My child was nearly adopted – here’s why adoption targets are wrong

A mother who went through care proceedings reacts to findings about adoption targets in local authorities

child
Photo: Nadezhda1906/Fotolia

by Annie

Last week the Transparency Project, an organisation which seeks to promote the transparency of proceedings within the family courts, published findings from a Freedom of Information request into adoption targets. It found:

“Significant numbers of councils in England are setting local numerical targets for how many children (or what percentage of their care population) should be adopted from care”.

As a Mum having had a baby removed at birth with an ultimate plan of forced adoption; this leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I have heard this argument for years; babies being stolen to order by the state, adoption targets, bonuses paid to those who took the most children. I did not subscribe to it. I couldn’t; it was too close to home.

Irrefutable evidence

Now there is irrefutable evidence to support that some councils do set adoption targets.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that once the decision has been made for a child to be adopted, and the birth parents have been given, and have taken, all legal avenues available to them, that the adoption should happen quickly. I don’t think anyone wants to see children stuck in the care system.

However, adoption is not right for every child, just as returning home to their family is not right for every child. I am certainly not anti-adoption and do believe non-consensual adoption to be right in some limited circumstances.

The decision on where a child should live permanently should surely be led by the needs of each individual child based on their own circumstances and not by targets set by the state. Even the notion of ‘adoption scorecards’ seems distasteful. When did Key Performance Indicators become a factor in the future of a family, or in the best interests of the child?

Worries

It worries me greatly, this drive from the government for more adoptions, done quicker. My – albeit limited and self-taught – understanding of English family law is that adoption should be a last resort.

When you’re pressured to do things quickly, it doesn’t always make you more efficient. Mistakes can be made, particularly if you then add targets into the mix. Adoption shouldn’t be a quick-fix, or a go-to. It shouldn’t be adoption-by-numbers, with the number pre-defined. What it should be is one option, to be balanced and judged on its strengths and weaknesses.

What also struck me whilst reading the Transparency Project’s piece is the lack of “published national rankings” or, more importantly, “national target figures” regarding the rehabilitation of a child home from care.

It really made me think – why are there targets for adoption, but not for children to return home to their families? What does this tell birth parents about a social worker’s motivation to keep their family together?

Targets

My 8-year-old daughter’s class have a target set by their schoolteacher to read at home four times a week. If she hits her target, she is rewarded with points. Whoever has the most points in her class at the end of the school year is given a prize. Thus, my daughter reads at least four times a week. I, as her mum, feel the pressure and encourage her to read to me or her brothers every day. The analogy may be a simple one, but this is no different to how targets could work in any setting, including in social work.

The Transparency Project’s research documented in previous posts also highlights the sheer volume of money and services dedicated to adoption. I am certainly not suggesting that this money is not needed, nor deserved, but I do wonder why there is not money ring-fenced to support a child’s return home from care following proceedings.

Support

When my baby came home from care on a Supervision Order, there was no money made available to help or support us, despite the fact that I and my eldest son had been hugely traumatised. In fact, we pretty much got left to it, aside from the social worker’s statutory visits.

One could argue that the money ploughed into statutory services for family support and preventative work before it gets to proceedings somewhat balances the scales. But as a mum having experienced the system, when you get to that point of proceedings it does feel like adoption is prioritised. I vividly remember – while contesting my son’s adoption proceedings – walking through a metro station in North Tyneside on my way to a hearing seeing posters with pictures of smiling children, heralding how wonderful adoption was. It made me feel sick to my stomach.

It feels to me like adoption has been held up as the “gold standard” of parenting.

Competition

You feel, as a birth mum in proceedings, that you are competing with a whole other life being offered to your child. This not helped by media depictions of poor bedraggled children being rescued from hideous living conditions to be welcomed by ruddy cheeked, smiling adopters into a well-kept home with soft glow lighting, a Labrador and a wooden playhouse in the garden.

I’m generalising, and stereotyping, I know. But I, like many others, was a mum reliant on state benefits living in desperately poor conditions who had experienced mental health problems and domestic violence. How could I possibly measure up?

When I was fighting to have my new-born returned to my care it felt like my local authority were entirely against me. They had no intention of returning my child, despite the Guardian recommending rehabilitation home and even the Judge had to intervene before they would do so. These people were resolute. Adoption was my son’s “gold standard”.

