By Kirsty Walker
Last updated at 11:19 PM on 5th October 2011
Race rules which block white families from adopting black children should be ripped up to end the national ‘scandal’ of thousands of youngsters left languishing in care, the Prime Minister said yesterday.
Mr Cameron said the Coalition would put a new ‘focus’ on making sure that more children are given the chance of a permanent family.
And he signalled that the Government would sweep away the apartheid-style race rules which have prevented children from finding a loving home.
The PM said he wanted to see more children adopted by families following figures this week which showed that just 60 out of 3,660 babies under one were adopted last year. In total, there are over 65,000 children in care.
‘This may not seem like the biggest issue facing the country, but it is the biggest issue for these children,’ he said. ‘How can we have let this happen? We’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.
‘With the right values and the right effort, let’s end this scandal and help these, the most vulnerable children of all.’
Recent figures showed that it takes an average of two years and seven months before a child going into the care system – often living with frequently changing foster parents or in children’s homes – has his or her future settled by adoption.
For those left behind, the future has often proved bleak. Among teenagers who have recently left the care system, nearly a third are NEETs – not in employment, education or training.
Adoption by couples of a different race from the child has been banned since the 1990s following claims that the child suffers identity crisis.
Independent research has found that this is not the case.
Ten years ago Tony Blair vowed to sweep away the petty rules but his 2002 Act, which introduced adoption by gay couples, failed to meet a target of 50 per cent more adoptions from care.
In many cases, the authorities demanded that potential parents have the same ethnic make-up as children they wished to look after permanently.
Adoptions were also prevented to parents judged too old, too unhealthy, or to be smokers. The hostile approach has been blamed for helping to cut adoptions tenfold since the 1970s.
Last year, ministers pledged to act after figures showed a disastrous drop in the number of children trapped in state care who escape into adoptive families.