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


Memorandum submitted by Manchester Adoption Society


  We welcome the emphasis on the child's welfare being paramount and that any delay in coming to decisions is likely to prejudice the child's welfare.


  What will happen to those children who are adopted before the Act comes into force, surely they should have a right to a service? To not do so will cause difficulties. In some families an older child would not be eligible whereas a later placed child might be. What happens where an assessment is undertaken but there is no agreement on the outcome or once having undertaken this the Council do not provide the services needed.

  This section seems to be mainly permissive and will therefore be subject to individual Local Authority interpretation and implementation.

  As this Bill also promotes inter agency working it will increase the already common practice of children who are the responsibility of one council being placed with prospective adopters who live in another. With the prospective adopters acquiring parental responsibility who will undertake the assessment, who will provide services (and more importantly pay for them) and will an assessment be binding on another council where the children live?


  This should specify that a local authority should consult with Voluntary Adoption Agencies operating in their area even if the VAA head office is situated in another area. For example we are based in Bury but recruit families who reside in 15 neighbouring local authorities.


  Although there is a regulatory impact assessment regarding this item it is incorrect in its assumptions regarding cost. We welcome the appeal procedure but it will cost our Society to implement. At present if an applicant is unhappy with their assessment we can ask one of our two panels to re-look at it. This does not incur additional cost as the panels meet regularly and we would arrange for there to be an agenda item. The cost of the panel meeting is negligible as nearly all of our members are voluntary. The panel is also held at the Society's offices so there are no travel costs for workers. The possible cost of an independent appeals panel would be significant if the Society was responsible for the fees charged by appeal panel members for their attendance plus the associated travel costs of Society staff attending the panel.


  In the past the Society has fully cooperated with the statistical returns made either to the Department of Health or through the Courts. The previous system did not work as many agencies, primarily local authorities, did not complete the necessary paperwork. It would be necessary to have some form of sanction for non-provision of statistical information under this section.


  There could be delay around getting Court time to hear submissions regarding leave to apply to revoke a placement order. As Court delays are one of the fundamental difficulties at present close attention should be given to the provision of extra Court space to accommodate extra Judges so that delay is minimised. Our experience of applications to discharge freeing orders in similar situations as described in Clause 20 is that this leads to a delay in placement as Local Authorities will not wish to pre-judge the Court and under 20, 4(b) they are certainly discouraged from doing so.


  The main difficulty here is who assists the parties in the changing situations that occur after an adoption order has been made. Our experience, having run a post adoption service for the past 26 years, is that mediation and re-negotiation takes place in virtually all of our cases. Who will pay for this service?

  There is a need for local authorities to continue to offer a post adoption themselves rather than contract out to other organisations. Relationships built up between worker and family or child can be very useful when later dealing with the often encountered problems of later adjustment. A culture of "an adoption does not work" or that adopters need to be "perfect" can arise as area workers only deal with those situations that have disrupted and the child returns to care. They do not see the vast majority of cases where the adoption continues and the problems encountered are successfully overcome. In considering adoption workers need to have a knowledge of the long term implications of adoption.

  In some situations it is beneficial to those affected by adoption to have an independent agency who can address their needs. The essential point is that these service users have a choice.


  It is time to consider approving couples who are in a stable relationship but not married as entitled to adopt jointly. We are excluding many potential families due to this discriminatory rule. Marriage does not confer the certainty that parents will stay together especially when one considers the divorce rate in the general population. At present only one partner can apply to adopt, the other has to be content with a lesser order; this does not help the child.

CLAUSE 44(b)

  The consent form needs rewording. At present some birth parents agree to an adoption order being made but will not sign a consent form as they feel that to do so will be interpreted by the child later as an absence of love. Many indicate that they will not oppose an order being made and they are content with the prospective adopters. To achieve an adoption order this is treated the same as if the adoption was contested so delaying the whole process and there has been an unnecessary "fight". This also leads to increased costs as solicitors are instructed in these situations.

  We welcome the possibility of direct placements happening, this Society used to undertake several of these a year, it minimised delay for all concerned and was often at the birth parents request as they wished for as "good a start" for their child as possible.


  Information should be given to prospective adopters before placements so that they undertake the care of the child knowing all the circumstances. There is a need for the child to receive information in a more sensitive way and later life letters written to the child as if they were an older teenager are very helpful. Many children have life story books to help them understand why they are being adopted but these are compiled for younger children and adolescent can be rather embarrassed to show them!

  It is our experience that we have to work extremely hard to obtain later letters even to the point of threatening to go through the complaints procedures!


  Does this section mean that we cannot give information unless a person has specifically indicated that we can do so. This would severely restrict the information we need to give adopted people where their adoption was several years ago.


  This is discriminatory and causes adopted people to be second class citizens.


  This Society would not wish to undertake counselling for all adopted people as our scarce resources are committed to offering the service to those adopted through our agency.

CLAUSE 76(c)

  This will need definition in terms of who is defined as family.


  This Clause is to be welcomed as it includes birth fathers in the process they are often (wrongly) excluded from.


  The Register seems a simple idea to a complex problem. There is always a mis-match between the number of adopters who would like small children and the fewer little children needing parents. At the other end of the spectrum there are very few families for more older children. There is a need for local authorities that are traditionally "family recruiting" agencies to invest in finding more families so that the mainly "child producing" agencies have ready access to choices for the children. How is this to work? What incentives will there be for local authorities with few children to place spending resources on recruitment? These local authorities will also inherit the costly post adoption needs of these children. In our own area one authority reallocated resources away from recruitment for this self same reason.

  The Register does not allow for inertia on the part of workers seeking to conserve families for children that might need them "in the future". There is not the disciplined approach as in the voluntary sector where families that are recruited are needed and so more likely to match the needs of the current child care population. To survive Voluntary Adoption Agencies have become adept at analysing the changing structure of the child care population and so adjust their recruitment accordingly.


  If a fee is charged this will deter Local Authorities as there will be a return to the days of looking in one's own resources first, then possibly advertising them as a last resort referring to BAAF Link or Adoption UK. When budgets are tight even small amounts of money appear to be haggled over.


  There is a major problem of resources for the implementation of the Act. No resources are directed to the Voluntary Adoption Agencies apart from the section 64 grants.

  There was a previous proposal that Voluntary Adoption Agencies should be inspected every four years. Could this be considered favourably again? Could inspection and the possibility of de-registration also be extended to local authorities? Similarly the present regulations only encourage joint panels between local authorities so excluding the voluntary agencies, could this be amended to allow all adoption agencies (local authority and voluntary) to form joint panels?

  To avoid delay there needs to be adequate staffing in local authorities to recruit, prepare, and support carers. There also needs to be adequate staff numbers to work constructively with birth parents and children. To avoid delay in the Court process there is a need for more Court space as well as more Judges.

  There is at present much interest on planning for children and there are various terms used to describe the process. As part of this submission we are including a set of definitions drawn up by the Goodman Team which is a part of this Society. An article detailing their work in Concurrent Planning is also enclosed.

April 2001

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