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Is the British Adoption System Failing Vulnerable Children and Potential Adopters?

Posted on the 31 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Baby !!!

Adoption of children of different ethnicities has sometimes been obstructed by local councils, according to David Cameron. Photo Credit: ♥ kacyphoto,

David Cameron’s new approach to tackling the country’s low adoption rates includes publishing a “league table” of councils’ adoption data according to The Daily Telegraph. The councils will be ranked on their capacity to place a child up for adoption with a host family within 12 months and could lose their capabilities if they are found to be poorly performing. The plans follow proposals made by Martin Narey, the former Chief Executive of adoption charity Barnardo’s and head of the prison service in the pages of The Times (£) aimed at transforming “the lives of some of the UK’s most disadvantaged and neglected children”.

“We will publish data on how every local authority is performing to ensure they are working quickly enough to provide the safe and secure family environment every child deserves,” the Prime Minister told the newspaper. “A successful adoption can give children a great start in life, a great life — we need a real culture change in this country to become more pro-adoption.”

But is this the right approach to what has become a signature issue for Conservatives after Cameron’s explicit references to it in his address to the Tory Party conference earlier in the month? Here’s what the commentariat had to say:

‘Tough action’ is needed. The Times (£) is really pushing the adoption issue, with a front page article on Cameron’s reforms, an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister on the subject and a leader in today’s issue alone. The leader opines that the government is taking the right step with publishing these league tables, but that “the publication of performance data” is not enough. “If and when local authorities are judged not to be placing children into adoptive families quickly enough, they should be stripped of their responsibilities”, they contend, also arguing that “court proceedings need to be expedited”.

Performance will be improved by these league tables. In an interview for The Daily Telegraph today, Martin Narey said that he “would be astonished if adoptions don’t begin to rise steadily next year”, but said that “a lot of work” needed to be done on the assessment process. “League tables do a lot of things in themselves”, he added “if there isn’t an effect, then the government will have to think again”.

Statistics are not helpful. Cameron’s assertion that only 60 out of 3,660 children in care last year were adopted ignores the “reality” of the situation — most children are in temporary care while their parents face “hideous but solvable things” such as drug addiction according to The Guardian’s Deborah Orr, who also took issue with the idea that race is to blame for low adoption figures.

League tables are ‘the wrong approach.’ Hilton Dawson of the British Association of Social Workers told BBC Breakfast “it’s an absurd way forward quite honestly — it overlooks the fact that adoption is only one tool in the box”. He praised Hackney’s “outstanding approach to supporting families” and said it was the fault of the “crude, simplistic approach” of league tables that it found itself at the bottom of the table. The British Association for Adoption and Fostering’s John Simmonds explained that many of the children in question were in “contested care” and that the processes must take time as many parents “want to be given the option” to not give their child up for adoption.

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