Increased success in IVF treatment causing drop in number of adoptions

Increased success in IVF treatment is causing a drop in the number of adoptions, says chief of child support service

  • Anthony Douglas of Cafcass says improvements in IVF is driving down adoption  
  • Fertility treatment success in the NHS risen from seven to 29 per cent since 1978
  • Last year only 4,350 children adopted by new parents – a drop of 20 per cent 

A rise in IVF treatment has been blamed for the drop in the numbers of children being adopted. 

Improvements in IVF technology has fuelled a decline in parents seeking to take on children through adoption services, an expert has said.

The head of the organisation representing children in care in England claimed fewer children are being adopted due to the success of fertility treatment.   

Fertility treatment success rates in the NHS have risen from seven to 29 per cent for under-35s since it began in 1978.

Since the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was set up in 1991, IVF births increased by more than 85 per cent.

Some private clinics claim rates of more than 50 per cent, meaning infertile couples stand a better chance than ever of having their own children. 

Anthony Douglas, chief executive of Cafcass, the Government agency that represents children’s interests in family courts, said improvements in IVF is causing adoption rates to decrease

In 1978 around 12,000 children were adopted in Britain each year, but last year there were only 4,350 children adopted by permanent new parents – a drop of almost 20 per cent in just two years at a time when the number of children in care rose to over 76,000. 

Following the Baby P scandal social workers were persuaded to remove more children from potentially dangerous homes, meaning the number of kids in care rose 20 per cent since 2008. 

Anthony Douglas, the chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass), who was himself adopted as a child, said the growing success of IVF means fewer people will consider adopting children.

He told the Telegraph: ‘IVF used to be around seven per cent successful and successful and now it’s around 30 per cent.

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‘So as a choice, adoption is competing with lots of other ways of having children.

‘When I was adopted there was absolutely no support, the zeitgeist was “he’s better of not knowing”. I found out by chance. We have a much greater understanding now.’

Last year when figures showed the fall in adoptions was around the 20 per cent mark, ministers urged social workers and family court to abandon their suspicions of adoption as a means of helping children whose families cannot cope, and who move in to children’s homes or with foster families.

Charities blamed the decrease on judges who in 2013 put the brakes on the Government’s drive for more adoption by ruling that children should only be adopted by new families when ‘nothing else will do’. 

In 1978 around 12,000 children were adopted in Britain each year, but last year there were only 4,350 children adopted by permanent new parents – a drop of almost 20 per cent in just two years

The Department for Education say it takes around 15 months for a child to be adopted with many waiting more than 18 months.

Mr Douglas described the adoption process as ‘far too slow’ and said the service was seeing a rise in children form middle-class backgrounds getting sucked into county lines drug gangs.

He added: ‘Every child deserves a family to live and grow up in but adoption still takes twice as long as it should, which puts people off.

‘Most children will come with difficulties through their childhood, to assess and train for that does take some months, but it’s still taking too long.’

Adoptions, which mean a child is legally bound to new parents and links to the birth family are severed, peaked at 5,360 in 2015 following a campaign to raise numbers begun in 2010 by then Education Secretary Michael Gove, who was himself an adopted child.

However numbers dropped by 12 per cent in 2016 and then by a further eight per cent this year to the 4,350 level.

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