Twice as many children looking to be adopted as families willing to adopt

The number of children waiting for adoptive homes in the UK outnumbers prospective adopters by more than 2:1, according to new figures. Marking the start of National Adoption Week (14th-20th October), this data was released by the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board to highlight the urgent need for more families who are willing to adopt to come forward.

Authorities have concluded that 4,140 children across England should be adopted, however, there are only around 1,700 families approved to adopt and waiting to be matched with children. Looking at nine regions of England at the end of December 2018, there were 2,760 children where a placement order had been made for adoption, but they have not yet been placed.

According to the data, the groups most likely to struggle in finding adoptive parents are children from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, children with disabilities, older children, and sibling groups:

  • more than half are waiting to be adopted with siblings (57 per cent);
  • more than a quarter are over the age of five (28 per cent);
  • one in five are from a BAME background (20 per cent); and
  • four per cent have a disability.

Research from last year found that almost a third of all children waiting to be adopted in England were from a BAME background. Chief Executive of the adoption agency PACT, Jan Fishwick, explained:

“It’s a sad reality that some children have fewer options when it comes to finding adopters for them. These children are often referred to as ‘hard to place’ or those that ‘wait the longest’ of these, BAME children and Black boys, in particular, are a group that are often overlooked.”

BAME adopters twice as likely as white families to adopt

Fostering and adoption charity, Home for Good, found BAME adults are more than twice as likely to consider adoption than white adults (21 per cent versus 10 per cent). Interviewing more than 8,000 UK adults, the research discovered half (50 per cent) of white adults would not consider or explore adoption, while only 27 per cent of BAME adults would rule adoption out as an option. This falls even further to just one in five (20 per cent) Black adults who would not consider adoption.

Despite these results, there is still a significant shortage of BAME adopters. The charity’s research found BAME adults were more likely than white adults to worry about issues surrounding adoption, including:

  • What family and friends might think;
  • The government and authorities looking into their history;
  • How they would be treated by social workers;
  • Financial implications and space at home; and,
  • Parenting challenges that adopted children might pose.

Who can adopt?

According to Adoption UK’s Adoption Barometer 2019, four out of five adopters would recommend adoption. Despite this, there are around 2.5 children waiting for every approved adoptive home. With more than twice as many children waiting to be adopted as there are families willing to adopt, there is a clear focus on potential adopters in this year’s National Adoption Week for England, with a social tagline of #YouCanAdopt.

In England and Wales, anyone over the age of 21 years old can adopt a child. While you do not have to be a British citizen, you (or your partner) must have either:

  • A fixed and permanent home in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man; or,
  • Lived in the UK for at least one year before you begin the application process.

The adopter does not need to married or in a relationship, and sexual preference does not get taken into account. In 2018, single parents applying for adoption reached a record high at 962; an increase from 904 in 2017 and 875 in 2012. According to the latest family court statistics, adoption orders by same-sex couples accounted for 12 per cent of all adoption in England and Wales during 2018/19. In the year to end March 2018, 400 children were adopted by single adopters, and 460 were adopted by couples of the same-sex.

People who already have their own children can also adopt and are allowed to adopt more than one child at a time.

The only automatic exclusion from adoption in England is if you, or a member of your household, have a criminal conviction, caution for offences against children, or for serious sexual crimes.

One of the most crucial factors a potential adopter must ask themselves is whether they can be patient and flexible with a child, empathise with them, and make them feel safe and loved.

Contact our Adoption & Child Law Solicitors

If you are considering adoption, it is always recommended you speak with a professional child lawyer to get expert legal advice about the adoption process in England. Do not delay and get in touch with a member of our qualified team today by calling 01256 595482 or completing the online enquiry form.

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‘Unsustainable’ number of teens in care in England

Children’s Commissioner for England, Anna Longfield, has confirmed the care system is struggling to cope with the growing number of teenagers. The number of children in care aged 13 and over has risen 21 per cent since 2012/13; this compares with those children five years old or under which has dropped 15 per cent in the same period.

During 2017/18, one in four children in care were aged 16 or over, and two in five were between the ages of 10 and 15. According to the statistics, older children are six times more likely than those under 13 to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, with nearly half living in privately-run accommodation.

