A woman and child walk on the beach in Brighton, UK.
A woman and child walk on the beach in Brighton, UK.

Prospective parents will be allowed to browse for children online under radical reforms designed to open up the adoption system.

Under the new rules, parents will play a larger role in deciding which child they adopt.

Whereas previously social workers decided which child was best matched with which parents, from early next year couples will have a chance to see pictures and profiles of children on the adoption waiting list online and take a larger role in deciding who they would be suited to adopt.

They will also be able to adopt children from other local authorities, and use interactive maps to compare the ratio of children waiting for adoption across the country as well as matching times.

The maps show that 6,890 children are waiting to be placed in Britain and 4,093 approved adopters are waiting for a child to be placed with them.

Department for Education figures show a 34% increase in adopters. Adoptions up by a record 15% following the implementation of reforms.

Hugh Thornberry of the Adoption UK charity said: "We've seen a rise in adoptions this year but we still need more adopters to provide loving homes for some of society's most vulnerable children. We know that key to attracting more adopters is the assurance of accessible, timely and appropriate support."

Children and families minister Edward Timpson said that while "promising progress" was being made towards improving adoption rates, more needed doing.

"This Christmas I want anyone considering adoption to look carefully at the information in our interactive maps and consider whether they can offer a child a stable and loving home," said the minister, who has two adopted brothers.

"There remains significant work to do next year."

However, it has been pointed out that though extra funding will be providing, overall funding for local councils has been greatly reduced.

David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said: "Increased focus on improving adoption services is a positive move but this isn't new money. It represents a net reduction in funding for local authorities and could impact on services for vulnerable children.

"This could include early intervention services which can help councils identify children that could benefit from adoption at an early stage."

He added: "The fact remains that we still need thousands more potential adopters to come forward to offer loving homes.

"Councils also rightly acknowledge that there is variation in performance across the country and the LGA is working with the Government to help support improvement. 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."