Charity the Family Rights Group has criticised government plans to introduce a ‘fostering for adoption’ scheme.
In a recently published consultation entitled Adoption: Getting It Right, Making It Work, the Department for Education outlined regulations and guidance designed to accelerate the adoptions process. These include ‘fostering for adoption’. The now closed consultation stated:
“…new Regulations require local authorities, when they are considering adoption, to consider placing the child with foster carers who are also approved prospective adopters and who could go on to adopt the child if adoption becomes the plan and the court makes a placement order or where there is consent.”
The document continued:
“The new Regulations and guidance make clear that the local authority must have considered and given preference to suitable family/friend carers before they consider adoption; and when it would be appropriate (and not appropriate) to consider this provision for children who are voluntarily accommodated.”
The consultation asked reviewers:
“Does the…statutory guidance set out clearly the need to consider and give priority to family and friend carers?”
In its response to the question, the Family Rights Group claimed:
“We support the Government’s intention to reduce delay, to minimise disruption for children, especially babies, who are unable to be raised by their parents, and to help them form secure attachments to their long term carers as early as possible.
However, despite S.22C (9A) [of the] Children Act (CA) 1989 requiring the local authority to consider family and friends placements before considering a foster for adoption placement for a looked after child, we are concerned that the Regulations and associated guidance in this consultation do not provide adequate safeguards to ensure that their chances of being raised by suitable family members are maximised and that the child and their family’s rights to family life are respected.”
Potential carers among the child’s extended family or friends are often late in coming forward during care proceedings because they do not wish to undermine the parents or are unaware of the involvement of social services altogether, the Family Rights Group explained.
“Yet, if an otherwise suitable relative only comes forward to offer to take on the care of the child once the child has been placed in a foster for adoption placement, it is very likely to be too late for them to successfully argue for the child to be moved in order to be placed with them. Given the positive outcomes identified for children in family and friends care as compared with unrelated care and that suitable relatives can offer exactly the same continuity of care in the short and long term as foster for adoption carers, this may well be contrary to children’s welfare. It is therefore essential that there are more robust procedural safeguards than are currently proposed to ensure that all suitable family and friends carers are sought out and assessed before a foster for adoption placement is made.”
In addition, the charity claimed that:
“Although we entirely agree that each child’s welfare needs should be considered when deciding the most appropriate placement for them, this must include their existing relationships and their identity. We are concerned that there is an unsubstantiated, underlying presumption in the guidance against siblings being placed together unless it is proven this is the right option.”
The Family Rights Group “advises families whose children are involved with or need children’s services because of welfare needs or concerns.”
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