Did they have a quota to fill? Was my son a ‘target’? I’m now less sure than I was.

Annie is a pseudonym. She runs the training and consultancy service Surviving Safeguarding. She tweets @survivecourt

36 Responses to My child was nearly adopted – here’s why adoption targets are wrong

  1. A social worker November 28, 2016 at 11:32 am #

    Hi Annie, I am sorry you have been through such a difficult time in the court system.

    However, I am really concerned that the adoption targets have been read in this way.

    Making decisions on the court arena is difficult and complex. However I can categorically say that adoption targets have never affected decisions that I have made with senior managers for care proceedings.

    I also know of no colleagues who would allow their professional integrity and moral compas to be corrupted in such a way.

    I have often been accused by parents of being given a car or cash bonus when I recommend a plan of adoption. This really is not true. There is no cash incentive or congratulations from the top if you recommend a plan of adoption.

    It is one of the worst things in the world to tell a parent that you do not believe a parent or family member can look after a child (I know that this feeling is a speck of the sadness and grief a parent feels at this time.

    I have worked in five loval authorities across the span of my career and have never encountered a cynical practice to increase adoption. Each child’s care plan is recommended on the basis of a social worker’s assessment.

    It is likely that sometimes social workers will make the wrong decisions and this is why a judge and guardian are there to oversee decision making in care proceedings.

    For adoption targets leading to increased children being adopted – the Judiciary and cafcass would also have to be complicit with this and I do not see evidence of this.

    It would be interesting for a study to be completed that looks at how many times Judge’s believe that care proceedings have been brought erroneously and how many times they do not support LA care plans.

    I know hundreds of social workers through friends and colleagues. I do not know a single social worker who would not challenge a state that was intent on social engineering through adoption.

    Whilst the system we work in if imperfect. I cannot accept that a systematic, corrupt clinate is in place to increase adoption. This is certainly no lt my experience of adoption/ family placements/foster care/ rehab home.

    The fact that there has been a significant rise in family placements over the past few years would indicate that Las are not motivated by these targets in proceedings.

    • Surviving Safeguarding November 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

      Hi “A Social Worker”,

      Many thanks for your comment. I am glad to hear that adoption targets have not affected decisions you have made around the future of a family and I accept that you have not found evidence to demonstrate that adoption targets are being used in the way that is highlighted through the Transparency Project’s FOI Requests.

      However, and with all due respect, I think it is naive to suggest that everyone works in the way you say you do. I took a great deal of time carefully reading and researching the Transparency Project’s findings, and I have also spent a great deal of time with social workers who talk frankly about the pressure they are under and that adoption is often used as a go-to because it is “safer”. I may be simply a “service user” but I am a very balanced woman and do not take up a position lightly.

      I would also point out that there have been a steady and significant rise in care proceeding applications and we do not yet have a full picture of adoption statistics for 2016. However, you cannot deny that there has been a government drive for adoption, and this cannot fail to have an impact on frontline social work. I have not once used the word “corrupt” nor suggested that that may be so.

      Thank you once again for your comment and for taking the time to read my piece.

      Annie

  2. Tom J November 28, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    Great article- From David Cameron’s ”unashamedly pro-adoption” speech to local authority targets- there has been a clear drive to sell adoption as the ‘happily ever after’ gold standard without much critical thought to the long-term outcomes or alternatives.

    I applaud Community Care for allowing a range of opinions to be heard as oppose to just following the government line.

    • CT November 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

      Absolutely & a brilliant article.

      I hope there is soon clarity about targets (which I think are probably forecasting re known children rather than procuring children for adoption and that Annie and everyone else can be reassured.

    • Surviving Safeguarding November 29, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

      Hi Tom J,

      Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I am also very glad that Community Care asked me to write this opinion piece, and am really grateful to have been able to put my side!

      Annie

  3. London SW November 28, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    Would encourage people to read the Transparency Project blog post – the full results are a bit more nuanced and varying, with many councils stating outright they do not have adoption targets, and some stating things like “this year 26 children have been adopted, we are hoping to reach our target of 28″.

    That may mean that there are two children on placement orders waiting to be adopted, or that the council had a target of 28 for the year. It’s not clear.

