Although figures show that the number of children with adoption placement orders is now almost the same as the number of adoptive parents waiting for a match, there are still around 3,500 children in England alone waiting for a permanent family.
In addition to this and more staggering; 8,370 new foster families are needed during 2015 to provide stable, secure and loving homes for record numbers of fostered children across the UK.
Many young people have been waiting more than 18 months for a placement, which begs the question, why have they not yet got a placement?
Hugh Thornbery, chief executive of Adoption UK has said “It throws into quite stark relief that here is a group of children whom people don’t want.”
“Hard to place” can refer to young people over the age of four, boys, disabled children, black and minority ethnic children and sibling groups. So something needs to be implemented to encourage potential foster and adoptive families to offer these children a home.
One way to help close the gap is activity days, whereby potential foster/adoptive parents meet with children who on paper may only have a 26% matching success rate. So “encouraging more of these activity days is vital” says Caroline Selkirk, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF).
Caroline also argues that we need to change the way prospective parents think. “Sometimes people approach adoption thinking: ‘We’ll adopt one first, and then if that works out, adopt another.’ We want to see if we can get people to think differently about how to make their family – by adopting a group of siblings together, for example.”
Similarly, work is being done to close the gap with foster placements by challenging the stereotypes about who is able to foster, such as needing to be married or own your own home. The aim is to widen the pool and attract people in their 30s and younger, professionals and single people, as well as those who are not parents.
Social media is also an important tool. Facebook or Twitter, for example, are a useful way of connecting people; acting as a support network, a way of sharing news, reading real life stories and offering advice and support. All of which are a way forward to preparing potential carers and providing them with the relevant information to encourage them to come forward.
Although deciding on the level of difficulty you are prepared to accept in a child is a difficult process, you do have to be realistic. But not all hard-to-place children are harder to look after than younger or healthier children and there is extra financial resources, training and support available for those carers who do make the step to care for ‘hard to place children’.