By Paul Goodman
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Some local authorities concluded long ago that children of one "race" (whatever that is) should only ever be adopted by a couple of the same one: modern political correctness thus came full circle to join South African apartheid. According to today's Sunday Times, the number of adoptions has fallen by 8% since 2007 – and just 60 babies a year are being placed permanently with families, compared with four thousand in 1974.
The paper cites these figures in an interview with Martin Narey, the former Barnardo's Chief Executive and David Cameron's adviser on adoption. Narey says that some councils aren't following guidance from Labour issued as long ago as 2000; that Michael Gove has reminded them that seeking ethnic matches should not delay adoption – and that action is now required.
If councils haven't responded by the end of the year: "then my advice to ministers … will be that they will have to go beyond guidance … possibly to legislation". Narey points out that in some American states it is illegal to take account of ethnicity in adoption – "and trans-racial adoptions are hugely successful there".
He's not only seeking to ensure that white couples can adopt black children. He also wants to ensure that smokers and the obese aren't barred from adopting, either – echoing the call of Tim Loughton, the Minister responsible, who proclaimed during party conference: “If you smoke, come forward.” Gove has a special interest in the subject, having been an adopted child himself.
The fact of the matter is that children who need homes and security (many of them black) are being thwarted by ideology and dogma – expressed in the form of multiple visits from social workers and health and safety forms. These are the means by which the bureaucracy uses its muscle to bully and browbeat people who want nothing more sinister than to adopt a child.
This is an interesting test case of the limits to localism. Should local authorities be free to pursue racist doctrines if they wish? Or should central government step in? My view is that the main victims aren't the couples. Let alone the system. They're the children in need. Gove and Loughton shouldn't hesitate to act further if their latest guidance proves unsuccessful.