IN 2007 just three per cent of children desperately in need of a permanent home were found one in Harrow as the borough struggled to meet adoption needs.

As a result of that problem Harrow Council formed a partnership with specialist adoption charity Coram, and in the last three years the numbers have improved nearly sevenfold.

The number of children being placed with adoptive parents has risen to 20 per cent and statistics also show the number of children placed in homes within 12 months has increased from 33 per cent in 2007/08 to 100 per cent.

Paul Clark, the council's former corporate director for children's services, said: "We had a poor record with adoption.

"Coram has a good, solid reputation in this area, so we talked to them to see how we could work together as partners.

"Yes money comes into it, but it is something we look at together and more creatively. We have certainly not outsourced our adoption services - this is very much a case of two organisations working very well together."

Mr Clark is not the only person to see the benefits of that partnership though, and Susan Fyfield, the first parent to adopt a child under the programme, has been delighted with the help she has received from both parties in the past three years.

She said: "I adopted my daughter when she was just 15 month's old - she's four now - and I will always say to anybody who want to go down this avenue, do it with Harrow and Coram.

"The support I have had from both the council and Coram has been absolutely fantastic and is still ongoing. They are there whenever I need them."

Ms Fyfield has a grown-up child of her own, who is 27 now, but added adopting was always something she wanted to do.

She said: "Even when I was a lot younger it was always something I wanted to do, but the process can be quite complicated and drawn out.

"Because the experience was a first for me it was a bit daunting going in to that process on my own, so it was fantastic to know that if I ever needed to speak to someone there was always support for me and someone making time to help.

"I always thought that people would not look favourably on the fact that I am a single parent, but they understand that the world is different now and I can offer a loving home to my daughter irrespective of that.

"I wouldn't have done it any differently and would always recommend the process to other families who have thought about adoption."

Harrow's success with adoption rates flies in the face of the downturn in adoptions seen around the rest of the country - which is why British Association for Adoption and Fostering policy director John Simmonds is backing Harrow's approach.

He says: "Adoption is often very segmented. The council decides something, and somewhere down the line an agency might be brought in.

"Adoption is a long-term process and it makes sense to involve the agency at the earliest opportunity."