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A birthday bonus for National Adoption Week

We celebrated Luca’s first birthday this weekend – and I felt like it had been my birthday too.

I feel great because of the recent national media interest in my adoption campaign as the momentum builds up for National Adoption Week which starts tomorrow when I will be delivering our Adoption with Humanity petition to 10 Downing Street with my daughter Gaia, fellow founders Alex Bemrose and Stevan Whitehead, and Alex’s young son Jose. I hope this petition helps to make a difference and provide love and security for children who have been left to languish in care. Do look out for us this week on Sky News, ITV and Channel 4, as well as in the press.

This article appeared in today’s Sunday Times and also included the story of how Rick and I adopted two babies from Mexico, as well as a picture of us spanning six columns at the top of the page. It’s case studies like this which reinforces to the public and politicians the need for change, and we believe that setting up a National Adoption Authority would be the best solution.

Here is the Sunday Times article, with Gaia looking cute in her Halloween dress!

David Cameron’s adviser on adoption is to crack down on councils that ban white people from giving homes to black children, or bar smokers and the obese from adopting

Martin Narey, former chief executive of Barnardo’s, the children’s charity, warned that local authorities could face a legal ban on preventing couples from adopting children of another race if they do not voluntarily change their practice.
He blames the barriers put up by many councils for the sharp fall in adoptions and the delays of more than three years endured by large numbers of children before they are given a stable home. The insistence by many social workers that black children should only be adopted by black parents is, said Narey, “preposterous”.
Narey, appointed adoption tsar by the prime minister earlier this year, said in an interview with The Sunday Times he was “appalled” by councils that refused to consider smokers as adoptive parents.
He said removing unnecessary barriers could cut the amount of time it takes to assess people for suitability as adopters from more than a year to four months, as already happens in some areas such as Harrow, northwest London.
He said enough suitable couples initially came forward to adopt, but there was a shortage because so many were put off after being “ground down” by a process that can involve a dozen visits from social workers and filling in health and safety forms that went into “ludicrous” detail.
Recent figures showed the number of adoptions had fallen 8% since 2007 and that just 60 babies a year were being placed permanently with families, compared with 4,000 in 1974.
Narey, speaking ahead of announcements by Cameron on adoption this week, warned that black children were three times less likely than white ones to be adopted from care homes, partly because of a shortage of black couples willing to adopt and because so many white ones were being turned down.
He said guidance from the Labour government in 2000 had not been followed, adding: “Michael Gove [the education secretary] has issued fresh guidance to say that seeking an ethnic match should not delay adoption.
“We need to see whether that guidance is listened to … By the end of the year, I think I will have a pretty good picture. If it hasn’t, then my advice to ministers … will be that they will have to go beyond guidance … possibly to legislation.”
He added: “In some US states it is illegal to take account of ethnicity in adoption. It can’t even be mentioned and trans-racial adoptions are hugely successful there.
“Race does matter, but there aren’t enough black adopters. I believe that to suggest a white couple can’t raise a black child and be supported to help with the racism that child might encounter is just preposterous.”
He said he had been “told by the British Association of Social Workers that the reason they don’t support trans-racial adoptions is that they break down in large numbers. It is simply untrue, there is no evidence”.
Martin Narey wants councils to take quicker action on children living in squalor (Matt Lloyd) Narey, who is also a former chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, was brought up in Middlesbrough as the eighth of nine children with “25 or 26” nephews and nieces, including five who had been adopted.
“It was irrelevant that they were adopted,” said Narey, who recently wrote a report on the adoption system as part of a campaign by The Times. “They were just my nephews and nieces.”
He said he believed it was vital to expand adoption, and for councils to become more willing to remove children from neglectful parents and put them in care homes before adoption.
“I am talking about children living in squalor, not being fed properly, not being loved, not being nurtured, being brought up without any aspirations, seeing violence, being the subject of violence,” said Narey.
Ministers taking a strong interest in adoption include Gove who was adopted as a baby after just four months in care.
Narey also backed a call by Tim Loughton, the children’s minister, who while speaking about adoption earlier this month at the Tory conference in Manchester said: “If you smoke, come forward.”
Some councils bar or heavily restrict smokers from adopting and fostering, even if they are otherwise well qualified.
Wiltshire council, for example, will not allow smokers to be given children under the age of five, or older boys and girls with respiratory problems.
Last month it emerged that Clare and Paul Baker had been told by Essex council that they were not fit to be foster parents after Paul admitted to smoking two cigars in 18 months.
Narey added: “That is not to say you shouldn’t be saying to a parent, ‘Look, you should be thinking about your smoking’ … but it is like saying we are not going to allow parents to conceive if they are smoking. It is a nonsense.”
He also said obesity should not be a bar to becoming adoptive parents. Two years ago a couple from Leeds were turned down for adoption because the husband, Damien Hall, was classified as morbidly obese.
Narey said it was “entirely typical” for some councils to take a year or more to approve carers. He singled out safety forms drawn up by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering and used by most local authorities.
“I want a rigorous system, I don’t want an adoptive child to go to carers who haven’t been properly vetted,” said Narey. “But we can do it much more quickly and we have to accept we can’t head off every possibility. Checking there are locks on the cutlery drawer is not a very valid part of a family’s ability to adopt children.
“The social worker has to complete a health and safety check that runs to five or six pages, checking such banalities as, for example, if there is a trampoline in the garden, does it have a safety net?”

Picture courtesy of Paul Vicente, Sunday Times

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