An adoption agency desperately trying to find parents has resorted to the unusual tactic of advertising youngsters in local newspapers.
Independent agency Adoptionplus has placed full page adverts with pictures of real tots who are looking for a new home.
The advert asks for “loving parents” for adorable Liam, aged four, and three-year-old Kevin.
It reads: “You don’t have to have had children; you don’t need to be in a relationship; you don’t need to be heterosexual; you don’t need to be young and you don’t need to be perfect.
“You just need to really want to make a difference in a child’s life.”
The advert claims adoption is a quick process saying there is “no cost”, “no waiting time” and “no hoops to jump through.”
The advert was placed in three local newspapers in Cambridgeshire, but the children are not local and their names have been changed in a bid to protect their identity.
Adoptionplus was commissioned by a local authority, which cannot be named for child protection reasons, to find the boys a home.
Joanne Alper, a service director at Adoptionplus, yesterday (Mon) defended the adverts saying the company needed to find an “imaginative” way to encourage adoption, as the number of children looking for a home reached 4,000.
She said: “Basically the situation is there are four thousand children in the UK who need a family and a lot of authorities are struggling to find them.
“There is a lot of pressure on them to try and be a bit more creative. This advert is a new thing. It is us trying something different and it is unusual.
“It is very easy when you just switch on the news and they say ‘blah blah blah’ but this kind of thing makes it seem more real.
“We just hope this could inspire interest. We try to get rid of myths like that you have to be in a relationship to adopt.
“I think the fact that there are so many children in the UK that need a home is desperately sad and we want to do everything we can.”
But some have slammed the campaign saying youngsters should not be advertised like an unwanted animal or second hand sofa.
John Hemmings MP said the advert sent out the wrong message and would not serve the purpose of finding a safe home for vulnerable children.
The liberal democrat, who represents Birmingham Yardley, said: “If parents with children did something like that they would go to jail.
“We are supposed to protect the identity of children by not naming them or keeping their identity secret.
“I find it very odd that local authorities are so keen to keep a child’s identity secret one minute but then change their minds when it suits them.
“They seem to be unconcerned about the household that children end up in. It is about box ticking rather than finding them a good home.”
Mr Hemmings is currently the chairman of the Justice For Families campaign group and has condemned the government’s tolerance of secret family courts.
Adoptionplus is monitored by watchdog Ofsted and was rated as “Outstanding” in five different categories in February this year,
Staff were described as “forward thinking” and praised for being “extremely effective” in finding homes for vulnerable children.
The British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) said they welcome new ways of encouraging prospective parents.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “It’s not something new to us as we are always trying to find ways of rehoming children.
“We are very careful about where we feature children. We normally change their names or don’t talk about location.
“There are over 4,000 children who need to be adopted every year and and there is always the need for parents to come forward.
“It is hard to find homes for older kids and siblings especially.”