The Times have launched a campaign (£) this week for more children in care to be placed for adoption.
In a leader (£) The Times says:
Only one in 15 children aged more than 5 is now being taken out of care.
This is an monstrous blight on young lives. And it is one that has been made worse by the culpable indolence of some local authorities, increasing reluctance among social workers to accept adoption as the right solution for those who have suffered abuse and an insidious political correctness that erects barriers of race, age and cultural compatibility to prevent thousands of men and women offering a new chance to children languishing in care.
The operation of an informal age limit by some local authorities is a scandal. In many parts of the country, children taken into care when their fifth birthday is in sight are not even considered for adoption. The thinking — if that is what such pernicious dogma can be called — appears to be that by the age of 5 children have already formed an attachment to their natural parents, and that adoption, by severing this link, can cause emotional difficulties. It is certainly the case that children exposed to abuse or neglect for five years may exhibit more emotional damage, and that placements of older children fail more often than the adoption of babies. All the more reason to move swiftly.
This campaign is greatly to be welcomed. It is very much in line with the Government's thinking. The difficulty is that the ideological prejudices of the social work profession are deeply ingrained. So guidelines will not be enough. In the US it is illegal to delay placing a child for adoption on grounds of race. At present thedelays to secure an ethnic match are routine in Britain. This problem is then linked to the problem highlighted by The Times this morning. Say you have a three-year-old boy in care. A decision is made to place him for adoption. But they can't find an "ethnic match." So they readvertise and try again. Another six months delay. One of his social workers then says that achieving an ethnic match is rather problematic and that a white couple should be allowed to adopt him. Much deliberation. Then the boy has reached his fifth birthday and so the social workers decide he is too old to be adopted by anyone.
It is quite useless relying on persuading the social workers to change such procedures. It is naive to imagine they will suddenly jettison what is deeply instilled from years of training on the basis of reading a speech by Tim Laughton, or a Times leader, or a Conservative Home blog posting.
The law needs to be changed to prohibit what are currently some entirely routine procedures.