Duncan Lewis

Job Vacancies

Solicitors, Caseworkers, Trainee Solicitors

Hastening adoptions causes damage to children says senior judges

Date: (19 November 2012)    |    

Total Comments: (0)    |    Add Comments

High Court judges have told the Guardian that children in care were being threatened with separation from siblings and other family members because local authorities were trying to rush through adoptions without any proper checks and against the expert evidence of their official guardians, family court advisers and independent social workers.
The paper had said it has seen evidence of local authorities being criticised by judges for pushing forward adoption plans despite the children doing well in long term foster care and even after the children expressed their willingness to stay there.
In a high court case a judge, who asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of the children, condemned local authority for forcing through three adoptions in a haste that the children or the adoptive parents would not have been prepared for the adoption being underprepared by social services.
A second high court judge, who specialises in family law but also asked to remain anonymous, confirmed having first-hand experience of local authorities attempting to rush through similarly inappropriate adoptions.
Several of the experts have said the pressure on local authorities to draw up "unrealistic" adoption plans became more obvious in March, when the government published plans to overhaul the adoption system, vowing to get more children adopted from care.
Michael Gove, the education secretary, promised to institute a new approval process to halve the time taken to place a child with an adoptive family to six months and introduce a system of scorecards to hold local authorities to account over delays.
Judge David Pearl, a former president of the care standards tribunal and a deputy high court judge, who has spent 15 years dealing with care cases said that he saw a number of cases at the principal registry of the family division and at the high court in which local authorities paid insufficient attention to the needs of individual children whom they wished to get adopted. The local authorities were taking government policy seriously and are saying adoption was the only solution, which could not be right because it ignores the welfare of the individual children involved.
Children who continued to live in foster homes in a long term basis and in constant touch with members of their birth family were facing damaging prospects with such hurried adoptions.
Martha Cover, co-chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, said she was especially concerned about adoptions taking place at the expense of keeping siblings together.
David Jockelson, a member of the Law Society's children's panel, who gave evidence on behalf of care lawyers and child adoption lawyers at hearings of the Commons justice select committee's inquiry into legal aid reforms, also criticised the government. He criticised the strategy of government to hasten adoption of children which has unintended consequences of having adoptions at the price of separating sibling groups.
But Jeffrey Coleman, southern England director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, disagreed and said that children were being threatened with separation from their siblings because of a lack of adopters, local authorities he said were very skilled and considerate when trying finding the best solution for children.