Select Committee on Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by NSPCC


  The Adoption and Children Bill aims to improve adoption services, put children's needs at the centre of the adoption process and promote greater use of adoption.

  NSPCC welcomes the Bill, and the opportunity to submit evidence to the Select Committee on its provisions. Our submission should be read in conjunction with our response to the Prime Minister's Review of Adoption (October 2000)[17].



  NSPCC believes that there must be adequate funding to enable local authorities to fulfil the requirements of the Bill.

Services for birth parents including young birth mothers in Local Authority care

  NSPCC is concerned that the Bill largely ignores the needs of birth families. NSPCC believes that birth parents should be accorded the right to therapeutic and support services to help them cope with the experience of losing their child. They can suffer great emotional distress as a result of their loss, and this need should be recognised and addressed. In addition to this, their mental health needs to be at its optimum to enable them to meet the needs of siblings or other children they may have in the future. This could also reduce the familiar risk of subsequent children in the family being placed for adoption.

  Engaging in such therapeutic work with birth parents is in the long-term interests of the children who have been adopted, as it can help to facilitate an easier relationship with their birth parents at a later stage in their lives.

  There is also a need to address the needs of a very specific, but often neglected, group of young birth mothers—those who are still in Local Authority care when they have their child, and decide to place them for adoption rather than raising them themselves. It appears that their particular needs may not adequately be met by the adoption service, and may be disregarded because of their own vulnerable position. It is important to ensure that adoption practice links to, and is consistent with, government policy on teenage pregnancy.

Clause 1 subsection (5)

  NSPCC believes that consideration of the child's religious, cultural and linguistic background must take account of needs that may arise a child's physical, learning or sensory impairment. Every attempt should be made to find adoptive parents for disabled children who understand their needs and are able to care for them. In addition to being carers for any child, disabled people will be well placed to understand experiences disabled children and young people face in their everyday lives and may be more able to communicate with them, for example by using British Sign Language (BSL). They could also provide a positive role model.

  Due consideration must also be given to the impact on children of moving to live in a different area, for example from northern to southern England, from an urban to a rural environment, and from Wales into England (or vice versa). This can be a very disorientating experience, and is likely to become more common once the National Adoption Register comes into operation.

Clause 3 subsection (8)

  NSPCC welcomes recognition that adoption support services are vital for families. The Government's commitment to post adoption support should also increase the numbers of families who are able to care for disabled children. Therapeutic support should be available for disabled children if required and families should be able to access specialist advice and guidance around managing challenging behaviour. We have a number of concerns about the current provisions of the Bill in this respect, namely that:

    1.  The detail of such services are being left to regulations, and there is currently no duty placed on any authority to fund them, nor is there a duty for Local Authorities to liaise with education and health authorities to provide such services;

    2.  There is no specific mention of providing specialist therapeutic services for children. A significant number of children placed for adoption have experienced maltreatment and trauma and require skilled treatment before they can be expected to move forward into life with a new family. NSPCC believes that access to therapeutic services is crucial when children are first placed for adoption. Often, therapy is delayed until a child is placed in a secure situation with adopters. However, this can make things more difficult for the new family, as they have to cope with both the transition for them of becoming a family, and with the child's need to cope with their history and resettlement issues.

    It was a specific recommendation of the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse that "each area child protection committee should review the extent to which the demand is locally met for support and treatment services for abuse victims and their families". It further recommended that a multi-disciplinary plan should be developed for reducing any shortfall, and that treatment services should be integrated with the wider children's services plan. This should be further supported by government departments assisting local services by developing guidance on what professional services should be provided and on what scale.

    3.  Adopted children's needs for support services can be very long-term, certainly well into adulthood, and may last a lifetime. The need will become more intermittent, but is likely to be triggered by major life events, such as a birth parent tracing the child, or the child's marriage. We would like this to be recognised in support provision.

Clause 4

  NSPCC strongly believes that children placed for adoption should have a right to be assessed for adoption support services, for the reasons outlined above.


  With the announcement of a General Election imminent, we suspect that the Adoption and Children Bill will not be passed during this session of Parliament. NSPCC believes that adoption should remain a priority for the next Government. We believe that a Bill that has been significantly strengthened by this period of consultation should be reintroduced to Parliament in the first Queen's Speech, and that it should be given adequate consideration in Parliament.

May 2001


  1.  Childhood Matters. Report of the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse. Volume 1. The Stationery Office. 1996

  Note: NSPCC is not an adoption agency. However, we have expertise in relation to adoption through our work in helping looked after children to cope with disruption, such as coming into care, and preparing them for adoption and the loss of their birth families. Many of our projects are involved in treatment work to help children deal with abuse and prepare for such change.

  We are therefore submitting comments only on areas of the Adoption and Children Bill in which we have expertise.

17   Not printed. Back

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