    I would however echo the concerns that not enough resources are put into reuniting looked after children (and indeed, adult care leavers) with their parents – or into helping parents who have had their children removed. This is particularly problematic as a large number (I forget the figure) return home once independent, and return back to a situation where little has changed – even though the child/young person may have.

    • Surviving Safeguarding November 29, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

      Hi London SW,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree it’s really important to read not just the FOI findings post by TP, but also the previous posts. Unfortunately, I have a word limit to adhere to and so had to be fairly succinct with my reports of their findings. Nevertheless, I could have constructed it slightly differently to offer a bit more.

      Thanks again,

      Annie

      • London SW December 4, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

        Hi Annie, it certainly wasn’t a personal dig, so apologies if it came off that way. I can see how at face value, some of those results are very concerning, I think there’s just a wider story and probably some ineffective reporting from the local authorities.

  4. Ann McCabe November 28, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    l read the artcle and agree that adoption isnt always the answer, but is held up as the best for the child………..research has shown that 60-70% of adopted children suffer mental health problems, that is compared with 20% of children staying with families………………..there is too much emphasis on support for adopters/foster carers, while parents are given a leaflet and told go and deal with it yourself…………….extended families are dismissed as not important, and told to mind your own business,,,,,,,,,,,,,,its time for professionals to look at using person centred care, instead of using the much dispised risk averse or institutional care model……………in adult care it has long been proved that using person centered care works well, and thats why the risk averse model has been dismissed

    • CT November 29, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      I think the government rhetoric around adoption is very unhelpful, adoption is complex, and the notion of it being the best for all children over simplifies it damagingly. You are though not are not comparing a similar cohort of children when you are comparing those with mental health problems. Children who have been able to remain at home, or who have no children’s services involvement, haven’t experienced the same trauma and abuse that children placed for adoption. You can’t extract the pre care history from the child in a fostering or adoptive placement.

      I am sure you know that birth family members are assessed before adoption becomes a care plan? Unfortunately if everyone thinks there is no problem, when there is, that does undermine ability to protect. They are though important, as are birth parents, and separating a child from their family of origin remains a last resort.

      There is absolutely an argument for more early intervention/support for birth parents. Cuts/austerity don’t help.

    • Surviving Safeguarding November 29, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      Hi Ann,

      Many thanks for reading and for your comment. I agree, and having had first hand experience can tell you I didn’t even get a leaflet to explain anything! I ended up searching the internet for information and ran into horror stories from traumatised and angry families, some who could not “see” what they had “done”. For the children I have who remain in the care system, I’m very glad the foster carer’s get as much support as they need, but I do think the playing field needs to be levelled somewhat and I intend, with my advocacy project, to do just that.

      Thanks again,

      Annie

  5. London se22 November 29, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    Hi Annie, I’ve worked in an LA with ‘targets’ and I think the term ‘adoption target’ has been badly misunderstood here ? It doesn’t mean a target out of all children everywhere, rather, that out of the certain and specific number of children who are ALREADY waiting to be adopted and on an adoption care plan, the local authority is saying they are expecting their social workers to get x number of them adopted within the year.

    It’s a tool to deal with the endemic problem of children languishing in the care system, when those children already have a care plan of adoption, and yet they are remaining unadopted for years…. this can be a serious issue for children who are hard to adopt. Rather than accepting that, LA’s are now saying – it’s not good enough to have children waiting and our ‘target’ for this year is to get, for instance, 20 out of 25 waiting children (who already have a plan for adoption agreed by the courts) into their permanent families.

    As someone else said earlier, social workers don’t get bonuses for anything we do, and since care proceedings involve far more work and stress and difficulty than no care proceedings, they aren’t something anyone would choose to do even if they were completely self focussed.

    There are bad practitioners out there, and bad practice does occur – which is terrible – but I can promise that there are no targets in the way you mean.

    Thanks.

    • CT November 30, 2016 at 11:57 am #

      I think it might be a good idea if you read the Transparency Project blog, if you haven’t, the ambiguity comes from the source http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/english-councils-confirm-they-set-targets-for-the-number-of-children-to-be-adopted/#comment-6639 let’s hope the attention Annie has given it in Community Care will result in more transparency in less time than it took (a year) to compile the FOI requests already made.

