We know that having a secure, stable and supportive home is vital to a child’s well-being. For the small, but important number of children who can no longer live at home, adoptive families across Scotland provide the love and security that all children deserve. Where adoption is the right solution for children, we need it to happen as quickly and as effectively as possible.
The Adoption Register has a key part to play here, increasing the number of opportunities for children to be matched with potential families from across Scotland, rather than restricting options to a specific local authority area. Since its establishment in April 2011, I am pleased the Register has now made 224 matches and I look forward to those numbers increasing further.
Through the Children and Young People Act 2014, the Scottish Government has put Scotland’s Adoption Register on a statutory basis. By requiring all local authorities to use the Register within defined timescales, we can further reduce the delays in children being matched with adoptive families and finding permanent homes.
Following a public consultation which closed on 22 July, we are currently developing the regulations which will lay out how Scotland’s Adoption Register will work in detail. I expect these to come into force in April 2016.
In addition, the Register is continuing to expand its activities, including running national adoption exchange days where prospective adopters have an opportunity to learn more about children who are waiting to be adopted. The Register also held Scotland’s first adoption activity day on 3 October, where adopters met a range of children waiting to be adopted in a prepared, supported, safe and fun environment. I look forward to hearing about the success of this kind of innovative approach in due course. It is obviously vital that there are effective services in place with knowledgeable, confident professionals who can support children into appropriate, alternative care placements.
Funding has therefore been made available to Adoption and Fostering Alliance Scotland (AFAS) to provide training, consultancy and a helpline for the public and professionals following the unfortunate collapse of the British Association for Adoption (BAAF) in July. We have also protected the majority of BAAF Scotland jobs with staff transferring to AFAS so that Scotland does not lose their knowledge and expertise.
There is more to do to ensure that all our children grow up free from the risk of harm and abuse and in safe environments. Over the coming months, this Government will be making a series of announcements aimed at ensuring more vulnerable children get a better start in life.
National Adoption Week provides an important opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits that come with adoption, not only in improving the life chances of children, but also for adoptive parents themselves. I would urge anyone who has ever wondered whether they and their family could provide a loving, secure, permanent home for a child, to contact their local adoption agency to find out more.
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People.