Articles on adoption

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Articles on adoption

Postby Marina » Sun Jul 01, 2007 8:19 pm


U.K. ... opt101.xml

System taking hundreds of babies for adoption

By Andrew Alderson, Ben Leapman and Tom Harper, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 2:01am BST 02/07/2007

Campaigners are to renew an attempt to open up the proceedings of family courts, after figures showed that the number of babies aged less than one week being removed from their mothers has risen almost three-fold in a decade. More than 900 are now being taken and put up for adoption every year.

Adoptions of very young children spiralled after targets were set in 2000

Until last month, it looked as though the system would undergo a significant overhaul. Ten days ago, however, Lord Falconer, who was then the Lord Chancellor, seemed to have crushed an attempt to make family court hearings less secret.

Now, with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister and Jack Straw as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, legal campaigners are newly optimistic of forcing a change.

Sarah Harman, a solicitor who has specialised in family law for nearly 30 years, said she would step up her fight to open up proceedings. Ms Harman is the elder sister of Harriet Harman, the new deputy leader of the Labour Party and leader of the Commons. Harriet Harman was Justice Minister until last week's Cabinet reshuffle and has supported her sister's campaign.

The total number of children aged under a year taken into council care in England before being adopted has also risen, by a similar rate, from 970 in 1996 to 2,120 last year, figures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph show.

The increases come after the Government set targets for adoption in order to cut the number of children languishing in foster care.

Family courts in England and Wales hear 400,000 cases a year, mostly divorces and child custody hearings following divorces. In 20,000 cases a year, councils apply to the courts to remove children temporarily from parents who are abusive or neglectful, often because they are addicted to hard drugs.

The courts also rule on bids by councils to put removed children up for adoption, which is irreversible. Yet, while criminal cases must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, family courts take decisions on the balance of probabilities and unlike criminal courts, cases are heard in strict secrecy. A mother whose child is taken from her commits an offence if she tells anyone outside a tiny, approved list of people.

John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, who wants more openness in family courts, said of the latest adoption figures: "We are seeing a massive growth in the forced removal of newborns from their natural parents. Babies are being taken into care merely to satisfy government adoption targets."

In 2000, Tony Blair set a target for councils to increase adoptions by 50 per cent. Town halls were promised cash rewards for reaching their goals. Critics claim that the target has given social workers a perverse incentive to break up more families. Mr Hemming said: "There are clearly masses of miscarriages of justice, but ministers want to prevent parents from campaigning against them by preventing these parents from talking about their children after a case.

"This is fundamentally wrong. The secrecy in the family courts acts generally to protect misbehaviour by some professionals, rather than to protect children."

The new figures show that, while adoptions of the very young have spiralled, those for children aged seven and over have halved in England, from 100 in 1996 to 50 last year. Figures for Scotland and Wales are not available.

Campaigners were given new ammunition last week by the case of Mark and Nicky Webster, who fled the country to have their fourth baby after they claimed they were wrongly accused of child abuse and had their first three children taken into care four years ago.

Mr Webster, 34, and his wife, 26, from Cromer, Norfolk, were told they could keep their fourth child, Brandon, aged 13 months, after Norfolk County Council withdrew proceedings to take him into care.

The couple had fled to Ireland for Brandon's birth before challenging their county council. Their other children were taken into care after one of them suffered unexplained leg fractures. The council has now conceded that the injuries might have been caused by vitamin deficiency. It said it was no longer relying on the evidence which had suggested that the fractures were the result of abuse.

The Websters are angry that because of the secrecy surrounding their earlier proceedings, the case would not have become public had it not been for their successful fight to keep Brandon. They accept, however, that they will not get their other children back because they were adopted two years ago.

Under the current law, reporters and members of the public cannot attend family court hearings, see documents, review evidence or obtain copies of judgments.

Sarah Harman said: "Social services are the only department other than MI5 who undertake their work in complete secrecy. It's not the welfare of the child that is being protected, it is the welfare of social workers. This cannot be justified.

"Family courts work for the community and should be more open. Family courts are very reliant on expert witnesses and there have been some real concerns about some of this evidence being poorly researched and unreliable." In 2004, she and others set up Families Action for Court Transparency and Openness (Facto).

