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Coffee House

Tim Loughton versus the adoption bureaucracy

22 December 2011

10:39 AM

22 December 2011

10:39 AM

Parliament has decamped for midwinter, but the business of government goes on. Today’s
announcement, by the children’s minister Tim Loughton, is contained within a Times article here. ‘An expert
panel,’ it reveals, will be tasked with designing a new system for assessing prospective adoptive parents by March next year. That new system, making it easier for suitable folk to adopt,
should then be in place by the end of 2012.

In many respects, adoption is perfect Cameroonian territory; being, as it is, at the intersection of social responsibility, family, deregulation, etc, etc. But politics isn’t what should concern us
here. A lot of unmitigated good can be done in fixing a system that has been strangled and subverted by years of bureaucratic interference. As David Cameron put it in his most recent party conference speech:

‘Today I can announce this: a new focus on the 65,000 children in care. Do you know how many children there are in care under the age of one? 3,660. And how many children under the age
of one were adopted in our country last year? Sixty. This may not seem like the biggest issue facing our country, but it is the biggest issue for these children. How can we have let this happen:
we’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.’

The question is whether the government will choose to sweep the current system away, or try to finesse it. Paul Goodman’s observation
that ‘guidance issued over ten years ago to remind local authorities that seeking ethnic matches should not delay adoption has not been followed by many local councils,’ suggests to me
that a initial dose of transparency and naming-and-shaming could go a long way.

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