Academics Brigid Featherstone and Paul Bywaters look deeper into recently published figures about looked after children.

The Department for Education (DfE) published keystatistics last week on the care population, identifying changes in the rates of children and young people being looked after in the care system, being adopted and other outcomes for 2013-14.  Changes in the format of the commentary make these important statistics more accessible.

The government’s press release accompanying the statistics focuses solely on the 5000 children adopted in 2013-14: ‘Record number of children adopted’.   This focus on a tiny minority is of concern when set against the fact that almost 100,000 children spent some time in the care system last year. It is also of concern that adoption appears to be so central to the policy agenda and this raises serious ethical and legal concerns.

The exceptional pressures faced by children’s services against a background of unprecedented cuts to LA budgets have meant that levels of support to families experiencing deprivation have been cut dramatically across the country.  The promotion of adoption in such a context can mean that disadvantaged families are losing their children permanently without having been offered the appropriate resources to ensure they could care for them safely.