baby who cried the house down, disrupting five people’s lives in the night all because she had never been fed properly, just left with sugared water in a bottle, totally neglected and unloved.

They persevered, kept her and she grew up to be the woman she is today.

There are so many more children today, just as she was, longing for stability and security and most of all someone to love them.