Extra support to streamline adoption process
Councils in England will receive an extra £50m in grants next year to help recruit more would-be adopters, the government has announced.
The money is on top of grants of £150m paid to councils in 2013 in a drive to streamline the adoption process and improve post-adoption support.
The move follows an overhaul of the adoption system over the past year.
Children's minister Edward Timpson said there had been "promising progress but there remains significant work to do".
Mr Timpson said there had been "a significant rise in adoptions and a huge increase in the numbers of adopters - but I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure the 6,000 children waiting are offered safe and caring homes".
The past year has seen a 34% increase in the number of adopters and a 15% rise in adoptions, says the Department for Education.
The Department for Education also announced improvements to interactive maps, originally published in January 2013, to help would-be adopters find a child to adopt.
These are now clickable and give details of numbers of children waiting to be adopted in each local authority adoption agency in England.
The maps currently show 6,890 children waiting to be placed and 4,093 approved adopters waiting for a child to be placed with them.
Would-be adopters can find out more about their local adoption authority and compare it with those in other areas.
The government hopes the updated maps will help would-be adopters "make an informed choice based on performance" and "access the most appropriate recruitment agency for them - wherever it may be".
The latest changes are on top of reforms in the Children and Families Bill, due to be implemented in 2014.
A new Adoption Leadership Board will be set up by central and local government to implement the reforms.
Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, said the changes would "help local authorities to continue to drive up the number of suitable adopters approved and give every child who needs a permanent family, for whatever reason, the very best chance of being matched with one".
Adoption support organisations welcomed the latest changes.
"It's a really positive time for adoption," said Hugh Thornbery of Adoption UK.
Srabani Sen of British Association for Adoption and Fostering said: "2014 will be a critical year in the delivery of the adoption reform agenda and these announcements should play an important part in ensuring the resources will be available."
David Simmonds of the Local Government Association, representing local councils, said increased focus on adoption services was a positive move, but questioned the funding.
"This isn't new money. It represents a net reduction in funding for local authorities."
Cllr Simmonds said lack of funds could have an impact on services for vulnerable children, including early intervention services to identify children who might benefit from adoption.
"Councils have been working hard to recruit more adoptive mums and dads and are doing everything in their power to ensure that vulnerable children get the best start in life."
He said the Local Government Association was working with the government to help support improvements in adoption services.
"However there is no one-size-fits-all approach and decisions must be made on what is in the best interests of each individual child."
The British Association of Social Workers has previously warned that adoption is not suitable for all children and other forms of care such as fostering, residential care or care by extended family members may sometimes work better.