Lessons of the twins’ case

The social services department at the centre of the internet
adoption twins case has highlighted the importance of following
procedures and working effectively with partner agencies in
wardship cases.

Head of Flintshire Council’s children’s services Karen Reilly
told Community Care that the case had “reinforced the need
to follow procedures carefully and ensure a team of professionals
is identified as quickly as possible to include health, police and
legal colleagues”.

She denied that practice had been influenced by media coverage
of the case of the twin girls adopted over the internet by Alan and
Judith Kilshaw, but admitted that social workers involved had found
it “particularly difficult at times to carry out their work in this
case in the full glare of the world’s media.”

Over the three months of the case, the council’s corporate
communications office received nearly 400 statement and interview
requests from up to 80 different news organisations.

Reilly advised social workers who might find themselves involved
in a similarly high-profile situation to plan carefully, record all
details of meetings immediately, and seek early advice and
involvement from the press office.

She added that the overall impact of the case on the department
had been positive because it had been seen to deal with it
successfully. It also highlighted the positive relationship which
exists between health, the police and social services.

“We have received positive comments from our peers,” she said.
“[Staff] are to be applauded for their professionalism and
composure throughout.”

Reilly said the case had not affected the department’s views on
inter-country adoption, and welcomed the new government guidelines
announced last week that bring into force two sections of the
Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999. These extend the duties
of local authority adoption services in England and Wales to cover
both domestic and overseas adoptions.

Commenting on the long-term implications of the experience on
the twins, who were six months old when they arrived in Britain,
Reilly said: “It is generally acknowledged that the importance of
early attachment and the harmful effect of broken attachments and
instability cannot be underestimated.”

The twins were returned to the US in April to the control of the
Missouri Court after high court judge Mr Justice Kirkwood ruled
against the children being returned to the Kilshaws.

Kirkwood also rejected claims from the Kilshaws that Flintshire
Council had acted improperly by placing the twins in foster care in
January while seeking to make them wards of court.

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