Children & Social Work Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mrs Alex Bemrose (CSWB 75)

Submission for the House of Commons Public Bill Committee ref. Children and Social Work Bill

1. I am the mother of an inter-country adopted child and have been campaigning for reforms to the British adoption system for a number of years. I was involved in round-table discussions on the reform of the adoption system with the (former) Children’s Minister, Mr Tim Loughton MP; was a founder member, Trustee and Company Secretary of the charity Adopt a Better Way (formerly Adoption with Humanity) (resigned 2014), and most recently have been involved in lobbying the government for equal rights for inter-country adopted children as are given to children adopted domestically. My case for equal entitlements for inter-country adopted children (in particular Priority Placing at Schools and Premium Plus Funding) was supported by Sir Martin Narey, former Adoption Advisor to the Government, and was put in a tabled amendment (Amendments 22,23, 25 and 26 concerning Clauses 4 to 6 and Amendment 28) to the Children and Social Work Bill by Baroness Oona King of Bow when the Bill was passing through the House of Lords in Summer/Autumn 2016.

2. I am pleased that, as outlined by Lord Nash in the Lords on 18 October 2017, the Government has now committed to changing the law to give children adopted from overseas the same entitlements as domestically adopted children. (see annexe 1 and annexe 2)

3. Lord Nash rightly points out that that careful consideration needs to be taken on how you define eligiblity and how a parent proves eligibility, because there is indeed much variation between the care systems of other countries, however the point I wish to raise is that it is also important for the government to consider that not all parents will have been given paperwork showing clearly how their child was cared for prior to adoption.

4. If eligibility is based on, for example, documentary evidence that the child was in the care system of its native country prior to adoption, then there will be some children who may be deemed ineligible simply because the country of origin never included these details in their adoption paperwork. The documents given to parents by embassies, orphanages, foster carers and lawyers when they adopt a child from overseas varies considerably from country to country and in terms of showing how the child has been cared for between birth and adoption, is sometimes unreliable or simply non-existent. In many cases (eg adoptions from China), the adoption documents are likely to state that the child was adopted from a social welfare institute or (in the case of Thailand) was under the care of the Department of Social Development and Welfare, however there are other countries where adoption documents from the embassy or adoption attorney will simply note the address of the place at which the child resided prior to adoption with the name of the individual responsible for his/her care.

5. The documents which are given to adoptive parents are also frequently unreliable, for example, a common practice in Guatemala at the point of adoption, is to destroy the original birth certificate and re-issue a new birth certificate noting the adoptive mother and father as "parents" whilst keeping the original (accurate) place of birth on the certificate, thus implying that the adoptive parents are in fact the biological parents of their adopted child, which is obviously incorrect.

6. I understand that, as Lord Nash says (see Annexe 2), "the Government will table a government amendment to this Bill in the other place" so please accept my apologies if I am not raising this point at the correct time, however I think it is important to bring this point to the Committee’s attention to ensure that when "eligibility" is discussed regarding this particular clause, there is sufficient understanding of the variation from country to country regarding the adoption documents which parents receive.

Summary

When considering the eligibility criteria by which inter-country adopted children will be eligible for the same entitlements as children adopted domestically, it is important that the government/Committee is aware of the variations from country to country in adoption documents which parents are given on adopting their child, in particular regarding the details of their child’s previous care arrangements.

Annexe 1.

Lord Nash: "Before hearing what noble Lords have to say on other amendments, perhaps it would be helpful to noble Lords, and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady King, if I say that the Government will table an amendment to the Bill in the other place to bring children adopted from care outside England within the scope of

Clauses 4 to 6."

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Annexe 2.

Lord Nash "I understand that some children adopted from outside England will have been in an equivalent form of care prior to adoption and that they, too, are vulnerable. This is in addition to moving to a new country and a new culture. The Government have acknowledged this by extending access to the adoption support fund to these children and their families so that they, too, can get access to much-needed therapeutic services. The Government would like to do more for these children and agree with noble Lords that extending the remit of Clauses 4 to 6 to require local authorities and schools to also promote their educational achievement would be a positive step.

There are, however, a number of important practicalities to consider: for example, how we define eligibility and how a parent proves eligibility. This is ​because there is much variation between the care systems of other countries. I hope that noble Lords will agree that it is important that we ensure that the eligibility criteria closely match the criteria for children in this country in order to come within the scope of Clauses 4 to 6. As I said, the Government will table a government amendment to this Bill in the other place to bring children adopted from care outside England within the scope of Clauses 4 to 6.

I am also grateful to noble Lords for their Amendment 28, which proposes a new clause to extend existing educational entitlements given to previously looked-after children in England to children adopted from care outside England. These entitlements include priority school admission in the early years and the pupil premium plus. None of these entitlements is provided for in primary legislation so it would not be appropriate to consider this amendment for inclusion in the Bill. The Government will, however, give full consideration to the position of these children when reviewing these policies."

Quote from : https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2016-10-18/debates/F87D90E7-21C7-4F40-A6A9-63D754DB02AE/ChildrenAndSocialWorkBill(HL) Column 2291

January 2017

 

Prepared 11th January 2017