Memorandum from the Family Rights Group - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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

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In addition to our earlier submission to the previous Select Committee, we wish to make the following recommendations to this Committee about the provisions in this bill:

1. That the government's target to increase adoption by 40 per cent. be withdrawn, otherwise it may seriously undermine support for families with children in need under the Children Act 1989 and may skew decision-making about permanency plans for children who are looked after by the local authority;

2. That there should be a two-stage procedure for the consideration of, and dispensing with, parental consent to the placement of children for adoption, and the making of an adoption order. Without it, this legislation is likely to be in breach of Articles 6 & 8 of the European Convention and is therefore open to challenge under the Human Rights Act 1998;

3. That the test for dispensing with parental consent should revert to that which was proposed in the Report to Ministers, namely that adoption would be so significantly better for the child than any other option as to justify overriding the parents' wishes. The court also needs to be satisfied that a thorough investigation of the alternatives to adoption has taken place;

4. That clause 1 should be amended to place a specific duty on the court to consider, when applying the welfare checklist, whether a contact order should be made at the same time as an adoption order;

5. That a statement should be included in clause 1 that kinship placements ought to be the placement of first choice for children who cannot live with their birth parents;

6. That clause 51 should be amended to read `adopted children are to be treated in law in the same way as a legitimate child of the adopters from the date of the adoption order';

7. That adequate provision is made for financial and other support for those children who are the subject of special guardianship orders;

8. That birth parents, siblings and relatives should be equally entitled to an assessment for adoption services as children who have been adopted and their adoptive parents; and

9. That an obligation is placed on adopters to notify the placing agency in the event that the child dies before their eighteenth birthday or the placement disrupts.