Health minister John Hutton welcomed the first reading and
publication of the Adoption and Children’s Bill, which he said
would radically improve the futures of hundreds of vulnerable

The proposed legislation seeks to speed up the adoption system,
and put the needs of children at the heart of the adoption

Key measures included in the bill’s 113 clauses are:

  • allowing courts to set timetables to cut delays in adoption
    court cases
  • reaffirming existing safeguards that make it an offence to
    ‘make arrangements’ for adoption or advertise children for
    adoption, other than through adoption agencies
  • giving all adoptive families a new right to an assessment for
    post-adoption support
  • placing a clear duty on local authorities to provide an
    adoption support service
  • establishing a new independent review mechanism for prospective
    adopters who feel they have been turned down unfairly
  • legally underpinning a new national adoption register to enable
    faster matches between children waiting to be adopted and approved
    adoptive families
  • introducing a new special guardianship order to provide
    security and permanence for children where adoption is not

– setting a target of a 40 per cent increase in the number of
children adopted from care

Hutton told a press conference that although the government was
keen to see the new legislation in place – the bill’s second
reading is due the week beginning March 26 – he said that there was
no question of taking short cuts and he promised a full debate with
MPs and other interested parties, such as voluntary

Felicity Collier, chief executive of British Agencies for
Adoption and Fostering, said her organisation was “surprised and
absolutely delighted” at the announcement. “This legislation will
really make a difference to children,” she said.

New funding of more than £500,000 in the next financial
year was also announced for adoption projects around the country.
These include the National Development project run by After
Adoption, which will help develop post adoption support services as
promised in the white paper published at the end of last year
‘Adoption a New Approach’.

* Later this month regulations to protect children
adopted from abroad will also be put in place to tighten up the
procedures under the Adoption (inter-country aspects) Act

Children available for adoption should only be adopted
by parents who have been properly assessed and approved as
adopters. These regulations will make it an offence for a British
resident to bring a child from another country into the United
Kingdom for the purpose of adoption unless they are already
approved adopters. Penalties would be imprisonment for up to three
months, or a fine of up to £5,000, or both.

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