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


Memorandum submitted by Beverley Prevatt Goldstein, Black Ethnic Minority Community Organisations Network (BECON)

  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to the Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill 2001.

  I applaud this Bill and consider it makes significant strides in unifying, clarifying and in making innovations that are to the benefit of children in need of adoption.

  I particularly welcome Clause 1 providing that the paramount consideration of a court or adoption agency in making a decision relating to the adoption of a child must be the child's welfare throughout his life. The matters which need to be considered have been well thought out and are critical to the well-being of the child. I particularly commend the inclusion of the need to consider the effect of removal from existing family and of "the need for adoption agencies and courts to have regard to the child's religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background".

  However, I am concerned that the ability to dispense with parental consent may be too wide. This may particularly affect those sections of the community already experiencing disadvantage and discrimination, for example, disabled parents, care leavers, black minority ethnic parents. While clearly the child's welfare must remain paramount, I would wish to see a form of words for dispensing with consent, similar to that proposed by the Report to Ministers in 1993—"that the advantages to the child of having a new family and having a new status are so significantly greater than the advantages of any alternative option as to justify overriding the wishes of the parents".

  I also welcome the clarification that the duties of the local authority extend to the provision of a service for "natural parents" and "former guardians" of children who have been adopted and to adopted persons. The inclusion of siblings and other members of the extended family as potential recipients of adoption support services and in the Adoption Contact Register reflects the lessons learnt from research and the diversity of family life in multi-ethnic Britain. The amendments to the Children Act, Clauses 91-94, also reflect the research evidence that children benefit form a range of permanent family arrangements, of which adoption is one important option. The Special Guardianship Orders are likely to be particularly significant in enabling children from black minority ethnic groups and refugee groups to secure permanent families that do not disrupt kinship lines and I would welcome further development of these orders. The National Adoption Register, like the clauses on reducing delay, is likely to benefit all children who experience delays in being adopted but must be complemented by increased and targeted recruitment activity, as recommended in Adoption Changes, SSI 2000, so that they may achieve appropriate as well as speedy placements.

  My concern is less with what the Bill includes than with what the Bill omits. I would strongly recommend that the following are considered:

    —  an improved system of adoption allowances and of allowances for Residence Orders and Special Guardianship Orders;

    —  a more robust commitment to providing post-adoption support, rather than merely assessing the need for post adoption support and clarity as to the authority which provides this support and the financing of this support; and

    —  a duty on complementary services to comply with the request for services, provided this is consistent with their functions.

  The importance of finance in enabling a diversity of families to provide a permanent home for children and of post adoption support has been endorsed by every inspection and research report and is critical to reducing the damaging rate of delay, change and disruption children currently experience.

  This Bill has much to recommend it but would benefit from inclusion of the above, further detailed consideration of the complex Placement orders and the adoption of some safeguard to dispensing with parental consent as proposed in Paragraph 1.

  Thank you again for providing me with this opportunity and I wish you every success in this endeavour. Please do not hesitate to contact me at the BECON address if I can be of any further assistance.

May 2001

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