    • Surviving Safeguarding December 3, 2016 at 9:10 am #

      Hi,

      Thanks for your comment. I think that’s the point; we don’t know that that is what the “targets” are because the LAs are not evidencing that within the FOI requests. So, naturally, it can be read a number of ways. You have read it one way (if you have read the TP research), I have read it another. You cannot “promise” me anything, with all due respect.
      I have never believed that SWs get bonuses for removing children; I still believe that to be nonsense pedalled by people who cannot accept that their own failings have lead to their children being removed.
      Thanks

  6. Ssjjab November 29, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    I’m really concerned that this article has been allowed to be published when it is not correct! Adoption teams have targets to place children for adoption in house without delay – once a placement order had been made – at no point is a court care plan ever considered in line with the adoption teams targets. They are completely separate!! Children are not removed to meet quotas, children are not adopted to meet quotas or targets. If a judge agrees a care and placement order the child is then – and not before – subject to a search for adopters . It’s at this point that the team have targets as no one would want small children being left in foster care for long periods of time. After placement the adopters have to wait at least 12 weeks to make their application for an adoption order and it us at this point that the parents can contest and evidence to the court that there has been a significant change in their circumstances. I have read Survivings blog and I think it’s an excellent resource; for parents and also for social workers. I would say from my reading the local authority’s care plan was not agreed by the guardian or in the end by the judge. To say that a judge had to force it is misrepresenting the situation. In proceedings like these there are usually very different opinions and that’s why it in the court so that each party can make their case for what they think should happen. It’s obvious that at times the local authority’s care plan will not be considered as in the child’s best interests; the local authority makes a recommendation based on the social work assessment … that does not mean that they are infallible or that a judge or guardian will always agree. Success by most social workers standards is not getting to the point where we have to issue proceedings at birth. It will be a rare day that rehabbing a child home is viewed as anything but success; it might have taken proceedings to do it but finally a parent is doing what is needed to look after their child. The days my soul gets chipped away at are those days when adoption is considered the only care plan; those days are my failings.

    • CT November 30, 2016 at 11:58 am #

      I agree re targets but the ambiguity came from the source, the LAs who responded to FOI requests http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/english-councils-confirm-they-set-targets-for-the-number-of-children-to-be-adopted/#comment-6639

    • Surviving Safeguarding December 3, 2016 at 8:58 am #

      Sorry – “allowed to be published”?. Community Care *came to me* and asked me for an opinion piece on the Transparency Project’s evidence on adoption targets. I have a right to an opinion based on the facts in front of me. And with all due respect, I do not need the process explained to me; I have lived through it.

      Your comment in respect of my own case “To say that a judge had to force it is misrepresenting the situation” is not accurate, unless you were a party to my proceedings and have evidence to prove otherwise. You might want to read Louise Tickle’s article in the Guardian which I have linked below. Louise was given the audio recordings of the hearing in which the Judge, HHJ Wood, did in fact force the LA to change their care plan. She was then able to report with accuracy what happened. So it is not merely my word.

      I apologise if I have come across as rude, but I found your comment very patronising. Whether you were bating me for a reaction with your inaccurate comment regarding my own case, I don’t know, but if you were, you got one.

      https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/20/children-taken-into-care-mother-fighting-to-get-baby-back-louise-tickle

  7. Planet Autism November 30, 2016 at 1:05 pm #

    It’s not only about adoptions. It’s about unwarranted child protection actions by LAs which waste public funds, traumatise families and take resources away from children who actually are being abused or neglected.

    There are many children with invisible disabilities whose characteristics, traits and difficulties are misrepresented, misunderstood and blamed on parenting issues.

    Neurodevelopmental conditions are being treated as child protection issues and the scale of the problem is huge. I would go as far as to call it a national scandal. Likewise with connective tissue disorders, ME/CFS, genetic or hard to diagnose conditions etc.

    NHS failings and a culture of cover-up of negligence contributes to this. But SWs are all too often entirely ignorant about medical issues and go in with a tick-box mentality looking for blame and fault against the parents.

