In Brief

How IVF is fuelling a UK adoption crisis

Success of fertility treatment has seen adoption rates fall by almost two-thirds in forty years

A huge increase in IVF use among British couples has caused adoption rates to plummet, even as the number of children in care remains at record highs.

Since fertility treatment began in 1978, in vitro fertilisation’s success rate has almost tripled from 7% to 29% for under-35s, while adoptions in England and Wales have fallen by almost two-thirds (62%) over the same period.

Despite a record 72,670 children entering the care system in 2017, the equivalent of over 90 a day, just 5,000 young people were adopted, less than half the figure forty years ago.

The figures have prompted Anthony Douglas, head of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, to warn of the dangers now that adoption was competing with “lots of other ways of having children”.

He told the Daily Telegraph this was also in part due to the length of time it takes to become an approved adopter in England and Wales, a process he said “takes twice as long as it should, which puts people off”.

Over the past six months alone there has been a 30-day increase in waiting times for children to be placed with adoptive families, with youngsters waiting to be adopted currently outnumbering approved adopters by three to one.

Earlier this month, the BBC reported the National Adoption Service had put out a call for prospective parents in Wales to come forward to help, following an “unanticipated increase” in children looking for homes.

Adoption and fostering charity, Home for Good, has argued that framing adoption as the preserve of those who are unable to have birth children is a misunderstanding.

Founding Director Dr Krish Kandiah, said: “the claims are a misunderstanding of the very essence of adoption. Ultimately, adoption is not about family completion but the flourishing of vulnerable children. Conflating infertility and adoption is not helpful and the claims that IVF success has caused a ‘collapse in adoption’ is so simplistic it paints an untrue picture.”

“Adoption is for all those who want to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children, not just those suffering with infertility” he adds.

Nevertheless, The Independent says the fall in adoptions “follows warnings that adoptive parents are being “overwhelmed“ by a lack of support from social services to deal with pressures, with recent research suggesting more than a quarter of such families are in “crisis”.

Failure to place children is also having a financial impact on local authorities. Analysis by the children’s charity Coram has found failing to find adoptive families for just 30 children a year costs £1m for each extra year they remain in care.

Speaking ahead of his departure from Cafcass, Douglas also revealed that for the first time the service was seeing middle class children from “good homes” being taken into care because they were being lured into crime by so-called county lines gangs.

It follows a report published last year by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults warned that children as young as eight from “stable and economically better-off backgrounds” were being exploited by criminal gangs.

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