Adoption drive could 'distract' from helping needy children, care inquiry finds

MICHAEL GOVE’s drive to increase adoption levels risks becoming a “distraction” from efforts to help the majority of children needing homes, an eight-month inquiry into the care system has concluded.

By John Bingham

May 1, 2013 / The Telegraph

The inquiry by eight charities concluded that the current system is failing thousands of children, shifting them from placement to placement, severing family ties and friendships rather than encouraging stable relationships.

It questioned whether the care system could even be called a “system” because of its fragmented nature and “stark” variations between different areas.

The inquiry called for alternatives to adoption, such as long term fostering placements or so-called kinship care – where parental responsibilities are taken on by relatives to maintain family ties – to be given greater recognition.

And it recommended retaining rules requiring social workers to have to give “proper attention” to children’s racial backgrounds when making care arrangements.

The Government is in the process of changing the law to prevent race being a barrier to speedy adoption.

The charities, including the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), Family Rights Group and the Fostering Network, said there was an “increasingly urgent” need for a different approach in the way children are treated.

“Why do we persist in breaking children’s old relationships when we introduce them to future carers, despite knowing that so many children who do not happen to be in care manage to negotiate complex family relationships as they grow up?” they conclude.

They go on: “Our main conclusion … is that ‘permanence’ for children means ‘security, stability, love and a strong sense of identity and belonging’.

“This is not connected to legal status, and one route to permanence is not necessarily better than any other: each option is the right one for some children and young people.

“Adoption, although right for some children, will only ever provide permanence for a small number of children in care.”

They add: “The Care Inquiry was set up in the summer of 2012 because of our shared concern that the government-led focus on increasing the numbers of children adopted from care runs the risk of distracting attention from the other options for permanence that are important for the majority of children in care or on the edge of care.

“We are supportive of the Government’s intention to speed up decision making, to ensure that children can move to live with permanent carers as quickly as possible, and to strengthen support after adoption.

“We want to see a similar commitment to improving the life chances of all vulnerable children.”

A Department for Education Spokesperson said: "Every child deserves a safe, stable and loving home.

"We know adoption is not right for every child, which is why we are reforming the system so it is better focused on what each child needs to thrive.

"We are improving the skills of social workers so they are able to judge what is best for each child.

"We are transforming fostering services to allow foster carers to get on with the job of looking after children in their care.

"We are reforming residential care to make sure that all homes are safe and secure places, and we are making local authorities take responsibility for providing their kinship carers with the help and assistance they deserve.”


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