High Court Judge calls for fresh approach to adoption

fostering and adoption

It may no longer be possible to create an “impermeable seal” around adoption, a High Court Judge has suggested.

In a lecture given to the Family Justice Council yesterday, Appeal Court Judge Lord Justice McFarlane said the high rate of adoption in the UK, particularly amongst older children, combined with the pervasive nature of social media posed real challenges to the care system. Older adopted children carried stronger memories of their birth families and were more likely to be traumatised as a result he noted.

“The difficulties facing adopters and adopted children in this regard have been made significantly more difficult … with the ever-increasing facility to trace and make contact, in an uncontrolled way, with individuals over the internet or via social media”.

Facebook and similar sites have caused, the Judge claimed, an “erosion in the hitherto impermeable seal around the adoptive placement”.

As a result, His Lordship suggested, it may be necessary to “raise the question of whether our model of adoption continues to be as valuable to each of the individuals concerned as we have hitherto held that it is”.

The Judge was critical of adoption practices in the UK, which has a high rate of forcible adoption when compared to other countries.

“Magistrates and judges up and down the country on every day of the week are making these highly intrusive draconian orders removing children permanently from their natural families on the basis that to do so is better for the child and that ‘nothing else will do’. But, I ask rhetorically: ‘How do we know this is so?’”

Approximately 20 per cent of all adoptions involve children over the age of four, he noted, and some involve eight year-olds or even older youngsters. Adoptions at an older age leads to a higher rate of placement breakdown and such youngsters are also more likely to spontaneously try and make contact with their birth families via Facebook and similar services, and experience disruption and upset as a result. This, said the Judge:

“…seems a long cry from the sunny upland of a happy, settled, secure future with a ‘forever family’ which has been the traditional goal of those making adoption orders to date”.

His Lordship also cited widespread ignorance about the nature of the family court system, believing this leads “some parents to disengage entirely from the process, refuse to be assessed by independent experts, dispense with the expert lawyers freely provided by the state and, in some extreme cases, flee with their children to Ireland, France or further afield.”

Lord Justice McFarlane’s speech was entitled Holding the risk: the balance between child protection and the right to family life. Read it in full here.

The Family Justice Council is a legal advisory body sponsored by the Ministry of Justice.

Image by Keoni Cabral via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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6 comments

keith - March 10, 2017 at 3:29pm

I’ll make it simple for Justice McFarlane.
Abolish Forced Adoption, as that is the True Draconian nature of child protection in this country and the sooner this happens the better for all involved, including the Tax payers Millions that continues to pour down a bottomless pit!

CB - March 10, 2017 at 5:07pm

How can parents or Grandparents engage, within these courts, when they are not allowed to engage? have no idea what the accusations are, where they came from by whom, initial instructions, JUST ANSWER THE QUESTIONS,, in my grandsons case, QC [name edited], I will do the neglect case later, well there was no later, without any argument in the court, A) the childs name was changed to the name of a child that has never existed, B) Not one ounce of truth that sat within the hospital he had been taken to, for investigation into his many problems since his breech, starved of oxygen birth, (head not growing) stays hidden to date.
Possibility and Probability case of a child falling from his mothers arms onto a tiled kitchen floor, something that had never happened and was never reported to the hospital, how many other cases have been done this way? Lambs led to the slaughter

Mike Cox - March 12, 2017 at 12:00am

My goodness, such heresy – he’ll be suggesting evidence-based decision-making next!

Stephen - March 30, 2017 at 12:54pm

I think that the era of closed adoption, secrecy, long term confidentiality agreements, false life stories, cover ups of the truth, and faked sibling death stories are going to be a thing of the past.

Where I think we are going to go from here:

* Training and education to help struggling parents reduce abuse, neglect, and bad parenting practices and help them turn their lives around.

* Youth will be given accurate life stories using age appropriate vocabulary. How you explain a difficult situation like divorce, child abuse, bad parenting, permanent disability, financial problems, substance abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, criminal activity, etc to a 2 year old is going to be different from a 6 year old, from a 12 year old, etc. There will be no cover up of the truth till age 18. With social media, it is no longer safe to tell a kid lies about why they were taken away.

* Adoptive parents will should be informed in writing that sealing adoption records, changing a child’s name or surname, etc may not fully cut off a child’s contact with their birth relatives, siblings, or former friends, especially those of older children, nor can it force letterbox only contact. As a child gains more computer skills, the amount of adult control of contact may wane due to social media and internet searches and the child’s ability to remember their past increases.

* Youth, especially older youth may get a voice in the level of contact they want with their birth parents due to social media.

* To provide safety, youth will need to be taught the blocking tools on social media if they want to cut off their contact with one or more relatives.

JamesB - March 30, 2017 at 2:44pm

It is not right or good enough to not protect children. They are not able to look after or protect themselves. Given that and that the evidence is not available without cctv in a lot of homes and there will be problems. Perhaps the answer is in fostering and supervised contact before adoption as a last resort if the parent or parents cannot reach the standard required by the experts.

I have sympathy for both sides of this argument, the social worker side as it is such a difficult job, the other side as having your children taken away is horrendous.

More of a society thing than a them and us thing which can stop parents asking for help. If was more helpful intervention, then perhaps I would have two sisters now and not just one and perhaps I would have more teeth. No I did not have great parenting when growing up.

Also quite like the cardboard box they give out in Finland, we should do that here also. Still, infant mortality is a lot lower than it was however good to make it even better.

keith - March 30, 2017 at 6:01pm

i wouldnt be surprised if at least 60% of all Adopted children were unlawfully pushed through the system with no thought to adoption as a last resort.
i know this to be true as it happened in our case via a bunch of very dishonest people dealing with the case.
lies and corruption is definitely going on. the problem is not whether parents are telling the truth but more a case that nobody wants to investigate.

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