British parents looking to adopt will no longer be turned away because of race, age or social background, according to new guidelines on adoption policies issued by the United Kingdom’s government.

The changes came after a sharp fall in the number of children placed for adoption in Brittan. Between March 2009 and March 2010, the number of adoptees fell by 15 percent.

Under the new guidelines, children can’t be denied adoption because their potential parents are of a different ethnic or cultural background. Additionally, no person who wants to adopt is to be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social backgrounds.

British officials also declared that adoption should be considered for children who may have been disregarded in the past and greater use should be made of voluntary adoption agencies that specialize in matching adoptive children with parents.

Government officials found that children are waiting longer to be adopted and Black children on average have to wait 50 percent longer to be placed in adoption than children of other races.

“Adoption can provide a permanent loving home for a child in care, so it’s disappointing that the latest statistics show a decline in adoption rates and significant variation across the country,” Tim Loughton, a British children’s minister, said in a statement. “I want to see more children placed for adoption, where this is in their best interests, particularly those who may have been overlooked, like older children, children from BME backgrounds and those with disabilities.”

Critics of the move, including the National Association of Black Social Workers in the U.S., believe ethnicity must be a factor when pairing children with prospective parents, according to the Associated Press.

Social workers for years have been averse to pairing children with parents with different ethnic backgrounds because of the belief that children will have a harder time fitting in with their new families.

But British Education Secretary Michael Gove, an adoptee as a child, disputes the claims and believes minority children suffer as they have to wait considerably longer under the care of the state than their counterparts from other racial backgrounds.

“As a result, children from ethnic minority backgrounds languish in care for longer than other kids and are denied the opportunities they deserve,” Gove told the AP. “This misguided nonsense punishes those who most need our help and that this is why this government is sweeping it away.”