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.

Read More

‘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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

£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.

Read More

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.

Read More

No evidence that children of single-parent households are negatively impacted, new study finds

A study conducted by Gingerbread – a charity supporting single-parent families – and the University of Sheffield, has revealed that the wellbeing of children living with a single parent is the same, if not higher, than those in a two-parent family household.

Key findings from the report

The study – named Family Portrait: Single parent families and transitions over time – was conducted over six years with more than 27,800 households with children examined. Released at the end of last year, the report measures the children’s wellbeing by looking at three key factors: ‘life satisfaction’, ‘feelings about their family’ and ‘the quality of relationships with peers’. On all accounts, the report concluded that there was no evidence that children’s wellbeing was negatively affected if they were living or have lived in a single-parent household compared with those living in two-parent families.

Children’s Wellbeing

The children in the study were asked to self-report on their wellbeing and rate their feelings on their family and peer relationships on a scale up to five.

For ‘life satisfaction’, children who had always lived with a single parent ranked higher than those who were in two-parent households. Children in single-parent families believed their life satisfaction sat at 2.22 out of 5. This was closely followed by those who had lived with a single parent at some point (2.19 out of 5) and then those living in two-parent households at 2.02 out of 5.

A similar pattern was revealed when asked how they feel about their family: those who had always lived with a single parent or had previously lived with a single parent were more positive – averaging at 1.71 – compared with those who had never lived with a single parent (1.54).

The final self-report saw children who lived in single-parent households have less problematic relationships among their peers than those in two-parent families. Children from two-parent households ranked peer problems at 4.62, followed by those who had always lived in a single parent family at 4.02 and then children who had previously lived with a single parent at 3.92.

Despite other data suggesting that 1 in 4 households are headed by single parents, the report noted around a third (32%) of families will have been a single parent family for at least some point over the six years examined. This concludes that single parenthood is much more common than is typically suggested.

1 in 7 single parents get married or cohabit

14% of single parents were reported to transition out of single parenthood by either getting married or cohabiting with a partner – and of these parents, almost three quarters re-partnered with the child’s biological parent.

The study looked at different family types over the course of six years and examined any changes in the family structure:

  • 84% of single parents due to bereavement remained single, while 16% re-partnered.
  • 94% of those married stayed the same, while 3% cohabited and 3% separated or divorced
  • 77% of those cohabiting remained in their living situation, while 11% married and 12% separated.

Consistent with official statistics, the study proved that cohabiting parents were the most likely family group to experience a change in their living situation. However, the report discovered that cohabiting was as important a route to marriage as single parenthood.

Professor Nathan Hughes from the University of Sheffield commented on the data:

“These findings have clear implications for how single-parent families should be understood, valued and supported. Stereotyping single parenthood as a problem is inaccurate and immoral.”

Chief Executive at Gingerbread, Rosie Ferguson, concluded:

“Our report with the University of Sheffield debunks myths about single-parent households and significantly, it shows that children are not negatively impacted if raised by a lone parent. What is important to a child’s wellbeing is the presence of positive relationships.”

Contact our Child and Family Lawyers Basingstoke, Salisbury & Portsmouth

For expert legal guidance about child issues, or a general query about family law, get in touch with our specialist family law solicitors today via the online enquiry form.

Read More

Damages for costs of raising a healthy child rejected

A man whose ex-partner had their embryos wrongfully implanted against his will has lost his appeal against the fertility clinic to be awarded damages for the pecuniary loss of bringing up his daughter.

The case ARB v IVF Hammersmith concerned a couple who had created embryos for use in their IVF treatment, but who separated before agreeing to begin the fertility treatment. Without the father’s consent, the mother had their IVF clinic breach their contract with the couple and implant some of the embryos, and she subsequently gave birth to a daughter. Eight years later, the father has lost his appeal to be awarded damages for the costs, past and future, incurred by bringing up the child.

Citing authorities including McFarlane v Tayside Health Board, the Court followed the precedent in tort that damages should not be awarded for the financial loss of raising a healthy child. The precedent is based on multiple contentious policy concerns, including recognising that the ‘blessing’ of a healthy child is such that it would be wrong to award damages for its existence.

These policy concerns have been met with resistance from some judges and academics, who argue that a child can be deeply valued and loved but still be financially expensive, and that the court should place the financial burden on the parties responsible for the wrongful conception, in this case, the IVF clinic who breached their contract.

Contact our Child Law Solicitors Reading, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Guildford, Salisbury & Southampton

If you need specialist legal advice about child law in England, get in touch with a member of our qualified team today via the online enquiry form.

Read More

Former top judge calls for the ban on commercial surrogacy to be lifted

Last week, Sir James Munby, the former President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, told the Mail on Sunday that he believes the ban on paying women to be surrogates should be lifted.

While it is legal for surrogates’ reasonable expenses to be paid, it is currently illegal to pay a woman to be a surrogate under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985. The law in the UK is therefore different to that in multiple foreign countries. Commercial surrogacy is legal in some US states, where the cost of commercial surrogacy generally ranges from $112,000-$146,500, according to Sensible Surrogacy, an American surrogacy programme.

Commercialising surrogacy raises important ethical questions, including whether or not it commodifies surrogates’ bodies. On the other hand, lifting the ban may increase the number of available surrogates, and so enable more families to have children.

Sir James cited a change in society which he believes legislators should adapt to, and said that he is in favour of a system of better regulation, rather than prohibition. Surrogates’ expenses typically range from £12,000-£18,000, and Sir James believes that it is difficult for a judge to determine what a ‘genuine expense’ really is.

Sir James also emphasised the importance of enabling older women to have children, and said that the increase in life expectancy justifies allowing women in their 50s and 60s to become mothers. Kim Cotton, the first surrogate mother in the UK, told the Independent in 2017 that she “couldn’t imagine not being able to have children”.

Contact our Surrogacy Solicitors Reading, Portsmouth & Salisbury, UK

For specialist legal guidance on surrogacy laws in the UK, or for a general enquiry about child law, get in touch with one of our friendly surrogacy lawyers today via the online contact form.

Read More