The thrust of UK adoption policy is to promote adoption as the best route to a stable family life for children in the care system unable to return to their birth families. However, what we know about outcomes for adopted children comes mainly from studies that report on children already in placement. This article reports on the findings of a study that examined the outcomes of a complete sample of 130 older looked after children who had all been the subject of an adoption best interest decision. Many were successfully placed but, of those who were not, the study was able to identify factors that influenced placement outcome. The negative impact on placement outcomes and the increased financial costs of poor assessment and delays in planning and action are highlighted in this paper. The reasons why delays occurred, the costs of those delays and the impact on child outcomes lend support to recent government attempts to reduce delay by the introduction of timescales into the adoption process.