ACTION to cut the length of time children in care face before being adopted is being stepped up, but delays black and ethnic minority children face in finding a permanent home remains unacceptable, a meeting has heard.

Darlington Borough Council’s children’s scrutiny committee heard the average time between a child entering care and moving in with its adoptive family in the Tees Valley, had fallen by 14 days over the past year, but remained at 432 days.

However, members heard while the national average stood at 486 days, the time children in the care of the council had dropped to 305 days.

The improvement has been fuelled partly by measures to place children likely to be given adoption orders by the courts in homes with people who are approved as foster carers and may become their adopters once court proceedings have been concluded.

Adoption Tees Valley service manager Vicky Davison Boyd told the meeting benefits of “early permanence” for children included that the child had the opportunity for earlier attachment to their permanent caregiver, and reduced moves between carers at a crucial early stage of life.

However, she said the length of time black and ethnic minority children were facing before being adopted was the longest and was unacceptable.

National figures released earlier this year showed more than 2,500 black and ethnic minority children were waiting to be adopted, with 40 per cent spending more than 18 months on the list.

The meeting heard, in response National Adoption Week last month saw a drive to recruit more suitable adopters for black and ethnic minority children in the Tees Valley for children.

Ms Davidson Boyd said: “It’s the starting point for us and something that we really want to promote and continue to work on. We would like to achieve more black and ethnic minority adopters in this region not only for our own children, but also for the national group of children. If we don’t have a suitable match for the children we will go out to adoption agencies and then national adoption agencies. We don’t delay, we don’t wait. Timeliness of matching children is the most important priority for us.”

After the meeting, the council’s children and young people’s portfolio holder, Councillor Jon Clarke welcomed the action to cut adoption waiting times, and added the agency’s action to find early placements was encouraging.

He said finding adopters willing to take on multiple siblings with specific needs was the biggest factor in delayed adoptions in the region, and many ended up in southern England. He said a greater focus on finding adopters willing to take on siblings was needed in the Tees Valley.