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Councils rushing adoptions, say judges

High court judges have criticised local authorities for attempting to push through adoptions prematurely, according to the a report in The Guardian.

The paper claims to have been evidence of judges expressing concern about the rushed adoption of children ‘flourishing’ in long term foster care who wished to remain with their foster families. In some cases, the proposed adoptions are against the advice of social workers, guardians and family court advisers.

It cites an unreported case in which a judge ‘condemned’ an authority for trying to rush through three adoptions so quickly that neither the children nor the adoptive parents would have had the time to properly prepare.  The judge asked to remain anonymous in order to protect the identities of the children involved. A second judge, who also asked to remain anonymous, told the paper that such cases were not uncommon and said hasty adoptions were at risk of failure.

According to the report, local authorities have come under increasing pressure to push for adoptions since the government announced plans to encourage the adoption of more children from the care system.

Deputy High Court Judge David Pearl, a former president of the care standards tribunal, told the paper:

“What I think has happened is that local authorities have taken government policy as saying adoption is the only solution. That can’t be right because it ignores the welfare of the individual children involved. There are some cases where [adoption] is not in the best interests of the children: where it would be far better for the children to remain in long-term fostering care, with continuing contact with members of their birth family.

He added:

“One of the concerns is that the local authorities are anxious to move towards adoption because it is the cheapest option.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has called for more children to be taken into care more quickly.

At a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research, Mr Gove said the removal of children from neglectful and abusive parents would save them from “a life of soiled nappies and scummy baths, chaos and hunger, hopelessness and despair”.

Mr Gove, who was himself adopted at the age of four months, added:

“I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly and that too many children are allowed to stay too long with parents whose behaviour is unacceptable. I want social workers to be more assertive with dysfunctional parents, courts to be less indulgent of poor parents, and the care system to expand to deal with the consequences.”

However the British Association of Social Workers gave the speech a cautious welcome but stressed that troubled families were not “lost causes”. Acting Chief Executive Bridget Robb explained:

“Social work professionals will…concur with Mr Gove in recognising that the voice of children should be heard first and foremost, and ahead of any professional or other interest. What his analysis overlooks, however, is that protecting children also involves learning from evidence from around the world telling us that simply cutting them off from their birth families is not always in their best interests.”

Greater investment in care services is needed, she added.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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