§ Mr. Kilfedder
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many prospective adopters are on the waiting lists in each of the health and social service board areas; what is the average length of wait in each area; and what steps are being taken to reduce the time between applying and being accepted as prospective adopters.
§ Mr. Carter
The numbers of prospective adopters on waiting lists and the average waiting time are:
Board Number of prospective adopters on waiting list Average waiting time Northern 74 Approximately 3 years Southern 44 32 months Eastern 45 Approximately 3½years Western 50 7 months
Where adoption waiting lists are not closed, the time between applying and being accepted as prospective adopters is approximately six months. This time cannot be reduced because of the detailed reports which have to be obtained and considered. In the Eastern and Northern board areas where adoption lists are closed for the time being prospective adopters wait up to two years on the inquiry list before being assessed. Since the length of the waiting list depends directly on the number of children available for adoption, and since progressively fewer children now need to be adopted, there is no action boards can take to improve the position.