Children’s minister Tim Loughton has condemned a national newspaper columnist’s campaign against “forced adoptions”, branding it “damaging” and “demoralising”.
In an exclusive interview with Community Care, Loughton said a series of articles by Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph misrepresented the adoption system by highlighting only the “small number of cases which had gone horribly wrong”.
The articles – which have attracted the attention of users on Community Care’s forum CareSpace – chronicle cases of so-called “forced adoption”, where social services appear to have placed children for adoption against the wishes of loving, capable parents.
In one, Booker wrote: “Our social workers normally hit the headlines when some Baby P-type horror story comes to light, showing how they failed to intervene when a child was so maltreated by its parents that it died.
“What don’t usually make the news, however, are the hundreds of cases when the social workers’ failure is the very opposite: where, aided by police and courts, they seem determined to remove children from responsible parents, to consign them to an often miserable life with foster carers or to adoption.”
Loughton told Community Care the campaign was “really unhelpful”. “It is doing a lot of damage to the perception of adoption and threatens to undermine the confidence and morale of people working within the system,” he said.
Loughton added that he was “very concerned” about any adoption cases that had gone “horribly wrong” and said he had met with the president of the family division at the High Court to address this. “I specifically discussed a number of cases with Sir Nicholas Wall last week and I am looking at ways as to how there can be further checks and balances on certain cases which are highly contentious.”
But he said these represented a “small number out of the 3,200 adoptions that happened last year and should not be seen as typical”.
“In the meantime it would be nice to have a more balanced picture of where adoption has made the difference between a child succeeding or a child being neglected and languishing in an inappropriate care setting,” he said.
Loughton revealed he had written to the Sunday Telegraph’s letters page, following a private meeting with Booker, but said his letter had never been printed.
The Sunday Telegraph and Booker have so far failed to reply to requests from Community Care to comment.
Here Tim Loughton shares his letter with Community Care:
I was surprised to read about my private meeting with Christopher Booker in his column last week (28 Nov). I requested the meeting because I was keen to find out more about the cases he has raised where there are clear concerns over the legitimacy of the way certain adoptions have taken place. For these it is certainly not a case of ‘the system is working fine’ and I have a responsibility as children’s minister to make sure we do better for the families involved.
If the system were ‘working fine’ I would not have set up the review by Professor Eileen Munro to look at the whole issue of child protection and how social workers go about their job, or indeed strengthened the review into the workings of the family courts which is also doing some important work for us.
But I also have a responsibility as children’s minister to make sure we do a lot better for the thousands of children who end up in the care system through no fault of their own, either to pave a safe way back to live with their own family or prepare for the longer term with alternative parental responsibility if that is not possible. Last year 3,200 children were adopted. Many came from deeply traumatic backgrounds; many were given up for adoption uncontested.
Yet despite a sharp increase in children in care post-Baby Peter, adoption figures show a worrying decline of 4% and the downward trend continues despite Mr Booker’s alarmist comments about wide scale ‘snatching’. His views are based on a few dozen high profile, though worrying, cases. Trying to tarnish the whole adoption system in this country undermines the work of professionals we rely on to keep vulnerable children safe, but worst of all risks damaging the chances of many thousands of children who would greatly benefit from a second chance of a stable family upbringing. I will certainly not be complacent about the scale of the problem; Mr Booker should not be so irresponsible about the solutions.
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