    How anyone could think care is the best option for a child when the outcomes are notoriously appalling, is beyond me. SS are supposed to support families and keep them together. A few good SWs out there sadly do nothing to make up for the many who fabricate and distort to take things down the path they want. When you have SW managers talking about ‘hypotheses’ regarding unwarranted CP concerns, you know the system is broken.

  8. Lucy Reed, The Transparency Project November 30, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    We’re really pleased to see people are discussing this issue partly as a result of our study. We hope that posts like Annie’s and the comment that has been generated by our study will lead to greater understanding of the urgent need to SHOW that adoption targets, where used, are being used in the appropriate ways some of the commenters have suggested (i.e. to speed up the outcomes for children who are already waiting for adoptive placement), and to SHOW that they aren’t inadvertently distorting things early on. So far we have seen people ASSERT that this is the case, but the worried parents and the wider public out there need it to be transparently shown. Clear answers to legitimate questions are SO important if we want the public to understand and have confident in our family justice system.

    Keep talking people! How might we enable the public to see how this is really working in practice?

  9. Anita Singh December 1, 2016 at 4:53 am #

    Annie, I appreciate the article you have written and your concerns about social workers recommendations for adoption are driven by government targets. However, the first port of call for any social worker is to seek to maintain the child safely with either one or both birth parents if possible. Failing that, the next port of call is placing your child with carers from within your own network of family and friends. In many LAs it is standard policy to convene a Family Group Conference in order to plan for the safety of a child, including looking at the placement options, if any. Adoption of a child has and always should be the very last option and used to prevent children drifting in the care system for years. Such a decision should never be based on government targets.

    However, in many cases where domestic violence is a central factor, usually one of the major issues that has led to proceedings being initiated in the first place, is that despite all of the services being offered to a mother through organisations such as Women’s Aid, Refuges, the involvement of Probation with violent partners, Counselling, Legal Advice, Injunctions etc, the domestic violence has continued because the mother has continued to remain in an abusive relationship (possibly due to the dynamics of fear of the consequences of leaving) but very often to the emotional and physical detriment of the child, hence the case ends up in Court.

    Obviously, I do not know the specific details of what happened in your situation and why you ended up with care proceedings being issued, but I would say this is a common theme that emerges in many cases where domestic violence is a major issue. All of the figures show that at least 60% of safeguarding cases have issues of domestic abuse. I am so glad that you have succeeded in maintaining your children safely in your care. However, there are many cases where this is not the outcome, despite a great deal of work that has gone into preventing the removal of children.

    For me as a SW, I will always feel a sense of failure, when I have to turn to the Courts, because despite my best efforts to provide services, a child remains unsafe and that a child is suffering irreparable harm from being constantly subject to an environment of serious domestic violence. To this end, there is very longstanding research that has been undertaken by the Minnesota research project, which looks at the longstanding impact of leaving children in unsafe situations, where their emotional needs are neglected over longer periods and there is a failure by the state to intervene. Adoption has always been the last option, but there are times when I have felt that SWs have spent far too long in trying to keep children at home with their parents, and to the serious detriment of the child.

    • CT December 1, 2016 at 10:24 am #

      Why do we give mum responsibility for leaving her partner, what role do we play in effecting change in men’s behaviour? Given in most DV cases mum is the victim, a man is the perpetrator, if not all.

      • Anita Singh December 1, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

        CT it is not about giving mum the “responsibility” for leaving a partner, but to secure the safety and well being of the woman and her children who are being subject to serious DV. If the perpetrator of DV was ready to work to change their behaviour, then no doubt there would be a successful outcome. So what do you do about the children? Wait for mum to decide, a bit like in the Ellie Butler case that we recently debated, what was the likelihood of success of any work the LA attempted iin order to change Ben Butler’s violent behaviour? Look at the number of child deaths and you will find in a significant proportion of those cases that DV was a central factor not only for the mother, but had fatal consequences for the children as well. Obviously not every case where DV is a feature ends like this. However, I would invite you to inform me of the statistics where work is successfully undertaken with perpetrators (male or female) of domestic violence and the successful outcomes for children, compared to those that are not successful. If the mother in the unsuccessful ones do not leave a violent and abusive relationship, then what do you do to safeguard the children?

