‘Adoption shake up’ to strip councils of adoption responsibility

19 Jun 2013

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Children’s minister Edward Timpson has announced Government plans to strip local councils of their powers of adoption if they prove to be slow at finding new families for children and given to private agencies and charities.

In his statement Timpson said “We have identified significant structural weaknesses which undermine the effectiveness of the adopter recruitment and approval system, these weaknesses must be addressed swiftly and decisively in the interests of a significant and sustainable increase in the number of adopters”.

Figures show that there is a national shortage of potential adopters. The announcement by the Children’s Minister is designed to speed up the adoption process. Currently children in England are left in care for nearly 21 months on average before they are adopted, with some youngsters remaining in care for almost three years before an adoptive family is found for them. The government has set a threshold of 21 months between children being taken into care and moving in with an adoptive family.  Under the proposal, to meet this deadline the secretary of state would intervene and strip a council of their powers.

Much has been debated and written on over the last two years about the ethnicity of the adoptive parents and whether this should match the child’s. The guidance also makes clear that:

  • Local authorities must not deny children a loving home with adoptive parents only because they don’t share the same ethnic or cultural background
  • Adoption should be considered for children who may have been overlooked in the past – such as older children or those with disabilities
  • Local authorities should be welcoming enquiries from those wanting to adopt and no person should be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background
  • Local authorities should be making full and effective use of the Adoption Register which helps to match adoptive parents with children
  • Local authorities should be making more use of voluntary adoption agencies who have specialist expertise in finding families for difficult to place children – particularly older children, children with disabilities, sibling groups and BME children.

The proposed shake up has been met with mixed responses from the adoption community. David Holmes, Chief Executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and Anne Marie Carrie, Chief Executive at Barnardo’s both welcome the publication of the new guidelines recognising that the length of time children are waiting to be adopted is unnecessarily long. Barnardo’s in particular have raised concerns that race is acting as a barrier to adoption in the UK.

However some within the community have been openly critical of these new plans. David Simmonds, chair of The Local Government Association (LGA) warned that stripping councils of their powers should only be considered as a very last resort. He continued to cite recent figures which show that councils have twice the success rate of independent adoption agencies and claims that the proposal could cause confusion with potential adopters being passed ‘from pillar to post’ during different stages of the process.

Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) welcomed the challenge from ministers to recruit more adopters adding that the ADCS ‘strongly opposed plans to give the education secretary powers to take away a council’s right to recruit adopters”. Jones claims that the new proposal is heavy handed and unnecessary.

Thinking about adopting?

If you are considering adopting a child either from the UK or abroad contact Naomi Angell who can provide you with advice and guidance about the process including how long it will take and how to begin the process. Naomi is ranked in independent legal directories ‘The Legal 500’ and ‘Chambers and Partners’ as one of the best adoption lawyers in England. She is joint chair of the Law Society Family Law Committee, of the Law Society Children Panel and is accredited as a specialist in adoption and private law children cases with Resolution.

During National Adoption Week 2011 Osbornes held a panel discussion on adoption featuring Naomi Angell, Martin Narey, the government advisor on adoption and Jonathan Pearce, the CEO of Adoption UK. Read about the event or watch the video.

What the directories say about Naomi

“Naomi is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable solicitors on adoption law generally and inter-country adoptions in particular. She is at the forefront of charitable work and policymaking relating to adoption and private law children cases”.
Chambers & Partners 2013

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