Legislate at haste, repent at leisure
by Karis Rae, Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer, TACT
The Queen’s speech confirmed what those in the sector already knew: that the Coalition Government would be continuing their drive to speed up adoption by addressing the family court system and by placing further emphasis on speedy adoption matches. As well as wanting to reduce the perceived emphasis placed on racial matching of children and their potential adoptive families, they have introduced adoption scorecards.
As TACT have stated, it is absolutely right that the adoption system can be improved. Race is, of course, a factor in adoption. It is important to try and find a family who will support and identify with a child’s cultural heritage. However, with so many people in the UK having multiple heritages, finding the perfect ‘match’ could be impractical and cause delays. Race, therefore, is important but only one of several key factors.
TACT is concerned that the introduction of scorecards to rate the number of adoptions taking place in local authorities places excessive emphasis on speed. Scorecards should be no more than an indicator of where there might be concerns, not a benchmark by which the whole system is judged. As an adoption agency, TACT is aware that children who have multiple and complex needs are likely to take longer to place. There is a concern that councils will become averse to placing these children for adoption for fear of delays this might cause.
Rather than focusing on the areas of greater political interest, the Government should ensure sufficient attention is paid to the more mundane- but vital- area of post adoption support. This currently falls far short of what is needed, and can make families concerned about the seeking a final adoption order if the consequence is the removal of adequate support. The combination of rushed adoption and insufficient post adoption support has the potential to be a social time bomb.
If the adoption system is to improve, an objective assessment of how to do this is needed rather than fixing on a couple of aspects that pander to media headlines. TACT welcomes the commitment to improving the family courts system and the adoption system as a whole. However, the Government should be wary of allowing racial matching and scorecards to dominate the adoption debate at the cost of more pertinent issues.