Legislation promises tighter controls and support to reach adoption targets

The Adoption and Children Bill began its
journey through parliament last week, heralding the biggest
overhaul of adoption law in over 25 years.

The latest version of the bill – which
succeeds the bill that fell in the run up to the General Election –
includes extra measures on adoption support services, such as a
registration system to ensure quality, and a “clear duty” on
councils in England and Wales to maintain such services.

The bill also promises stronger measures to
stop people adopting from overseas without going through proper
assessment and approval procedures, as well as tougher penalties if
they get around the safeguards, according to the Department of

Adoption organisations have welcomed the
publication of the bill, which will receive its second reading in
parliament next week. “Anything that ensures support services are
available and functioning has got to be a good thing,” said
Adoption UK director Philippa Morrall.

But legislation alone would not result in the
extra staff and resources needed to meet the government’s target of
a 40 per cent increase in adoptions by 2005, Morrall added. “There
needs to be a public awareness drive. The public does not have an
understanding of what modern adoption is,” she said.

Other key provisions in the bill include: a
new right to an assessment for adoption support for all adoptive
families; an independent review mechanism for prospective adopters
who have been turned down; allowing courts to set timetables to cut
delays in adoption court cases; and the introduction of special
guardianship orders.

Health minister Jacqui Smith said: “The
adoption register and the national standards introduced earlier
this year are key to transforming the adoption process and
achieving this target, but an overhaul of existing adoption law is
vital to enable us to match many more children with a safe and
loving family who will support them throughout their childhood and

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