Do black children wait twice as long to be adopted as white children?

9 March 2012

"Black children waited on average twice as long as their white counterparts to be adopted."

The Guardian, 9 March 2012

The Government has announced that the adoption guidelines are to be revised, so that there is less emphasis on matching the ethnicity of the child and prospective adopting parents.

In reporting this, the Guardian stated that on average black children wait twice as long to be adopted as white children.


The claim also appears in the notes of the Department for Education press release, which states that: "Black children take twice as long as white children to be adopted".

However, the DfE cite statistics from March 2010, which show that on average 919 days elapsed between a white child's entry into care and adoption, while for a black child this process took 1,302 days — clearly less than double.

The figures split the adoption process into four stages between five events: entry into care, the decision to place for adoption, matching the child and adopters, placement for adoption, and the adoption itself:

For three of these stages, the length of time a black child spends waiting to progress is substantially higher than it is for a white child — it takes 324 days between a white child's entry into care and the decision to place them for adoption, another 255 until the child is matched with adopters, and then 31 days before the child is placed. For a black child the same elements of the process take 509 days, 397 days and 60 days.

Despite this, once the child is placed, the figures are similar: it takes an average of 309 days before a white child is adopted, and 336 days on average before a black child is adopted.

It is possible that the DfE is referring to a specific part of the adoption process; for example it takes a black child apporximately twice as long to be placed for adoption after being matched with adopters as it does for a white child.

However, even if we look at adoption more narrowly by considering only the time between the decision to place a child for adoption and placement for adoption, this still takes 286 days for a white child and 457 days for a black child. This works out as 1.6 times the length of time for a black child as a white child.

Full Fact have contacted the DfE clarify these figures, and will post an update when we have more information.


While the DfE provides figures for their claim that a black child has to wait twice as long as a white child to be adopted, they do not appear to verify the claim. The figures published do show that certain parts of the adoption process take twice as long for black children, but this doesn't seem to hold true for the adoption process as a whole.

We look forward to hearing back from the DfE, but as it stands we would treat this claim with some caution.

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