Memorandum by the Adoption Forum

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 21 November 2001.

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The Adoption Forum welcomes the Bill very warmly. It will bring many necessary reforms to a system that has tragically failed far too many of the children in its care over the past years. We hope that with the new reforms the system will be able in the future to help those children who are unable to live with the families of their birth to find peace, love and comfort for the rest of their lives in adoptive families.

We particularly welcome the emphasis on the paramountcy of the child's best interest. Children, and certainly those children within the looked-after system who are, after all, society's least advantaged, have been at the mercy of adults and the paramountcy of adults far too often and for far too long. They need a champion and this Bill will become just that by stating and restating that the best interests of the child must come first.

We welcome among many valuable measures:

—the national registers

—the provision of adoption services by all local authorities

—the tackling of delay within local authorities and the courts

and much, much more. We believe all these measures will help hugely in ensuring that the lives of children are improved.

There are, however, some measures that we believe could be equally advantageous to the betterment of the system for the children within it, and not simply for those looked-after children who will be the beneficiaries of adoption itself but also for those who continue to be the responsibility of the State.

In this paper, we have tried to be as brief as possible in the knowledge that the Committee has a tremendous amount of paperwork with which to deal.

We have decided to concentrate on two concerns about the Bill in general and also, as requested, the changes made to the Bill since the March version. We hope very much that they will be seen in the spirit in which they are offered: that of trying to be helpful.

Our principle suggestions concern:

—independent safeguards

—a comprehensive database.