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Baby P case prompts new adoption drive

PUBLISHED: 11:39 09 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:55 16 September 2010

A NEW drive is being made to find people to adopt some of Norfolk's most vulnerable youngsters after a sharp rise in the number of toddlers taken into care following the tragic Baby P case.

A NEW drive is being made to find people to adopt some of Norfolk's most vulnerable youngsters after a sharp rise in the number of toddlers taken into care following the tragic Baby P case.

In the past year the second highest number of children in Norfolk's history saw their lives transformed thanks to a successful drive to find adoptive parents.

But Norfolk County Council bosses say more people are desperately needed to offer a loving home to children in care. Peter Ward, head of adoption, said the authority had supported 84 children to leave care to join permanent families in the past year - but 25 children suitable for adoption are still waiting to find homes.

He said the children's ages mainly ranged from two to eight but said: “There's a bigger number of children who are toddlers at the moment.

“That is partly as a result of the Baby Peter case. After that, more younger children were brought in to care because of the concerns the case raised.

“That's the group which has been in care for about a year and we need to find people who will give them loving homes.”

The Baby P case, which made headlines in 2008, focused on the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly who had more than 50 injuries when he was found dead in Haringey, north London, in August 2007.

His mother Tracey Connelly, 28, and her partner Steven Barker, 33, were jailed indefinitely for their part in his death while Barker's brother Jason Owen, 37, was jailed for three years. They were all convicted of causing or allowing the boy's death.

The case saw criticism levelled at Haringey Council because the little boy was known to social services but not taken into care.

A report last week by the Fostering Network said there had been an “unprecedented rise in the number of children” in the care system following the case.

Norfolk County Council is responsible for around 900 looked-after children and earlier this year the EDP highlighted its successful I Am Hope appeal to find more foster carers.

The council, though pleased with its success at getting children adopted in the past year, still wants to recruit more foster carers and adoptive parents.

Sixty children were adopted last year and 24 made subject to special guardianship orders - permanent orders where young people are cared for by members of their extended family.

Support given to families adopting youngsters helped ensure there were no breakdowns in adoptions in the past year, and just two in the last seven years - way below the 20pc breakdown rate nationally.

Mr Ward said: “It's been particularly pleasing in Norfolk because the national background is that the number of adoptions is falling.

“We may have had a lot of success this year but we are always in need of more people prepared to adopt.

“We are looking for people who are able to take children who have been quite badly neglected in their early years. It can take a lot of patience and love.

“We have seen fewer people who fit the traditional profile of infertile couples, partly because IVF is more widely available in Norfolk and some have been going through that rather than adopting.

“But we are seeing more people who have got children of their own and people whose own children have grown up and left home. They are often able to take the older children.

“We have had people who are co-habiting in stable relationships, single people and same sex couples. We welcome inquiries from a mixed variety of backgrounds.”

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: “We are extremely proud of our adoption service which does fantastic work in matching Norfolk's children with the best possible families.

“Many of the children in need of adoption have had very difficult starts in life and finding the right family for them is absolutely crucial if they are to develop into happy, healthy young people able to reach their potential.

“This is just one example of the successful work carried out by Norfolk's social workers every day and those who deliver this service deserve thanks and praise for their commitment to the county's young people.

“I would urge anyone who thinks they could provide a loving and stable home to a child to contact our adoption service for more information. Adoption is both challenging and rewarding and can transform a young person's life.”

The annual report of the adoption service will be discussed when Norfolk County Council's cabinet meets today.

If you are interested in adoption, contact the Adoption and Family Finding Unit on 01603 617796, or email adoption.unit@norfolk.gov.uk

Information can also be found at www.adoption.norfolk.gov.uk

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