Adoption clauses don't fulfil their aims, say Lords

19 December 2012

Committee concerned that delays will not be sufficiently reduced by new measures intended to speed up adoption.

The House of Lords Committee on Adoption Legislation has today called on the Government to widen the scope of a proposed new adoption measure. The Government’s proposed ‘fostering for adoption’ duty is designed to encourage councils to place looked after children with foster carers who can then go on to adopt them, providing continuity and stability. The new duty, which is expected to be incorporated into the Children and Families Bill early next year, does not go far enough, says the Committee. The scope should be extended by creating a duty to consider a fostering for adoption placement for all children for whom adoption is the plan.

The Committee also report on the Government’s proposal to remove any requirement to give consideration to ethnicity when placing a child with adopters. The Committee does not find that this is necessary but recommends an alternative amendment to the legislation which accords ethnicity an equal place within the list of the child’s needs and characteristics.

Chairman of the Committee, Baroness Butler-Sloss, said:

"Whilst the Committee supports the Government’s aim to place children as soon as possible in their permanent homes, we are concerned that the clauses as currently drafted do not sufficiently meet this objective.

The Committee thinks that the new clauses on ‘Fostering for Adoption’ present a missed opportunity.  If local authorities had a statutory duty to consider a fostering for adoption placement for all children for whom adoption is the plan, it would allow many more children to be placed in their permanent homes much sooner. This is vital since there is a wealth of evidence that delay in finding a permanent home and movements between short-term foster placements can significantly damage a child’s wellbeing.

Similarly, whilst the Committee agrees with the aim of avoiding any unnecessary delay in placing children with adopters, we do not agree with the Government’s proposal to remove the requirement to consider ethnicity when matching children with families. We have not been convinced that this process causes significant delay and we are concerned that to remove the requirement entirely might send a message to those working in the field that these issues do not matter, when clearly they are all components of a child’s identity. We believe that race, religion, culture and language should continue to be taken into account when placing children in new homes.

We strongly support the Government’s aim to place children sooner in their permanent homes, but we need to ensure that proposed changes to legislation have the right effect. We believe that our amendments to the Government’s draft clauses do this".

Other recommendations from the Committee include:

  • a wider application of the principles behind concurrent planning, which places children with prospective adopters while at the same time actively exploring rehabilitation to the birth family
  • earlier and more robust decision-making by social workers in establishing when rehabilitation with the birth family is no longer an option
  • a review of the Statutory Guidance on Adoption to ensure permanency planning is given serious consideration one month after a child enters care

Further information

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