        • Surviving Safeguarding December 3, 2016 at 9:17 am #

          Hi again,
          Having been through DV, having worked with mums going through proceedings who are victims of DV, I can honestly say that even if you do leave, you still then fall victim to the “future risk” that you might then engage in another violent relationship, or go back to your abusive partner. Or I have also heard it said that mum is now unable to cope as a single mother. Many times, you cannot win.

          • Anita Singh December 6, 2016 at 11:27 pm #

            Hello Surviving Safeguarding – I would be really interested to know what the Judge’s reaction was to such comments – as I would anticipate any such views would be strongly challenged, especially by your own counsel and the Judge, unless you can evidence it – especially since the Re:A case law, where even hearsay is strongly challenged, let alone suppositions and what ifs….

        • CT December 6, 2016 at 10:27 am #

          SW give mums the responsibility of leaving their partner in order to keep the child safe was the obvious inference from my comment. I agree it isn’t straightfoward, there needs to be insight and motivation to change, neither of the Butler parents had that. I also wasn’t suggesting that children are left at risk, just making a point that vulnerable women are given responsibility for protecting children when we all know how hard those relationships are to leave for a variety of complex reasons.

          There does appear to be much debate about what works in perpetrator programmes and much conflict. Since those people move onto other relationships and are a risk to other children, the problem is perpetuated. There appears to be more work around victims than perpetrators and that might be because what works is more complex, but it doesn’t mean that that shouldn’t be our focus. Thanks for the link, I am familiar with it already.

      • Brooke December 1, 2016 at 9:59 pm #

        This is a very difficult one. Perpetrator programmes have low success rates, criminal law fails the victims either by not convicting or not giving custodial sentences. Essentially most perpetrators will not change (even with support) and the legal system won’t lock them away. So what do we then do if mother can’t or won’t separate from the perpetrator? We can’t leave the child there to be emotionally and physically harmed.

        • CT December 6, 2016 at 10:19 am #

          I don’t think custodial sentences are the answer, nobody can be locked away for ever anyway, and if you don’t do the work with someone they might not be with that mum & child but they do move onto other relationships.

    • Anita Singh December 1, 2016 at 2:23 pm #

      Sorry, I meant the Minnesota Longitudinal Study and here is the link for it:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2857405/

    • Surviving Safeguarding December 3, 2016 at 9:05 am #

      Hi Anita,

      Thanks for your comment. Again, without appearing rude, I know the process very well and do not need it explained to me. I’m also not sure the relevance of your point about DV? Perhaps you could explain further?
      We will have to agree to disagree that adoption targets are a factor. I have spent a great deal of time carefully reading and researching the Transparency Project’s evidence, and – as I have already said – I’m not a woman easily swayed. The evidence, although ambiguous, is there within the FOI requests. I have read that in my own way, and based upon my own experiences I was asked to write this piece.

      • Anita Singh December 6, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

        Hello Surviving Safeguarding – my comments about DV and the process of resources that are provided, was to make comment, for all readers of this article and not just you. My point is that SWs do not simply ignore such a major issue such as DV or fail to provide proper services. There would be clear safeguarding plans to provide such services and any good CP chair would want to know what I had been doing if such services had not been provided. SWs are held to account for every thing they do. Furthermore have exhausted attempts to safeguard children, once proceedings have been initiated, my point is that any recommendation for adoption can only be argued for, once a whole range of other options have been exhausted. This is not down to individual social workers personal practice or doing what they like, but standard processes that have to be followed regardless. I would expect the counsel for parents in proceedings to strongly challenge me or any other social worker if standard protocols have not been adhered to. Once these processes have been completed without success, then and only then does the matter of adoption come on to the agenda.

        If LAs have started to set targets for adoption this is to avoid what has happened historically with the large numbers of children drifting in care institutions or who have been through multiple foster care placements, or for whom SWs continue to try to work to try to return a child to their family. However, I can think of many cases where children yo-yo in and out of the care system, because of failed attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ children and for whom the option of permanent alternative placement has been denied, because of misguided attempts to rehabilitate. Untold harm is done to this group of children.

        In my view, the government targets are aimed at getting permanent decisions for children made, however difficult that may be, to avoid this very kind of failing children in care. Until we examine in depth each and every case outcome, in terms of the statistics for adoption, we cannot really say. This is not with the agenda of proving there is government conspiracy to take children from working class parents and place them with nice middle class ones, but to look at the what happens when Social work fails numerous children who are languishing in the care system. Then perhaps we can have an informed date with the facts to hand, not just LAs setting targets for the number of children that will be adopted. This has to be seen in the context of what has happened for children in care in the past.

