LANCASHIRE has become the first place in the North West to embark on an ground-breaking adoption programme.

Children up to the age of two are to be placed with foster carers who may go on to adopt them in a programme called concurrent placements.

Up until now babies were placed with foster carers before a decision was made if they could return to their birth family.

Catrina Dickens, leading the project, said: “Sometimes babies come into our care at birth or soon after if their parents cannot care for them. They're then looked after by foster carers while we work with their parents to see if they can go home.

“If this isn't possible, the family court process can take many months, and after that the baby has to move again, to his or her adoptive parents.

“Our new programme does this differently. It places a baby or very young child straight away with their prospective adopters, who are also approved to act as foster carers, while the birth family is assessed and the court makes a decision.

2This means that there's a degree of uncertainty for the adopters, because they can't be completely sure they're going to keep the baby – there is always a chance the child might go home.

“But we feel that it's better for the adults involved to bear that risk and uncertainty and for the baby to have the chance of a more secure start in life; if they are adopted, they'll have been with their adoptive family throughout.”

County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for Children and Schools, said: “I am proud that the county council is among the very first to pioneer this type of adoption, which puts babies and their wellbeing at the heart of the process, just where they should be.

“We want to minimise delay and unnecessary moves for children, while still taking the time and care necessary to assess all the options. Concurrent planning does this very well.”

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