Mark Lancaster is the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes North.
The adoption action plan was published two months ago now, allowing councils and charities new freedoms to speed up the process, resulting in more placements and less delays. The much needed changes include casting the net wider for adopters by using the national Adoption Register, and a ‘fast track’ process for previous adopters looking to expand their family. But the action plan specifically addresses ‘tackling delay’; surely this is just one of the obstacles we face in placing more children in loving families.
How can we get the message out to individuals and couples across Britain that adopting is a wonderful way to build a family, and is not simply for those who cannot conceive?
This attitude, that ‘adoption isn’t for me,’ presents a bigger challenge in making a dent in the number of children currently in care. This is not an easy task. How do we change the very entrenched view that children in care are somebody else’s problem? Adoption may no longer be the taboo subject it once was, but there is certainly still a general lack of embracement.
The importance of family, in its many forms, is a central tenet of our party’s policy. David Cameron has powerfully declared that families are the most important thing in our country’s life. Potential adopters need to know that when making the decision to adopt, they are going to be supported throughout. This means improving the provision for post-adoption support.
Financial incentives have also been suggested as a way to encourage people to adopt. It will help parents to access the high levels of support often required by adopted children. Payments to foster carers have long been in place, yet it is adoptive parents who have the lifelong task of shaping a young person, and should be awarded similar allowances.
In order to promote the adoption cause, the message needs to move away from adoption being an exception, but rather that it is exceptional. Making sure that there are families for children is part of our social responsibility; not just as politicians and as a government, but our national responsibility.
The government doesn’t just support this but is actively promoting it. The proof will be not in how quickly somebody can adopt, but how many more people come forward.