Children don’t need talk. They need loving families. And they needed Tim Loughton.Posted by Francesca on Oct 2, 2012 in Blog | 1 comment
Since 2010 we’ve campaigned for changes to the adoption system. This is a long game – and a slow one – but we’re very proud that our work has meant adoption is at the top of the government’s agenda, where it should. Our media exposure and sustained pressure on the government meant there was a six percent rise in the number of adoptions last year. From our small beginnings, we’ve made serious inroads into the corridors of power.
- The government appointed an adoption adviser – former Barnados CEO Martin Narey.
- The government has published league tables of the number of children adopted in each council area and the time each adoption too.
- There have also been interventions to the guidelines surrounding the adoption of black/mixed race children by white parents. In principle at least the government feels there should be no barriers to cross-ethnic adoption.
- There are further measures in the pipeline including a leaner, less bureaucratic process to vet prospective parents. There is talk of the walls between fostering and adoption being broken down.
- Adoption was in the last Queen’s speech and is firmly on the agenda.
The problem is that these are really just gestures in a situation that requires dramatic action. The government has shied away from putting in place measures to reveal the real truth. This is why we want to see a government-led, enforcement authority to oversee the behaviours of Local Councils and make things more transparent. We know anecdotally that parents who’ve been approved to adopt a child currently in care cannot do so as their council does not have the resources to finalise the paperwork. Desperate parents are just as confused when their adoption case worker says that the new guidelines do not apply to their council. There are endless examples and while we’re not saying they could all be solved by a central authority, we know that such a body would make councils up their game. We do however feel that the government is still fudging the issue of hard figures: there is no way of quantifying how many people have been denied the chance to adopt at all stages of the process. We don’t know the reasons for applications being refused. We note that despite announcements proclaiming change, the government has not yet even added a question in the Home Study asking if the prospective parents wish to adopt a child from a different race. This information is essential to understanding where the process is going wrong. The government’s way out is to name and shame councils and cut their budgets. Frankly it’s gutless and pathetic. It should be noted that before the rise in adoption rates, adoption was at its lowest level in ten years. As we say, it’s a long, long game. It’s an even longer one for the children who are waiting. Think about it:
- Most of the children awaiting adoption will never be placed into a family.
- From the age of eight onwards, 99% of children up for adoption will not be placed.
Let’s examine what the government has done: it has introduced ‘Special Guardianship’, giving parental responsibility to a guardian, who tends to be a family member or friend. This is supposed to allow certain steps such as the costly Home Study approval, to be skipped, immediately after the links from the birth parents have ceased to exist legally. It’s a good concept, however in practice it means that while the number of children in foster care has decreased that the number of adoptions has not correspondingly risen. Furthermore,
- Special Guardianship breakdowns are not recorded.
- Successful voluntary adoption agencies have been asked to take on some of the work of poorly performing councils temporarily, thus massaging the figures.
The number of babies available for adoption appears to have decreased. The government will say this is because less of them enter the system; however the fact that should not be overlooked is that the time to adopt has not decreased so any babies entering the care system are likely to be toddlers before they are adopted. If they are adopted. Finally we have the ‘defenestration’ of Tim Loughton, who had acted as Children Minister for two years and Shadow Children Minister for seven. Tim and I have had our arguments about how far he could go in the review of the system, however he’s shown more commitment than anyone in what is a very tough position. He championed social work and initiatied controversial reforms to speed up adoptions. And he genuinely tried to do so by involving all stakeholders from campaigning groups- like ours- to the children themselves to adoptive parents, prospective parents and social services. Why not let him carry on his work and build on his knowledge and passion? He was making some small, but very significant breakthroughs.
Now Edward Timpson will have to pick up and run with it. I hope he does try and run but I am fearful of the energy being lost, the time lost, and the young lives that are caught in between. Farewell Tim and thank you for caring. The issue is just as urgent, poignant and tragic. We need to run faster.