I accept that the current Northern Ireland adoption legislation, the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, is outdated in comparison with the legislation of other UK jurisdictions, and it is for that reason that I have directed that work is undertaken to bring forward a range of proposals for legislative reform of adoption. It is my intention to introduce a new Adoption Bill in the current mandate which will seek to tackle known problems in the current system of adoption, such as delay, and to strengthen supports for all those affected by adoption. The Bill will also make provision for an alternative route to permanence for those children in care for whom adoption is not appropriate.
The Member got it right in the first instance, when he said that the needs of children are paramount. I will always ensure that the needs of children remain paramount. The only human rights involved here are those of the child. No one has a human right to adopt. The human right exists with the child who requires adoption.
One of the reasons why we want to look at the Bill is that there are too many delays in the adoption process. We need to ensure that children are adopted more speedily, because children often end up in foster care for a protracted period before they actually go for adoption. It is a much better outcome if children can get adopted at that earlier point so that they get that stability in what is going to be their family for the rest of their life. We want to ensure that we get children adopted more quickly, and that is one of the reasons why we want to bring in new legislation.
Adjourned at 3.00 pm.