The Children’s Commissioner’s 2019 Stability Index found that teenagers in care are a lot more vulnerable than younger children. Compared with those who are 13 years old and under, teenagers in care are:

  • Seven times more likely to have gone missing from home;
  • Six times more likely to have experienced child sexual exploitation;
  • Five times more likely to have been involved in gangs; and,
  • Four times more likely to have been misusing drugs.

Additionally, older children in care are more likely to have vulnerabilities that require specialist or intensive support. Teenagers are 10 times more likely than younger children to have been attending a pupil referral unit, and 50 per cent more likely to have a statement of special education needs or an Education, Health and Care Plan.

Anne Longfield commented:

“The new norm is shifting so that fewer babies and very young children are being taken off parents who cannot cope. Instead, it is teenagers who are being taken into care because they are experiencing issues… and parents [are] unable to protect them.”

More than half of children in care have moved home at least once in 3 years

The report, which provides an annual measure of the stability of children’s lives in care in England, confirmed 52 per cent of children moved home at least once in three years; three in 10 moved at least twice, and one in 10 children in care moved four or more times.

The proportion of children experiencing several placement moves ranged from four per cent to 20 per cent across local authorities, while the proportion of children in care experiencing a mid-year school move ranged from four per cent to 22 per cent. According to the latest report, there has been a slight reduction in the proportion of children who have had a change of school during the academic year; from 13 per cent in 2016/17 to 11 per cent the following year.

During 2017/18, around one in 20 (3,200 children) experienced a home move, a school move as well as a change in their social worker. A further 13,840 children in care (roughly one in five) experienced two of these changes. From 2016/17 to 2017/18, there were 7,100 children who experienced all of these changes; calculating at around one in seven of those who were in care.

There were nearly 500 children who experienced multiple placement changes, a mid-year school move and numerous changes in their social worker during the 2017/18 period, and close to 4,500 children who experienced two of these changes.

Less than three in 10 children in care experienced no change of home, no school move and no change of social worker through the year, while only one in six did not experience any of these changes in a two-year period.

Change in social worker

Released on the 1 August 2019, this year’s Stability Index found more than 45,000 children in care (or roughly three in five) had experienced at least one change of social worker in the year, while more than 20,000 children in care experienced two or more changes. In the space of two years, more than half of children (55 per cent) experienced two or more changes of social worker, while 32 per cent experienced three or more.

The proportion of children experiencing several changes of social worker ranges from zero to 51 per cent. Children in care are more likely to experience multiple social worker changes in any one year in those local authorities that have:

  • Higher rates of agency staff;
  • Higher rates of social worker turnover; and,
  • Higher social worker vacancy rates.

Anne Longfield concluded on the findings:

“There are an increasing number of teenage children in the care system and too many of them are ‘pin-balling’ around the system. In one local authority, 20% of the entire children’s services budget is being spent on just ten children. This is completely unsustainable.”

Contact our Child & Family Lawyers

Child Law Partnership represent children in care and our qualified child law solicitors will work hard to ensure the child’s welfare is at the forefront of everything we do. Do not delay and contact us today by calling 01256 595294 or completing the online enquiry form.

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Concern families could be left unprotected as cohabiting couples continue to rise

According to official figures by the ONS, the number of Brits cohabiting has increased 25.8 per cent in the last decade; the fastest growing family type across the UK.

Of the 19.1 million families in 2018, married and civil partner couple families represented two-thirds (67.1 per cent) of all family types; a drop from 69.1 per cent recorded a decade ago.

3.4 million (or 17.9 per cent) of all families were reported as cohabiting last year; a significant rise from the 2.7 million cohabiting couple families (or 15 per cent) in 2008. This was closely followed by 2.9 million lone-parent families (15 per cent of all UK families).

Sophie Sanders, spokeswoman for the ONS, explained:

“While married couple families remain the most common, cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type as people increasingly choose to live together before, or without, getting married.”

