Memorandum submitted by NSPCC
The Adoption and Children Bill aims to improve
adoption services, put children's needs at the centre of the adoption
process and promote greater use of adoption.
NSPCC welcomes the Bill, and the opportunity
to submit evidence to the Select Committee on its provisions.
Our submission should be read in conjunction with our response
to the Prime Minister's Review of Adoption (October 2000).
NSPCC believes that there must be adequate funding
to enable local authorities to fulfil the requirements of the
Services for birth parents including young birth
mothers in Local Authority care
NSPCC is concerned that the Bill largely ignores
the needs of birth families. NSPCC believes that birth parents
should be accorded the right to therapeutic and support services
to help them cope with the experience of losing their child. They
can suffer great emotional distress as a result of their loss,
and this need should be recognised and addressed. In addition
to this, their mental health needs to be at its optimum to enable
them to meet the needs of siblings or other children they may
have in the future. This could also reduce the familiar risk of
subsequent children in the family being placed for adoption.
Engaging in such therapeutic work with birth
parents is in the long-term interests of the children who have
been adopted, as it can help to facilitate an easier relationship
with their birth parents at a later stage in their lives.
There is also a need to address the needs of
a very specific, but often neglected, group of young birth mothersthose
who are still in Local Authority care when they have their child,
and decide to place them for adoption rather than raising them
themselves. It appears that their particular needs may not adequately
be met by the adoption service, and may be disregarded because
of their own vulnerable position. It is important to ensure that
adoption practice links to, and is consistent with, government
policy on teenage pregnancy.
Clause 1 subsection (5)
NSPCC believes that consideration of the child's
religious, cultural and linguistic background must take account
of needs that may arise a child's physical, learning or sensory
impairment. Every attempt should be made to find adoptive parents
for disabled children who understand their needs and are able
to care for them. In addition to being carers for any child, disabled
people will be well placed to understand experiences disabled
children and young people face in their everyday lives and may
be more able to communicate with them, for example by using British
Sign Language (BSL). They could also provide a positive role model.
Due consideration must also be given to the
impact on children of moving to live in a different area, for
example from northern to southern England, from an urban to a
rural environment, and from Wales into England (or vice versa).
This can be a very disorientating experience, and is likely to
become more common once the National Adoption Register comes into
Clause 3 subsection (8)
NSPCC welcomes recognition that adoption support
services are vital for families. The Government's commitment to
post adoption support should also increase the numbers of families
who are able to care for disabled children. Therapeutic support
should be available for disabled children if required and families
should be able to access specialist advice and guidance around
managing challenging behaviour. We have a number of concerns about
the current provisions of the Bill in this respect, namely that:
1. The detail of such services are being
left to regulations, and there is currently no duty placed on
any authority to fund them, nor is there a duty for Local Authorities
to liaise with education and health authorities to provide such
2. There is no specific mention of providing
specialist therapeutic services for children. A significant number
of children placed for adoption have experienced maltreatment
and trauma and require skilled treatment before they can be expected
to move forward into life with a new family. NSPCC believes that
access to therapeutic services is crucial when children are first
placed for adoption. Often, therapy is delayed until a child is
placed in a secure situation with adopters. However, this can
make things more difficult for the new family, as they have to
cope with both the transition for them of becoming a family, and
with the child's need to cope with their history and resettlement
It was a specific recommendation of the National
Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse that
"each area child protection committee should review the extent
to which the demand is locally met for support and treatment services
for abuse victims and their families". It further recommended
that a multi-disciplinary plan should be developed for reducing
any shortfall, and that treatment services should be integrated
with the wider children's services plan. This should be further
supported by government departments assisting local services by
developing guidance on what professional services should be provided
and on what scale.
3. Adopted children's needs for support services
can be very long-term, certainly well into adulthood, and may
last a lifetime. The need will become more intermittent, but is
likely to be triggered by major life events, such as a birth parent
tracing the child, or the child's marriage. We would like this
to be recognised in support provision.
NSPCC strongly believes that children placed
for adoption should have a right to be assessed for adoption support
services, for the reasons outlined above.
With the announcement of a General Election
imminent, we suspect that the Adoption and Children Bill will
not be passed during this session of Parliament. NSPCC believes
that adoption should remain a priority for the next Government.
We believe that a Bill that has been significantly strengthened
by this period of consultation should be reintroduced to Parliament
in the first Queen's Speech, and that it should be given adequate
consideration in Parliament.
1. Childhood Matters. Report of the National
Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse. Volume
1. The Stationery Office. 1996
Note: NSPCC is not an adoption agency. However,
we have expertise in relation to adoption through our work in
helping looked after children to cope with disruption, such as
coming into care, and preparing them for adoption and the loss
of their birth families. Many of our projects are involved in
treatment work to help children deal with abuse and prepare for
We are therefore submitting comments only on
areas of the Adoption and Children Bill in which we have expertise.
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