Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey’s proposal to have more children taken into care and adopted at birth would cause added pressures for adoption services, an expert has said.
John Simmonds, director of policy, research and development at the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), said Narey has raised important points about when children should be removed and adopted. But he expressed concern about whether sufficient numbers of adoptive parents could be found to meet a higher demand.
Simmonds says: “Removing children from their parents is a radical intervention, but there’s no question that if this is the right thing to do, it must be done. Martin Narey raises the important issue of whether we are good enough at recognising those situations.
Challenge of finding adoptive parents
“But a challenge we face is finding sufficient numbers of appropriate adopters, and ensuring they are provided with the best support possible. We still have some way to go as it is.”
In a statement, released today, Narey – who made the comments in an Observer interview yesterday – said: “We can and should try to fix families. However, we should not persist where experience tells us that the prospects of success are bleak.”
He said that while fostering was appropriate for the majority of children in the care system, adoption may be the best outcome for the very young.
ADCS welcomes debate
Colin Green, chair of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ (ADCS) families, communities and young people policy committee, said: “Martin Narey’s comments raise some important questions about the way we deal with families and children at risk.
“These questions need serious consideration and debate both among children’s service professionals and the public at large. We welcome that debate and look forward to taking part in it.”
However, Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said Narey’s proposal was “too simplistic to be helpful”, saying what was needed was a better understanding of the “complex” role performed by social workers and more investment in frontline practitioners.
Government figures show that in the year to 31 March 2008, 23,000 children were taken into care in England, of whom 4,300 (19%) were aged under one. The 3,200 children adopted from care during the year had an average age of three years and 11 months when they started their final period in care, and only 6% (120) were aged one or under.