Same-sex couple families more than doubled since 2008

Following the introduction of same-sex marriages in March 2014, there has also been a rapid growth in same-sex marriage couple families. The number of same-sex couple families has increased substantially in recent years, with an increase of 53.2 per cent (from 152,000 to 232,000) in ten years. The most common same-sex couple family are also cohabiting, however, the proportion of these family types have declined from 59.6 per cent in 2008 to 50.4 per cent in 2018.

1.5 million cohabiting couples without a will in the UK

Despite many cohabiting couples believing they can divide assets in the same manner as those who are married or in a civil partnership, ‘common law marriage’ is a myth. With an increasing number of cohabiting families forming across Britain, Helen Morrissey, Corporate PR specialist at Royal London, raised concerns that many families could be left financially insecure should their relationship end:

“The number of people choosing to cohabit is outstripping that of those choosing to marry. What many of these couples don’t know is that while they will live together and often raise families together like their married counterparts, they don’t have the same rights.”

Recent statistics from Royal London revealed that 5.4 million UK adults did not have a will in 2018 (accounting for 54 per cent of the population). This means that around 1.5 million cohabiting couples were left unprotected, with no legal right or entitlement to their partner’s estate, if one of them passed away last year.

Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, the surviving person can make a claim for reasonable financial provision from the estate. It should be noted there is only six months from the date that the grant of administration is issued to bring a claim against the estate.

Professional Legal Advice on Cohabitation Agreements in Portsmouth & Salisbury

Currently, the Cohabitation Rights Bill – which would provide certain protections to cohabiting couples – is in the early stages of passing through Parliament. However, while cohabiting couples are still not granted with automatic legal rights, couples can minimise financial risk by either creating a will or cohabitation agreement. Our solicitors at Child Law Partnership can assist with creating a legally binding cohabitation agreement – similar to a pre-nuptial agreement for those who are not married – to deal with potential issues that can arise from separating, such as property and assets.

Contact our Cohabitation & Family Lawyers

If you are in a cohabiting couple, is imperative that you know your rights should the relationship breakdown. At Child Law Partnership, our family lawyers are experts who can provide you with highly qualified legal advice to ensure you are protected no matter what happens in the future. Contact our dedicated team today by completing the online enquiry form.

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Surrogacy law consultation asks whether parents should get automatic parental rights

The Law Commission of England and Wales and the Scottish Law Commission have called for ‘archaic’ surrogacy laws to be updated to better support the surrogate and intended parents while prioritising the child in question.

The proposals include allowing intended parents to acquire legal responsibility for a surrogate child when the child is born, rather than applying through the courts. Other proposals included launching a national register that allows children born through surrogacy to access information about their genetic origins.

What are the current laws surrounding surrogacy?

Under current legislation, a new parent must apply for a parental order or adoption to become the legal parent of a child born via surrogacy. In order to do so, an intended parent must be genetically related (either as the egg or sperm donor) to the child.

The parental order must be made within the first six months of the child’s birth; however, the Law Commission has argued that it ‘doesn’t reflect the reality of the child’s family life’ as the process itself can take months to complete.

Chair of the Law Commission, Sir Nicholas Green, commented:

“More and more people are turning to surrogacy to have a child and start their family. We therefore need to make sure that the process is meeting the needs of all those involved.

“We think our proposals will create a system that works for the surrogates, the parents and, most importantly, the child.”

With the number of children born via surrogacy 10 times higher than it was a decade ago, the consultation – Building families through surrogacy: a new law – asks the public how surrogacy laws could be improved to reflect current family circumstances and support everyone involved in the surrogacy process.

Questions surrounding the kinds of payments that intended parents should be permitted to make to the surrogate will also be reviewed in the consultation.

The consultation, which closes on the 27th September 2019, can be accessed here.

Contact our Surrogacy Solicitors

Whether you are an intended parent or a surrogate, it is important to gain legal advice to ensure you fully understand the surrogacy process before entering into an agreement. Get in touch with Child Law Partnership Child & Family Lawyers today via the online enquiry form.

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Rising number of parents adopt children who had a ‘tough start’

New research from Adoption UK questioned 3,500 people as to what motivated them to adopt. Although more than half of parents (58 per cent) adopted a child due to fertility issues, for 42 per cent of parents, infertility was not the primary factor.

