This week, the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he wanted to further speed up the adoption process, by doubling the number of children placed in “fostering to adopt” placements – children being placed in foster placements with carers already approved to adopt, before the legal processes placing them for adoption or in the care of the Local Authority are concluded.

At the moment, 10 per cent of children placed for adoption have been in these types of placements, but David Cameron has announced that he wants this to double “as soon as possible”.

He has also announced that he wants to speed up the court process and speed up legal proceedings.

It sounds good, doesn’t it? But as a lawyer specialising in care proceedings and adoption, I would urge the Government to exercise some caution here.

Everyone accepts that children who cannot remain with their natural families should be placed with their new permanent families (“forever families”) as soon as possible. There are many situations where the fostering to adopt placements are suitable, but there will be many more where it is not.

It is usually only when the courts have made a Placement Order (usually together with a Care Order) that the child’s contact with his or her birth parents is stopped and sometimes only reduced.

Foster parents looking to adopt the child in their care may have to contend with contact arrangements, seeing birth parents at meetings, and uncertainties over whether the child will be returned to their family, while all the time building a relationship with the child. It can work, but it is not a system that will work for every child, let alone every prospective adopter.

The Prime Minister also announced the merging of adoption agencies.

Again, this sounds sensible, particularly when all local authorities are facing huge budget costs. Of course it makes sense for them to share overheads, such as training, marketing, social work expertise and IT, and to share information, to speed up the process of placing these vulnerable children in the Forever Families.

The main concern I would have is not to lose the fantastic knowledge, expertise and good practice in the rush to merge these services.

Some of the smaller adoption and fostering agencies do amazing work, both prior to the placement of the children, and perhaps more importantly, post placement, with the provision of support and therapeutic services, and this good practice must not be lost.

The PM has also once again stated that the court process takes too long. At the moment, most care proceedings in England and Wales are expected to last less than 26 weeks.

This was introduced in April, 2014, by the Children and Families Act 2014.

Any case going outside the 26 weeks can now only have the timetable extended if it is felt by the court to be an “exceptional case”. The Ministry of Justice keeps statistics on these cases, and monitors their progress.

Nationally, the number of cases going over 26 weeks is still fairly high, but there is reason for some optimism. In Oxfordshire, to the best of my knowledge, the number of cases still with the court after 26 weeks is in single figures.

We need to remember that these cases do not just involve babies and pre-school children. Sometimes they will involve older children and teenagers, for whom adoption is not the appropriate outcome.

They will involve children who have been in neglectful homes or where the parents have been abusive or involved in substance abuse, but they might also involve cases where there is some doubt about an injury being accidental or non accidental, or where allegations need to be proved or disproved.

When I am acting in such a case, I often put myself in the parents’ shoes, and it has to be right that those cases are properly considered by the court, to avoid any miscarriage of justice.

That takes time. Those cases often rely on the right experts being available to report, and inevitably that often extends the timetable.

It has to be right, that for the state to intervene and potentially remove children from their natural families, all options need to be considered, and the parents need to be properly represented in a fair and robust system, in order for the court to reach the right decision about a vulnerable child’s future.