The UK's top family judge has intervened in the case of a mentally-ill mother whose baby was delivered by caesarean section by court order.
The Prime Minister has tried to bring some festive cheer to couples and children caught up in the adoption system in England.
David Cameron is to announce plans to radically speed up the amount of time it takes to place children with potential adopters.
Adoptions in England and Wales last year were up 9.8% on the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said.
The extra £16 million of government funding that will be given to adoption agencies, will see:
- £15 million over the next two years in expansion grants for new and existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies to increase the recruitment of adopters and create innovative ways of working.
- New business support for adoption agencies, providing advice, coaching, and guidance to expand their organisations.
Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, who has two adopted brothers himself, says thousands of children in the UK are waiting for permanent and loving homes.
He said: "There are still over 4,000 children waiting to be adopted nationally, and we cannot stand by whilst children's futures hang in the balance. This is why we are taking a closer look at how we are recruiting new parents by giving voluntary adoption agencies a bigger role.
"We know more than 650,000 people would consider adopting right now, yet more than 700 additional adopters are needed each year to keep up with the growing number of children waiting to be adopted.
"What is important is that children who are in need of a permanent, loving home are found one as soon as possible - not who delivers the service."
Adoption agencies are to be given an additional £16 million in funding in a bid to tackle the shortfall in adopters, the Government has announced.
The money - available from later this year until 2016 - will help new and existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) develop new and creative ways to recruit more adopters.
The Government says the cash boost could see the VAA sector recruit as many as 2,000 prospective adopters a year by March 2016.
There could be up to 4.6 million people in England who say they would consider adopting at some point in the future, research has shown.
A study commissioned by the Government found that many people are being held back from adoption or fostering due to concerns about the process of being approved.
Under new plans to overhaul the adoption and fostering system:
- There will be a two-stage approval process for adopters, which the Government insists will make the system swifter and mean the majority of adopters are approved to within six months
- A "fast-track" system for previously approved foster carers and adopters
- Legal obligations on adoption agencies to refer would-be adopters to the Adoption Register within three months of approval
- The plans will aim to make sure that the information on children waiting to be adopted is kept up to date
A new "adoption passport" will set out the help that adopters could be eligible for, including paid adoption leave, priority access and social housing.
The guide will be available on the First4adoption website.
– Edward Timpson, Children's Minister
For too long children have been left waiting - in many cases over two years - for the stable, loving homes whilst prospective adopters have been dissuaded from offering those children the security they need.
So we're overhauling the system to encourage more people to adopt, and making it swifter, more effective and robust.
A guide for would-be adopters listing benefits and support has been published by the Government amid concerns that hundreds of thousands are turned off by the process.
The "adoption passport" is part of an ongoing bid to speed up the process due to fears that children are waiting too long to find a new home.
Latest figures show that children in England are left in care for nearly 21 months on average before being adopted.
In some cases, youngsters can wait three years before moving in with an adoptive family.
According to Barnardos children's charity, 8,750 new foster families will be needed across the UK in 2012 to 2013.
Currently 7,000 children are in need of adoption, with a white child three times more likely to be adopted than a black child, they said.
- 7,100 in England
- 1,000 in Scotland
- 550 in Wales
- 100 in Northern Ireland
According to children's charity Barnardos, children in need of adoption are being left to grow up without a family because of their ethnicity, age, disability or brothers and sisters.
- A white child is three times more likely to be adopted as a black child
- The proportion of children being adopted drops from one in three when a child is age four or younger to one in 15 when that child turns five
- Approximately 40 per cent of children waiting for a new permanent family have some form of special need
- Nearly fifty per cent of the children on the adoption register are in sibling groups
- Two out of three fostering services have to split brothers and sisters up because there are not enough foster carers willing to take siblings
Children's charity Barnardos are highlighting the fact that 7,000 children are currently waiting to be adopted.
It is the highest number of children since 2007.
This morning, Barnardos will bring to light the plight of these young people by projecting four images captioned, 'Too old, Too many, Too difficult and Too black' on to the walls of the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, as its Fostering and Adoption Week begins.
Read more: Government publishes adoption map