Memorandum submitted by Manchester Adoption
We welcome the emphasis on the child's welfare
being paramount and that any delay in coming to decisions is likely
to prejudice the child's welfare.
What will happen to those children who are adopted
before the Act comes into force, surely they should have a right
to a service? To not do so will cause difficulties. In some families
an older child would not be eligible whereas a later placed child
might be. What happens where an assessment is undertaken but there
is no agreement on the outcome or once having undertaken this
the Council do not provide the services needed.
This section seems to be mainly permissive and
will therefore be subject to individual Local Authority interpretation
As this Bill also promotes inter agency working
it will increase the already common practice of children who are
the responsibility of one council being placed with prospective
adopters who live in another. With the prospective adopters acquiring
parental responsibility who will undertake the assessment, who
will provide services (and more importantly pay for them) and
will an assessment be binding on another council where the children
This should specify that a local authority should
consult with Voluntary Adoption Agencies operating in their area
even if the VAA head office is situated in another area. For example
we are based in Bury but recruit families who reside in 15 neighbouring
Although there is a regulatory impact assessment
regarding this item it is incorrect in its assumptions regarding
cost. We welcome the appeal procedure but it will cost our Society
to implement. At present if an applicant is unhappy with their
assessment we can ask one of our two panels to re-look at it.
This does not incur additional cost as the panels meet regularly
and we would arrange for there to be an agenda item. The cost
of the panel meeting is negligible as nearly all of our members
are voluntary. The panel is also held at the Society's offices
so there are no travel costs for workers. The possible cost of
an independent appeals panel would be significant if the Society
was responsible for the fees charged by appeal panel members for
their attendance plus the associated travel costs of Society staff
attending the panel.
In the past the Society has fully cooperated
with the statistical returns made either to the Department of
Health or through the Courts. The previous system did not work
as many agencies, primarily local authorities, did not complete
the necessary paperwork. It would be necessary to have some form
of sanction for non-provision of statistical information under
There could be delay around getting Court time
to hear submissions regarding leave to apply to revoke a placement
order. As Court delays are one of the fundamental difficulties
at present close attention should be given to the provision of
extra Court space to accommodate extra Judges so that delay is
minimised. Our experience of applications to discharge freeing
orders in similar situations as described in Clause 20 is that
this leads to a delay in placement as Local Authorities will not
wish to pre-judge the Court and under 20, 4(b) they are certainly
discouraged from doing so.
The main difficulty here is who assists the
parties in the changing situations that occur after an adoption
order has been made. Our experience, having run a post adoption
service for the past 26 years, is that mediation and re-negotiation
takes place in virtually all of our cases. Who will pay for this
There is a need for local authorities to continue
to offer a post adoption themselves rather than contract out to
other organisations. Relationships built up between worker and
family or child can be very useful when later dealing with the
often encountered problems of later adjustment. A culture of "an
adoption does not work" or that adopters need to be "perfect"
can arise as area workers only deal with those situations that
have disrupted and the child returns to care. They do not see
the vast majority of cases where the adoption continues and the
problems encountered are successfully overcome. In considering
adoption workers need to have a knowledge of the long term implications
In some situations it is beneficial to those
affected by adoption to have an independent agency who can address
their needs. The essential point is that these service users have
It is time to consider approving couples who
are in a stable relationship but not married as entitled to adopt
jointly. We are excluding many potential families due to this
discriminatory rule. Marriage does not confer the certainty that
parents will stay together especially when one considers the divorce
rate in the general population. At present only one partner can
apply to adopt, the other has to be content with a lesser order;
this does not help the child.
The consent form needs rewording. At present
some birth parents agree to an adoption order being made but will
not sign a consent form as they feel that to do so will be interpreted
by the child later as an absence of love. Many indicate that they
will not oppose an order being made and they are content with
the prospective adopters. To achieve an adoption order this is
treated the same as if the adoption was contested so delaying
the whole process and there has been an unnecessary "fight".
This also leads to increased costs as solicitors are instructed
in these situations.
We welcome the possibility of direct placements
happening, this Society used to undertake several of these a year,
it minimised delay for all concerned and was often at the birth
parents request as they wished for as "good a start"
for their child as possible.
Information should be given to prospective adopters
before placements so that they undertake the care of the
child knowing all the circumstances. There is a need for the child
to receive information in a more sensitive way and later life
letters written to the child as if they were an older teenager
are very helpful. Many children have life story books to help
them understand why they are being adopted but these are compiled
for younger children and adolescent can be rather embarrassed
to show them!
It is our experience that we have to work extremely
hard to obtain later letters even to the point of threatening
to go through the complaints procedures!
Does this section mean that we cannot give information
unless a person has specifically indicated that we can do so.
This would severely restrict the information we need to give adopted
people where their adoption was several years ago.
This is discriminatory and causes adopted people
to be second class citizens.
This Society would not wish to undertake counselling
for all adopted people as our scarce resources are committed to
offering the service to those adopted through our agency.
This will need definition in terms of who is
defined as family.
This Clause is to be welcomed as it includes
birth fathers in the process they are often (wrongly) excluded
The Register seems a simple idea to a complex
problem. There is always a mis-match between the number of adopters
who would like small children and the fewer little children needing
parents. At the other end of the spectrum there are very few families
for more older children. There is a need for local authorities
that are traditionally "family recruiting" agencies
to invest in finding more families so that the mainly "child
producing" agencies have ready access to choices for the
children. How is this to work? What incentives will there be for
local authorities with few children to place spending resources
on recruitment? These local authorities will also inherit the
costly post adoption needs of these children. In our own area
one authority reallocated resources away from recruitment for
this self same reason.
The Register does not allow for inertia on the
part of workers seeking to conserve families for children that
might need them "in the future". There is not the disciplined
approach as in the voluntary sector where families that are recruited
are needed and so more likely to match the needs of the current
child care population. To survive Voluntary Adoption Agencies
have become adept at analysing the changing structure of the child
care population and so adjust their recruitment accordingly.
If a fee is charged this will deter Local Authorities
as there will be a return to the days of looking in one's own
resources first, then possibly advertising them as a last resort
referring to BAAF Link or Adoption UK. When budgets are tight
even small amounts of money appear to be haggled over.
There is a major problem of resources for the
implementation of the Act. No resources are directed to the Voluntary
Adoption Agencies apart from the section 64 grants.
There was a previous proposal that Voluntary
Adoption Agencies should be inspected every four years. Could
this be considered favourably again? Could inspection and the
possibility of de-registration also be extended to local authorities?
Similarly the present regulations only encourage joint panels
between local authorities so excluding the voluntary agencies,
could this be amended to allow all adoption agencies (local authority
and voluntary) to form joint panels?
To avoid delay there needs to be adequate staffing
in local authorities to recruit, prepare, and support carers.
There also needs to be adequate staff numbers to work constructively
with birth parents and children. To avoid delay in the Court process
there is a need for more Court space as well as more Judges.
There is at present much interest on planning
for children and there are various terms used to describe the
process. As part of this submission we are including a set of
definitions drawn up by the Goodman Team which is a part of this
Society. An article detailing their work in Concurrent Planning
is also enclosed.