Matters relating to adoption and fostering are at present under review by the Departmental Committee on the Adoption of Children, which was asked particularly to consider the position of long-term foster parents. I understand that the committee hopes to report this summer, and the Government will study its recommendations with great care before considering whether any changes in existing legislation may be needed.
But the hon. Gentleman must be aware that there has recently been widespread newspaper coverage about cases of foster-parenting and adoption. Would not he agree that when considering this issue our first concern should be for the child? Would he care to comment on the cases which have received wide newspaper coverage?
I have read the newspaper comments. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that when considering the report it is the child that must have first preference. I could not comment on individual cases because they are outwith my jurisdiction. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has appreciated that last autumn the committee published a working paper which has been most carefully studied by many interested organisations. When the committee gives its full report this summer, we shall look at it in depth.
Is my hon. Friend aware that under present regulations foreigners can adopt British children and take them to far-off foreign lands where they are outside our control? Is he satisfied with that arrangement?
I should have to look into that point. I did not think that a local authority would give permission for a child to be adopted by someone from abroad unless there were very special reasons.
Pending the report of the committee, will the Under-Secretary consider calling for a report from all social work departments in Scotland about the children in long-term care under their control to see whether they are being regularly offered for adoption or foster-parenting, as appropriate, because there is reason to believe that in some cases they are not being regularly so offered?
Yes, I shall look at that point very carefully indeed. Naturally, the social work departments are in close touch with this matter and are looking constantly at the availability of foster parents.