Improvements in the success rates of IVF treatment have been cited as part of the reason fewer people are choosing to adopt children in the UK, despite the number of children currently in care reaching a record high.
IVF treatment has risen from around seven percent success per cycle to around 30 percent for women under 35 years.
Anthony Douglas, chief executive of the Children and Family Court Advisory Service, which represents children in care, told The Telegraph that this change means IVF is 'competing' with adoption. He added that the process to adopt children 'takes twice as long as it should'.
In 1978, the year the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born there were there were over 12,000 adoptions. In the 12 months up to March 2017, 4350 adoptions took place, while 72,670 children entered the UK care system, according to figures from the Department of Education.
Douglas, who leaves his position in March 2019, has called for a cut to the 'off-putting' time it takes to adopt a child. Over the past six months alone, there has been a 30-day increase in the length of time children wait to be placed with adoptive families.
Adoption charities have questioned the link between developments in IVF and the decline in adoption rates. 'I am sure advances in fertility treatments are a factor in all of that but certainly not the main factor,' said Alison Woodhead, director of public affairs and communications at Adoption UK.
Changes in society are more likely to be the primary cause, she said. One such reason may be that the stigma of unmarried women having children has fallen. Currently, the average age of a child at adoption in the UK is three years. Most of these children are taken into care because of abuse or neglect. A court ruling in 2014 has also had a significant impact on how many children were placed for adoption, Woodhead added.
'It is just a very different picture,' said Woodhead. 'It made the whole system much more cautious than it had been in previous years.'
Dr Krish Kandiah, founding director of another UK adoption charity, Home for Good, also said he was concerned that blaming IVF success for a decline adoption 'paints an untrue picture', and was too simplistic.
'Adoption is for all those who want to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children, not just those suffering with infertility,' said Dr Kandiah.