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Is the adoption system affected by recent court cases?

36 replies

greengoose · 04/11/2014 17:02

Hi, I've been on MN for years, but don't post often anymore... I was hoping some of the experts from this thread might be able to help me?
We are at the very early stages of gearing up to apply to adopt when my youngest BC is a year (or two) older. Both myself and my partner have a fair bit of experience, having worked therapeutically with kids of different ages, and worked in the public and private LAC systems in various ways. We have three BC, our oldest having mild Aspergers. We have also gone through loosing our daughter two years ago. We always planned to adopt or foster eventually, and nothing has changed this through the years.
I am getting to the point and my question, honestly....
Recently we were in a situation where we learned a lot more about babies going through drug withdrawal, and how hard they can be to place, due to uncertainty about their future. We feel we might be able to consider this sort of little one. We know people professionally who work for LAs and private adoption agencies, and we are probably able to be considered for this in a year or so.
My question is this: word seems to be coming from SS that babies are going to be an av. of three by the time they are placed from now on due to two court cases that have recently informed the way courts view adoption orders for young babies, and how long it takes to decide to 'give up' on the chance they can return to birth family. The manager I spoke to today said that this will knock concurrent planning on the head too, as no adoptive parent would wait that long. She admitted this directly contradicts the government targets, and hoped there would be some clarity within the year, but said for now everything is completely up in the air, with courts taking their own view. The result is babies will wait far longer to be adopted.
Has anyone heard about this? I am angry on behalf of these little ones, and don't really know what to believe, but we have heard the same from LAs and agencies, so there must be something in it?

OP posts:
greengoose · 11/11/2014 15:04

I've read all the links with interest, and a little bit of alarm. Is it possible that what emerges could be better practice, or are we going to be in a continuing situation where SWs are fearful of applying for adoption orders? Where will the seesaw come to rest?
As potential adopters we have been given friendly advice by people who work either for LAs or agencies that this coming year will see far less babies up for adoption due to this which must, while perhaps being a much needed pause and rethink for some care proceedings, also be disastrous for some in terms of delay in permanence.
I will keep watching and trying to learn about the legal side of things, which I fear I may never understand!
Thank you for sharing so much knowledge, experience and opinion!

OP posts:
Jameme · 11/11/2014 16:26

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spero · 11/11/2014 18:44

Sadly, I think what is going on is the Gov want to push adoption as its cheaper and it means the adoptive family fights for their child, its not the responsibility of the state any more.

I do think its usually better for a child to be adopted than in long term foster care but its not the right solution for every child.

auntybookworm · 11/11/2014 19:38

Thank you for all of this information

Lilka · 11/11/2014 21:20

Spero, I just read a (quite short) court judgement made public in the last week, which is basically entirely about what 'nothing else will do' means. I'm finding it interesting. As you have said before/posted a link about, the whole sentence 'nothing else will do' is simplistic so it was inevitable that there would be more cases needed to determine exactly what it means in practice. Wondered if you've read it too and what you think of it? This one

Spero · 11/11/2014 21:35

Its interesting to speculate whether or not the judges have been subject to any direct pressure. The 'rowing back' from Re B and Re B-S is quite apparent.

I shake my head in sadness at the summary of the judge's findings:

The test of 'nothing else will do' must be read with the proviso that placement orders are to be made "only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by the overriding requirements of the child's best interests".

2) The existence of another credible option does not mean that 'nothing else will do' bites. A contingency plans, or 'something else would do' does not mean that a plan for a placement order should automatically fail.

(3) The fact that there are advantages to other options again does not mean that an application for a placement order will fail.

(4) The judge must assess the whole picture in light of the child's needs and the harm that child has suffered.

the more they continually set out tests and try and find some 'perfect principle' that can fit every case and always bring the right outcome, the more they give work to the lawyers. Because what else I am supposed to do? If I am fighting a case for a parent, I will have to go to each of these authorities and unpick each 'principle' and argue that the judge didn't apply it correctly, or misinterpreted it or misunderstood it.

I asked a pretty senior social worker in cross examination why her statement wasn't 'Re B-S compliant'. She just looked at me wearily and said she hadn't read it, just a summary of it.

Its all just bollocks, if I may slip into technical jargon for a moment.

I think the fundamental principles are very easy. You don't split families up unless you have to. Its when you apply this simple principle to the real world that it gets messy. Is it 'necessary' to separate a family because the mother needs therapy for her personality disorder/depression/substance abuse but the NHS waiting list is six months and the children can't wait that long?

that's why these cases are so difficult. Because we all fundamentally know they aren't 'fair'.

I think we urgently need to 'triage' care cases. Cases of suspected non accidental injury in households with no other concerns need a very different approach from cases of chronic neglect going on for years and years.

But no one has time to stop and think any more. SW are more and more just fighting fires and reacting to emergency situations. The more 'guidance' the politicians and courts give the more there is to argue about.

We need to be much, much clearer as a society what kind of help and support we are willing/able to give parents who do an awful job. If we are not willing/able to give that support we need to stop messing about and dressing up the inevitable in grand sounding principles for the lawyers to pick at.

Lilka · 11/11/2014 22:03

Thanks Spero
Can I vote for you to replace whoever in government in responsible for policy decisions on the care system? Smile Won't help the court side, but it would be a good start

fasparent · 11/11/2014 22:58

Can not play politics with children's future's , trying too rush things through in 26 weeks are often good reasons why this is impossible,
System was not broken so why try too fix it, and change a perfect tried and tested legal system, whose only problem was allowing time for all alternatives and assessment's , too reunite children with parents and relatives where possible.

Spero · 12/11/2014 08:47

I don't agree that the previous system didn't need fixing - before 2013 my care cases generally drifted on for a year or two which is in nobody's interests.

I don't actually object to a 26 week timetable for the majority of cases. I think it focuses everyone's mind and makes us think harder about a sensible timetable.

What I do object to however is the dishonesty of the debate from senior politicians. Adoption is NOT a panacea, it is NOT right for every child and pushing adoption does nothing to engage with the central problem that we have a lot of damaged and vulnerable people out there who are having children and get little or no support to help them with their mental health/substance abuse/learning difficulties.

So instead of trying to pretend this isn't happening I think we need to engage with it. Because at the moment we have quasi rubbing stamping/administrative removal but with a whole load of very expensive proceedings tacked on to try and make it look like we are doing the right thing.

auntybookworm · 12/11/2014 21:02
Spero · 13/11/2014 10:11

I don't wish to depress anyone any further, but this is quite an astonishing case in that I have not heard a judge express so clearly before his anger and frustration with the impact limited resources are having on care cases.

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