I would hope and expect that the Children and Families Bill will come
into law and help to reduce the number of children in care by
increasing the number adopted.
However it is a very modest, polite piece of legislation. It doesn't
banish political correctness. But it means that social workers who apply a
practical, common sense approach won't actually be prohibited. The
current law says that "due consideration" should be given to race when
placing children for adoption, while the interests of the child is
supposed to be paramount. Astonishingly the current law is routinely interpreted as not allowing, or very seldom allowing, transracial adoption. The reality has meant black children remaining
stuck in the care system rather than being placed with a white couple.
This remained the reality despite new guidance being brought in by Tim Loughton in 2011 that ethnicity should not trump other concerns.
Pleas to social workers that children would be better off in loving families than institutional care do not seem to have an impact. Although the new law will help good social workers to apply common sense and and get children adopted, I fear it will do little in constraining the ideological social workers who seek to thwart this.
Hopes that persuasion will be enough ignore the values deeply inculcated in social workers in their social work degree courses – which they are required to undertake to practice.
If you are going to oblige social workers to study Engels attacking the family as an oppressive instrument of capitalism, then don't expect them to prefer children being brought up in families than by the state. Least of all because a Tory Minister half heartedly suggests it.
The United States has gone further with the Multi-ethnic Placement Act in 1994 (tightened up in 1996). That prohibited any delay in placing a child for adoption on grounds of ethnicity. It also prohibited denying anyone approval to adopt on grounds of ethnicity.
A study concluded:
Since MEPA and its subsequent amendments became law, the adoption of black children by white couples has increased and the amount of time they spent in foster care decreased by four months on average between 2000 and 2004.
That is still much too high. Some of the fall may also be due to other factors as well as the policy change on transracial adoption. However the tough colour blind approach does seem to have delivered very tangible practical progress. Clear legislation did not allow wriggle room to those who wanted to put their ideological prejudice above the needs of the child.
I fear that the Children and Families Bill does allow that wriggle room – and that it will be taken.