The children's minister Tim Loughton has said that children are being let down by the adoption system, as delays mean youngsters are left in care for 'unacceptable' levels of time.
Research and 'scorecards' on local authorities found that 72 councils did not meet the threshold of 21 months from entering care and being adopted or being matched to a family within seven months of a court order.
Council leaders and children's services professionals however warned that scorecards could cause 'unnecessary and avoidable concern' and could even put people off adopting, suggesting the quality of placements should not be overlooked in favour of speed.
The waiting times are now being lowered to 14 months and four months respectively within four years.
Mr Loughton said: "Every month a child waits to be placed there is less chance of finding a permanent, stable and loving home."
The study found that children who were in care in Hackney, east London, were waiting the longest periods of time to move into a new family home, with adoptions taken an average two years and nine months.
Mr Loughton said the figures showed that 'urgent discussions' were needed to speed up the process. "We won't hesitate to intervene where the worst delays are not tackled effectively," he said.
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