  10. Sarah Phillimore December 1, 2016 at 8:00 am #

    My name is Sarah Phillimore and I am one of the trustees of the Transparency Project.

    I am quite despondent on reading some of these comments; the authors of which have clearly not attempted to read and engage with the original TP post.

    I do think that some people – perhaps the majority? – who work in this field have very little idea just how much dangerous and false narratives are continually fed about their work.

    I would invite them to consider this post about the recent documentary on French TV. I am told that John Hemming appears, together with Gena the woman for whom he has purchased caravans in France to send women ‘fleeing’ care proceedings in England.

    John Hemming and Ian Josephs are men of considerable personal wealth and they do seem to be using their resources to further their own narrative – which is taking a firm grip of the imaginations of many.

    I do urge people to really think and try to engage with this debate. It is not sufficient answer any more – if it ever was – to say, well, MY practice is fine and I have never seen anything untoward.

    If others are not willing to engage in sensible debate then the floor is left wide open to Hemming, Joseph and Booker. The consequences of that are already bad and already plain to see.

  11. Sarah Phillimore December 1, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    Sorry, forgot to include link to TP post about the recent French TV documentary about England’s child protection system.

    It’s here
    http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/englands-stolen-children/

  12. Derek December 1, 2016 at 12:18 pm #

    Hi

    While I can understand the point being made re targets from those already with placement orders or adoption decisions and the defence of integrity around decision-making, it would be naïve to deny that the target culture over many years has promoted the idea that ‘more is better’ with obvious dangers for decision-making. From New Labour through to the coalition, the measure of percentage of looked after children adopted was used as a performance measure and laggard authorities told to aspire to the adoption figures of ‘the best’.

    • Surviving Safeguarding December 3, 2016 at 9:19 am #

      I agree – look at David Cameron’s “unashamedly pro adoption” speech. What about being “unashamedly-what’s-in-the-best-interest-of-the-child”??

    • CT December 6, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

      I agree too; I say above government rhetoric around adoption is unhelpful, governments of all ills seem to think adoption is a solution of whatever kind. It really isn’t. It really is a nothing else will do measure. It was also very unhelpful for Martin Narey to bust myths that weren’t myths and for Edward Timpson to mention re B-S as reducing the numbers of children being adopted this week in the Children and Social Care Bill debate.

      However, the framework of the law is much more influential in SW practice than anything any government says, until they change the law.

  13. Jadwiga Leigh December 3, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Thank you Annie, Transparency Project and Community Care for bringing this to our attention. I encourage all who doubt the contents of this article to follow the link at the start and have a good read of the findings from the material sent to the Transparency Project from local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act. You may want to see if your council is on the list who do admit to setting targets or those who don’t before feeling convinced that yours does not. How senior managers set targets is not something social workers are necessarily aware of unless their is transparency within the organisation- such practice is often varied out back stage away from front line practice and works in adherence with government guidelines. I was pleased to see the authorities I worked for were not on the list of those who do set targets, but this does not mean I feel sure they do not practise in this way. I’m well aware they may have been one of those who refused to send the information over or those who concealed the information in a pile of documents that is difficult for the project to retrieve. I accept that this is an uncomfortable subject to discuss, particularly for social workers working on the front line who work hard to be the best practitioner they can be, but it is a subject that warrants further discussion and further scrutiny because often procedures can (whether we like to admit it or not) often derail good social work practice for whatever reason. It made me think when reading this all the times I had in practice started ‘twin track for adoption’ by pressing a button on ICS without properly thinking of the implications this action may have for the family or future of the child but doing so because my team manager had suggested we remain alert to the fact that this CP case may not have a happy ending. This then led me to think further about the language we use and how it has implicit meaning but powerful affect on our practice and the future of the family. I see the Transparency Project has a section on the use of language but this has been created by family lawyers and differs therefore from the language used by social workers. It would be good for those who read this article to perhaps think about this and offer suggestions for how these linguistic variations intra and inter professions can shape the knowledge you have on this subject.