The charity’s experts discovered that an increasing number of parents were motivated to adopt “a child who has had a tough start”. The data found that around three-quarters of all children adopted from care in the UK were removed from their birth parents due to abuse or neglect.

Director of public affairs at Adoption UK, Alison Woodhead, found that parents’ willingness to take on a child with a traumatic past is taken “far more seriously than their age, marital status or sexual preference”.

According to other statistics, nearly a quarter of parents (24 per cent) identified that “adoption was my first choice for starting a family”, while 17 per cent said their motivating factor was that they had a connection to adoption in their family.

While it a dated misconception that the only reason behind adoption is infertility, the stereotypical family unit of a ‘middle-age, middle-class, married couple’ has also been diversifying. Recent figures have found that single-parent adoptions reached a record high in the UK last year at 962; increasing from 904 in 2017 and 876 in 2012.

Ms Woodhead, who became a single-parent adopter back in 2011, concluded:

“When I adopted it was still not that common for or people to talk about a single adoption like it was a completely normal thing to do, and now it’s changed radically – there’s no barrier.”

Contact our Adoption Lawyers Guildford, Reading & Salisbury

If you are considering adoption, or wish to better understand the adoption process in England, it is imperative you speak with a specialist family law solicitor. Contact our qualified team today by completing the online enquiry form.

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Expert panel to review child protection in domestic abuse cases

Ministers have announced a panel of experts will be providing recommendations on how the family courts can better protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences. The panel will consist of senior members of the judiciary, leading academics as well as charities.

A public call for evidence will also be seeking views from those who have been directly involved in similar situations to share their experiences.

The three-month project follows on from concerned responses about how the family courts deal with potential harm to children and victims. Ministers now want to review how existing safeguards in the court process are working in practice and how best to strengthen them.

Measures have already been taken to improve the current system. The draft Domestic Abuse Bill, which was published at the beginning of this year, bans abusers from cross-examining victims in family courts. In February 2019, £900,000 was awarded to organisations that provide emotional and practical support to domestic abuse victims throughout their time in the family court. Additionally, £8 million of funding was announced to support children who are affected by domestic abuse.

The Government has confirmed the review will focus on:

  • How the courts operate Practice Direction 12J (when domestic abuse is a factor in child arrangement cases)
  • Reviewing the courts’ use of ‘barring orders’ which prevent further applications being made without leave of the court under the Children Act 1989
  • Gathering data on the impact of the child and victim where child contact is sought by someone alleged to have, or has, committed domestic abuse or relevant offences
  • How the family courts handle serious crimes (such as rape and child abuse) to ensure protections are in place for victims and their children

Paul Maynard, Justice Minister, concluded:

“Some of the most vulnerable in our society come before the family courts, and I am absolutely determined that we offer them every protection.

“The review will help us better understand victims’ experiences of the system, and make sure the family court is never used to coerce or re-traumatise those who have been abused.”

Contact our Child Law Solicitors Guilford, Portsmouth & Reading

At Child Law Partnership, the welfare of the child is always paramount, and we will place your children at the centre of everything we do. If you are looking for specialist leading advice from professional child lawyers, get in touch with our team today via the online enquiry form.

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£84m investment for new projects to keep children out of care

Marking the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, the government has invested £84 million for projects designed to strengthen and support families with children in and on the edge of care.

Up to 20 councils will receive funding to help improve their practice, reaffirming the 1989 Act’s central idea that, where appropriate, families should stay together and children should be brought up with their parents.

Where there are consistently high numbers of children being taken into care, the government’s Strengthening Families, Protecting Children programme will roll out the three successful projects to other eligible councils. The projects – which aim to build resilience among more vulnerable families and improve how councils design and run their services – were initially developed by Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire councils, all of which were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

The three projects that will be introduced into 20 new areas are:

  • Hertfordshire Family Safeguarding – With this particular project in place, Hertfordshire saw a 39 per cent drop in the number of days children spent in care.
  • Leeds Family Valued – Results from the project found Leeds managed to nearly half the number of children’s services Protection Plans in six years.
  • North Yorkshire No Wrong Door – Evaluation of the project revealed a 38 per cent fall in arrests of individuals during the first 18 months of the programme and a 57 per cent reduction in A&E visits.

Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, concluded:

“Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family and go through life confident that someone always has your back. But for too many children, this is simply not a reality.

“In the year that sees the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Act, we must stay true to its heart – that where possible and safe, children are best brought up, loved and supported by their parents.”

Contact our Child Law Solicitors Basingstoke, Guildford & Salisbury

If you need qualified legal guidance about a child law issue, or have a general query about family law in England, speak with a member of our specialist family law team today via the online enquiry form.

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New no-fault divorce law to end ‘blame game’

This week, Justice Secretary David Gauke pledged new legislation will be introduced where divorcing couples will no longer have to blame one another for their marital breakdown.

This reform follows on from the landmark Tini Owens case in which the Supreme Court ruled Ms Owens failed to demonstrate her relationship had broken down because of her husband’s unreasonable behaviour and could not divorce Mr Owens until five years had passed.

Changes to the outdated divorce laws would establish a minimum six-month timeframe for couples to ‘reflect’ on their decision and remove the ability to contest a divorce.

What are the current grounds for divorce?

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, spouses are forced to prove their partner is at fault through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour. If both parties agree to the divorce, they must be separated for two years. Where there is no fault or consent to the divorce, applicants are required to wait until they have been living apart for five years.

Ministers are acting to update the 50-year-old divorce laws after a public consultation found the current system works against any prospect of reconciliation, in addition to having a damaging effect on children by undermining the parent’s relationship.

Critics also believe that the fault-based system forces parties to accuse each other of bad behaviour if they do not want to wait years before obtaining a divorce.

The Justice Secretary stated:

“Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

The Ministry of Justice has said the new no-fault divorce laws will be introduced ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’.

Contact our Divorce and Family Lawyers Guildford, Portsmouth & Southampton

If you are considering getting a divorce in England, you need first-class legal advice and representation from a specialist divorce lawyer. Get in touch with Child Law Partnership solicitors today via the online enquiry form.

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Inquiry into missing Bristol boy treated as child abduction

Avon and Somerset police are treating eight-year-old Angelo Jurado-Marmolejo’s disappearance as a child abduction.

Angelo was reported missing when his father, Rafael Jurado-Cabello, failed to return him to his mother’s home after a pre-arranged visit on the 2nd March 2019. The police have confirmed that Mr Jurado-Cabello, a Spanish national, is “now in breach of a court order and is wanted on suspicion of child abduction” and believe that Angelo may have been taken abroad.

It emerged during a public hearing that Mr Jurado-Cabello had previously abducted Angelo after a half-term holiday in February 2017 and was not returned to his mother until the following month. A family court ruled that Mr Jurado-Cabello was “obsessed with negative feelings” towards Angelo’s mother – Karol Marmolejo – and that Angelo should live with his mother and spend time with his father.

To reduce the risk of Mr Jurado-Cabelo abducting Angelo for a second time, he was required to hand over his passport and Spanish identity card at the beginning of each visit. However, it is suspected he provided false travel documents when collecting Angelo from City Academy after football practice on the 2nd March.

Judge Nicholas Marston said:

“This is a very serious matter. I want to stress that although the parents are not from this country, Angelo is a little Bristolian boy.”

Detective Inspector Matt Lloyd, of Avon & Somerset Police, stated:

“Our immediate priority is to locate Angelo. We believe Rafael Jurado-Cabello may have taken Angelo abroad and we’re making further inquiries with the Spanish authorities to locate him as soon as possible.”

Det Insp Matt Lloyd went on to say that while there is no thought that Angelo is at risk of physical harm, “it’s the emotional separation from his mum and brother and his friends and family.”

Angelo’s parents are both Spanish and moved to Bristol from Spain in 2012. Detectives in the UK are currently working alongside the Spanish authorities in an attempt to find the young boy.

Contact our Abduction & Child Law Solicitors

For expert legal guidance and representation on child abduction, or if you have a general inquiry about any family issues, get in touch with our qualified child law solicitors today via the online enquiry form.

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