The number of children waiting for adoption has dramatically fallen in the last nine months.
Data collected by the Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) revealed local authority decisions that children should be adopted fell by 47%, from 1,830 to 960, between September 2013 and June 2014. In the same period, adoption orders fell by 54%, from 1,650 to 750.
Sir Martin Narey, chair of the ALB, has claimed key Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judgements made last year have led to confusion around the law on adoption.
The judgments reiterated the need for adoption decisions to be based on robust analysis of all available options and that adoption should only be pursued where there were child welfare reasons. Martin Narey says this has appeared to deter councils from pursuing adoption.
A myth-busting guide has been published by the ALB to correct misconceptions and reassure social workers that the law on adoption has not changed following the rulings.
He said: "After two years of significant progress in finding more adoptive homes for the thousands of children waiting – transforming their lives along the way – we have seen a sudden and significant fall off in the number of children being put forward for adoption.
"It is clear from my discussions with social workers and managers in local authorities and in voluntary adoption agencies, that there is a belief that the law has been fundamentally changed by a number of court judgements. So I am pleased to produce this simple myth busting guide – drafted by a Senior Queen’s Counsel – to what those judgements do and do not say."
PACT Chief Executive Jan Fishwick said: “We must never tire of making adoption the plan for children for whom this is in their best interests.
“My worry is that some children are not having an adoption plan made for them because of the reaction to the recent judgements.
“I welcome the publication of the myth-busting guide for social workers by the Adoption Leadership Board as this sets out to redress the balance.
“I hope it will help social workers feel confident in their planning for children and rationale for making decisions.”