OXFORDSHIRE has hundreds of children waiting to be adopted by loving parents.

There are more than 300 county children awaiting adoption, with the last official count being 345 in March last year.

At that time, there were 295 children in foster care and 50 in secure units, children’s homes and hostels.

The figures for last year were an improvement on 2012 when there were 440 children in Oxfordshire County Council’s care.

In the same year, Leicestershire, which has a similar population size to Oxfordshire, had 375 children awaiting adoption – 15 per cent less. However, there have been improvements to Oxfordshire’s adoption system.

Last month, the county was ranked fifth in the Department for Education’s latest figures,’ with children waiting 30 per cent less time to find a permanent home than the national average.

The average time between a child entering council care and moving in with a family in Oxfordshire is 450 days, compared with 647 days nationally.

But Oxfordshire-based voluntary adoption agency Adoption Focus says this is not enough. It said despite a year-on-year increase in the numbers of children being placed, there has been a bigger increase in the number of children awaiting adoption.

Adoption Focus chief executive Anna Sharkey, said: “We have really seen a slowdown in the numbers of prospective adopters enquiring.

“This is problematic as the number of children waiting to be adopted in the area continues to increase.”

Krish Kandiah, who set up the campaign Home for Good, which encourages Christian people to adopt, is an adoptive parent.

He said: “We have a tragedy – children waiting for families. They shouldn’t just be left in care.

“Through history, Britain has a great tradition of helping children in need, but our children are being left without adequate families.”

Mr Kandiah, 42, adopted a young girl seven years ago with his wife Miriam.

He said: “We had a really positive experience with the Oxfordshire adoptive process.

“We were expecting it to be really scary, but we learned a lot on how to help kids who hadn’t had a good start in life. We were very grateful for the help.”

The South Oxfordshire resident added: “People in Oxfordshire need to step forward – a lot of people think of adoption as the last possible means to having a child after IVF and so on.

“At Homes for Good we’re asking people: Do you have space in your hearts and your homes for another child? Are you willing to be the parent they need?”

Rosalie James who, with husband Rod, has two adopted children, also continues to foster every year.

She said: “Fostering is a hard job, but it’s worth it.

“People still have a lot to offer and can care for other children that aren’t their own.”

The 73-year-old from Abingdon said: “I wonder if people think it won’t work unless they adopt a baby.

“There are so many children who don’t get into the system until they are much older.

“People are worried about taking on older children and sibling groups, or children with special needs.

“But you still get so much joy when you care for these children – every day there’s something new to smile about.”

The latest adoption figures are expected to be released later this month.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley refused to comment.