Adoption in Scotland is to be streamlined to cut down the amount the time children have to wait before becoming part of stable families.
The new measures were announced after a Parliamentary debate to mark the first-ever Adoption Week in Scotland.
They include expanding access to the country’s adoption register so more people can find matches for children with suitable families and more quickly.
The move will see more authorised practitioners as well as people approved to become adoptive parents, either by a council run scheme or an adoption agency, being able to view the document which lists children requiring permanent family homes.
Activity days, when prospective adopters and children meet in an informal setting, are also to be expanded following a successful pilot.
Childcare and Early Years Minister Mark McDonald said: “The introduction of the Adoption Register in Scotland was a huge step forward in helping streamline the process and reduce the amount of time young people spend waiting for a permanent home.
“Further improvements are all geared towards ensuring more children benefit from a permanent and loving home.
“By moving to a safe and secure online platform potential matches can be found faster and easier than ever, and for the first time, prospective adopters can look for matches directly.”
Mr McDonald added: “Activity days have also proven to be extremely successful in helping children and potential adoptive families get to know each other in a safe, fun and informal environment.”
He said a trial of the special days had led to a “substantial number of matches” across the country and that at least six more such days would be held in different areas.
The number of young people adopted from foster care or other care settings has increased 127 per cent in the last nine year, latest figures show. There are currently 14,400 children in “looked after” care in Scotland. Last year 500 people aged under 16 were adopted – 284 of these were “stranger” adoptions, to people who are not family members. Most children looking to be adopted in Scotland now have experienced some form of real or potential abuse, trauma and neglect.
Meanwhile, a leading adoption charity has urged the Scottish Government to do more to give financial support to people wanting to adopt.
The UK Government set up a £21 million fund to provide financial help to struggling parents and Adoption UK has called for similar measures in Scotland, where no such funding exists.
The charity also wants every adopted child to be given the right to additional support in school and priority access to mental healthcare.