Memorandum submitted by The Children's
The Children's Society broadly welcomes the
contents of the Adoption and Children Bill. We are concerned that
it is not rushed through and in doing so fail to address the complexities
of adoption for children and young people in the 21st century.
We have chosen to make a number of key points on those Clauses
of the Bill where we have cause for concern.
Our contribution is bases upon over 60 years
of practice as an Adoption Agency.
Provides more background of The Children's Society's
involvement in the field of adoption.
Is a summary of recent research published by
The Children's Society "Adoption, Search and Reunion: The
Long Term Experience of Adopted Adults" [Howe D & Feast
J, 2000]. This research provides the evidence for our contributions
particularly in respect of clauses 47-49 and 65-67.
Part 1, Chapter 1, Clause 1  [a]
We wholeheartedly welcome this Clause which
seeks the wishes and feelings of the child or young person to
the proposed adoption. This reflects the right of children and
young people to be involved and it will promote better preparation
of children for this life-changing event. The Children's Society
would support the place of the young person to be strengthened
by giving them party status in their own adoption proceedings
and by seeking their consent to the proposal as was set down in
the draft of the Adoption Bill 1996.
Part 1, Chapter 11, Clauses 3 and 4
We are of the view that an assessment of the
need for post adoption support must be followed by a duty to provide
the support services as assessed. A duty must also be placed on
Health Authorities/Primary Care Trusts and the local education
authority to provide the support services as assessed and which
fall within their respective functions. Our experience across
a range of health and education authorities is that this is often
not he case and young people are disadvantaged by lack of necessary
The system for providing adoption allowances
must be standardised across all authorities. Currently we are
unable to advise prospective adopters what level of financial
support they might receive because of the variation between local
authorities. This uncertainty deters some adopters and limits
the chances of young people to be adopted.
As a voluntary adoption agency The Children's
Society is involved in interagency placements and we believe such
placements will increase when the Adoption Register is fully operational.
It is vital therefore to establish which local authority has professional
and financial responsibility for a young person placed for adoption;
the placing authority or the one in which the young person moves
to live. This applies both before and after the making of the
order. It is our experience that young adopted people have been
disadvantaged by not receiving services whilst two local authorities
have argued over who has responsibility to provide services to
Part 1, Chapter 111, Clauses 42 and 43
We are saddened that the Government has not
recognised the decline of marriage and that an increasing percentage
of children are being brought up by two parents in stable partnerships,
some of which are registered. For the child adopted into such
a partnership there is an inequality of relationship for the child
with his/her two parents. With the adopting parent they have a
lifelong relationship, with the other parent they have a legal
relationship up to the age of 18 (at most) via a Residence Order.
This is an injustice to the child and in the majority of such
partnerships the adopting parent is the mother, so once again
fathers are marginalised in the lives of children. We believe
this inequality should be addressed in the Bill.
Part 1, Chapter 111, Clause 47(2)
It is to be made mandatory that information
about the child is to be given to adopters after the Adoption
Order is made. This is too late. In order to care properly for
a child adopters must have all the necessary information given
to them at the outset of the placement. A finding of many disruption
meetings is that a contributory factor to the breakdown of a placement
is the lack of information given to adopters at an early stage.
Anything that can be done to prevent the damaging effects of disruption
on young people must be pursued.
Part 1, Chapter 111, Clauses 47, 48 and 49
Clauses 47-49 appear to be a backward step in
terms of giving adopted people the opportunity to access information
about their birth family. It would appear from this clause that
unless the court or the adoption agency took active steps to locate
the family members concerned and seek their consent to share archived
information, adopted people would not be able to be given the
information that many agencies currently provide from their files.
If these clauses are implemented then it will not only disadvantage
adopted people, but also be an extremely costly and time-consuming
exercise for the agency concerned. If the proposed Clause is implemented,
then thought needs to be given to how agencies are expected to
fund such searches. It is also essential that there is clarification
by what is meant by third party. Third party information taken
literally, is anything about another person that would deny the
adopted person of having information about their birth parents'
details, such as physical descriptions, interests etc. It may
be that good practice guidance of most agencies (as recognised
in inspections) should be formalised and written up as guidance,
available for the agencies who undertake counselling and access
to information. To limit the information which is currently given
would compromise the adopted person's opportunity to build a full
sense of identity and make informed decisions about their life.
Part 1, Chapter V, Clauses 65, 66 and 67
The modified provision of the Adoption Contact
Register does not effectively address how the Adoption Contact
Register should be improved. We know from research that the majority
of non-searching, adopted adults had not heard of it (76 per cent).
There are also no systems currently in place to confirm that adopted
people or the birth relative have received notification of an
enquiry, or no counselling facilities. The management of the Adoption
Contact Register needs to be given more attention in subsequent
Intermediary services for Birth Relatives
There needs to be a clause so that there is
a legislative framework to provide intermediary services for birth
relatives. In August 2000 the Department of Health issued practice
guidance to help local authorities and adoption agencies provide
such a service.
We know from the research study, "Adoption,
Search & Reunion" (2000), that 90 per cent of non-searching,
adopted people took up the opportunity to respond to their birth
relative's request for contact.
The Bill must take a life long perspective and
therefore ensure that intermediary services for both birth relatives
and adopted people are available within a legislative framework.
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