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


Memorandum submitted by The Children's Society

  The Children's Society broadly welcomes the contents of the Adoption and Children Bill. We are concerned that it is not rushed through and in doing so fail to address the complexities of adoption for children and young people in the 21st century. We have chosen to make a number of key points on those Clauses of the Bill where we have cause for concern.

  Our contribution is bases upon over 60 years of practice as an Adoption Agency.


  Provides more background of The Children's Society's involvement in the field of adoption.


  Is a summary of recent research published by The Children's Society "Adoption, Search and Reunion: The Long Term Experience of Adopted Adults" [Howe D & Feast J, 2000]. This research provides the evidence for our contributions particularly in respect of clauses 47-49 and 65-67.

Part 1, Chapter 1, Clause 1 [4] [a]

  We wholeheartedly welcome this Clause which seeks the wishes and feelings of the child or young person to the proposed adoption. This reflects the right of children and young people to be involved and it will promote better preparation of children for this life-changing event. The Children's Society would support the place of the young person to be strengthened by giving them party status in their own adoption proceedings and by seeking their consent to the proposal as was set down in the draft of the Adoption Bill 1996.

Part 1, Chapter 11, Clauses 3 and 4

  We are of the view that an assessment of the need for post adoption support must be followed by a duty to provide the support services as assessed. A duty must also be placed on Health Authorities/Primary Care Trusts and the local education authority to provide the support services as assessed and which fall within their respective functions. Our experience across a range of health and education authorities is that this is often not he case and young people are disadvantaged by lack of necessary provision.

  The system for providing adoption allowances must be standardised across all authorities. Currently we are unable to advise prospective adopters what level of financial support they might receive because of the variation between local authorities. This uncertainty deters some adopters and limits the chances of young people to be adopted.

  As a voluntary adoption agency The Children's Society is involved in interagency placements and we believe such placements will increase when the Adoption Register is fully operational. It is vital therefore to establish which local authority has professional and financial responsibility for a young person placed for adoption; the placing authority or the one in which the young person moves to live. This applies both before and after the making of the order. It is our experience that young adopted people have been disadvantaged by not receiving services whilst two local authorities have argued over who has responsibility to provide services to them.

Part 1, Chapter 111, Clauses 42 and 43

  We are saddened that the Government has not recognised the decline of marriage and that an increasing percentage of children are being brought up by two parents in stable partnerships, some of which are registered. For the child adopted into such a partnership there is an inequality of relationship for the child with his/her two parents. With the adopting parent they have a lifelong relationship, with the other parent they have a legal relationship up to the age of 18 (at most) via a Residence Order. This is an injustice to the child and in the majority of such partnerships the adopting parent is the mother, so once again fathers are marginalised in the lives of children. We believe this inequality should be addressed in the Bill.

Part 1, Chapter 111, Clause 47(2)

  It is to be made mandatory that information about the child is to be given to adopters after the Adoption Order is made. This is too late. In order to care properly for a child adopters must have all the necessary information given to them at the outset of the placement. A finding of many disruption meetings is that a contributory factor to the breakdown of a placement is the lack of information given to adopters at an early stage. Anything that can be done to prevent the damaging effects of disruption on young people must be pursued.

Part 1, Chapter 111, Clauses 47, 48 and 49

  Clauses 47-49 appear to be a backward step in terms of giving adopted people the opportunity to access information about their birth family. It would appear from this clause that unless the court or the adoption agency took active steps to locate the family members concerned and seek their consent to share archived information, adopted people would not be able to be given the information that many agencies currently provide from their files. If these clauses are implemented then it will not only disadvantage adopted people, but also be an extremely costly and time-consuming exercise for the agency concerned. If the proposed Clause is implemented, then thought needs to be given to how agencies are expected to fund such searches. It is also essential that there is clarification by what is meant by third party. Third party information taken literally, is anything about another person that would deny the adopted person of having information about their birth parents' details, such as physical descriptions, interests etc. It may be that good practice guidance of most agencies (as recognised in inspections) should be formalised and written up as guidance, available for the agencies who undertake counselling and access to information. To limit the information which is currently given would compromise the adopted person's opportunity to build a full sense of identity and make informed decisions about their life.

Part 1, Chapter V, Clauses 65, 66 and 67

  The modified provision of the Adoption Contact Register does not effectively address how the Adoption Contact Register should be improved. We know from research that the majority of non-searching, adopted adults had not heard of it (76 per cent). There are also no systems currently in place to confirm that adopted people or the birth relative have received notification of an enquiry, or no counselling facilities. The management of the Adoption Contact Register needs to be given more attention in subsequent regulation.

Intermediary services for Birth Relatives

  There needs to be a clause so that there is a legislative framework to provide intermediary services for birth relatives. In August 2000 the Department of Health issued practice guidance to help local authorities and adoption agencies provide such a service.

  We know from the research study, "Adoption, Search & Reunion" (2000), that 90 per cent of non-searching, adopted people took up the opportunity to respond to their birth relative's request for contact.

  The Bill must take a life long perspective and therefore ensure that intermediary services for both birth relatives and adopted people are available within a legislative framework.

April 2001

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