SOMERSET residents could soon find it easier to adopt across the south west as their local authority agreed to join forces with Cornwall.

Adoptions of children in care in Somerset are handled by Adopt South West, an agency which brings together Devon County Council (where the service is based) and the unitary authorities governing Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay.

By working closely together since October 2018, the four councils have sped up the process of matching children with potential adoptive families across the south west, and have cut the costs associated with it by sharing the financial burden.

Somerset Council has now formally approved a request of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to join Adopt South West, making it even easier to match children with potential families.

Somerset currently has 27 children which are placed for adoption – a number which remains relatively constant year on year.

While Plymouth and Torbay have smaller numbers, due to their small size, Devon’s numbers are higher due to its larger population (nearly 1.2 million people in 2023, compared to around 545,000 in Somerset).

Cornwall Council has “consistently low numbers” of children being put up for adoption due to its “early prevention model” regarding child and family health.

Cornwall’s request to join was ratified by the council’s executive committee when it met in Taunton on October 4.

Councillor Tessa Munt, portfolio holder for children, families and education, said: “This is an arrangement that should be hugely to the benefit of Somerset children and the council, because it widens the range of potential adopters for children across Somerset and the south west.

“Cornwall Council has an outstanding adoption service. The increase in partners means there are more people to share the overhead costs.”

The regional adoption agency is designed to match children with “the most suitable adopter” as quickly as possible, providing a “broader pool” of candidates who are “well-prepared and well-matched to the needs of children
waiting to be adopted”.

By bringing together the expertise of multiple councils, the agency also provides higher-quality support services for both the children and the families going through the adoption process.

Councillor Frances Nicholson (who served as cabinet member for children and families on Somerset County Council before its abolition) welcomed the move but said financial difficulties at other councils should not be allowed to delay adoptions elsewhere in the south west.

She said: “Everybody has worked really hard over years to get here. I know that it has been hard fought to make sure the negotiations on finances are right.

“I’m really worried, however, that Devon’s recruitment freeze should be made to apply to the regional adoption agency.

“It may be hosted by Devon, but if recruitment is needed for this agency, this is something that we are all paying for and it should happen.

“I really hope that there will be no delays to recruitment, because all our children who need to be adopted will be affected, as will our adopter families or potential adopters – and we always risk losing them if things take too long.”

Claire Winter, the council’s executive director for children, families and education, responded that Devon County Council’s ongoing recruitment freeze was “not relevant” to the agency.

She said: “This is not dependent solely on Devon’s budget. We need to make sure that we have the right resources within the available from all partners.”

Cornwall’s participation in Adopt South West is yet to be formally considered by Plymouth City Council, Torbay Council, and Devon County Council.

If all remaining authorities agree with Cornwall’s request to join,  Devon County Council as the lead authority will ratify its request on December 7.

For more information on adopting in Somerset, visit or call 0300 123 23 27.