Facto was formed a year before Ms Harman was found guilty of "conduct unbefitting a solicitor" for passing confidential court papers to her sister. She was suspended from practice for three months and resigned as a part-time judge. The papers related to a client whose daughter was taken into care after alleged abuse. Ms Harman had not revealed the identity of the parent or child to her sister but was punished after it was decided she had misled the court.

Others seeking partial reform of the family courts include Sir Mark Potter, the president of the High Court's Family Division, and Mr Justice Munby, a senior judge. Sir Mark said: "I share entirely the concern about complaints of secret justice and lack of openness which I really believe the public would be assisted in forming a view about if there were more publicity available. The press seems to me to be the best safeguard of whether propriety is being observed."

Mr Justice Munby said: "The balance currently held between the confidentiality and privacy interests of the parties and the public interest in open justice, is badly skewed."

Lord Falconer's refusal to lift the secrecy surrounding family courts surprised many when he revealed a new discussion document, "Openness in the Family Courts", on June 20. This proposed tighter restrictions on what can be said about cases. He admitted that there had been a change of mind after consulting many groups, particularly young people. "The clear message was that the media should not be given an automatic right to attend family courts as this could jeopardise children's rights to privacy and anonymity," he said.

David Holmes, the chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said: "Social services do not take children into care to be adopted unnecessarily. It is dangerous to suggest that this is happening.''

Last edited by Marina on Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Mon Jul 02, 2007 1:26 pm

. ... 6&ito=1490

Councils making millions in incentives after snatching record
numbers of babies for adoption


Last updated at 09:04am on 2nd July 2007

Councils are being offered bonuses of millions of pounds if they meet controversial State adoption targets.

Confidential figures obtained by the Daily Mail show that £36million in 'reward grants' has been promised to English councils in an attempt by Labour to increase adoptions of children by 50 per cent.

The money-earning targets were introduced by Tony Blair in 2000 and were intended to lift more older children out of the care system.

But critics say it is the most 'adoptable' babies and children under four who are being removed in the biggest numbers.

Court battle: Mark and Nicky Webster won the fight to keep little Brandon

More than 900 newborn babies are now being taken from their mothers each year, a 300 per cent increase in little more than a decade.

The number of children aged between a week and a month removed from their parents has risen to 1,300 annually, a rise of 141 per cent in the same time.

In the past two weeks alone, eight newborn babies have been taken from their mothers at hospitals in Newcastle and North Tyneside.

The number is so high there are not enough foster parents in the area. One baby - thought to be the ninth taken from its parents - is being cared for in a special hospital unit because there is no foster home available.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has demanded an explanation.

He said: "We are seeing a massive increase in the forced removal of newborns. Babies are being taken before they can even be breastfed. Social workers are seizing very young children on the flimsiest of excuses and giving them to other families.

"This smacks of social engineering on a grand scale. The offer of monetary rewards for meeting the targets has created a frenzy among social workers. There are council targets for recycling rubbish and now targets for recycling children."

Figures prepared by the Department for Local Government and Community Cohesion show that two councils - Essex and Kent - were offered more than £2million over three years to encourage additional adoptions.

Four others - Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Cheshire and Hampshire - were promised £1million in extra funds.

Critics say very young children are specifically selected - even before birth - by social workers to get the bonuses. It is believed that 1,000 each year are wrongly taken from their parents.

Last week a court ruled that a couple whose first three children were taken for adoption should keep their fourth, now a year old.

Abuse allegations against Mark and Nicky Webster turned out to be false. But they will never see their three lost children again because adoptions are irreversible.

Despite the cash inducements, adoptions of older children - the very ones who were meant to be helped - have dropped dramatically.

The number of over-sevens adopted in England has fallen from 100 in 1996 to 50 last year out of a total of 5,400 adoptions.

Beverley Beech, of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services - a body which advises new mothers - said: "The Government is denying that social workers are targeting babies for adoption.

"But the desperate calls on our helpline from pregnant women who have already been told by social workers, for no good reason, that they will lose their babies immediately they are born, or from mothers of new babies taken for adoption, prove these denials are not true."

Campaigners also want an opening up of family courts, where adoptions are overseen in utmost secrecy. Parents are warned that if they tell anyone - even their closest family - what goes on they could face prison for contempt of court.

Family law solicitor Sarah Harman, the sister of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, said: "It's not the welfare of the child that is being protected - it's the welfare of social workers".

North Tyneside Council said last night: "In the past few weeks steps have been taken to protect six babies at serious risk of significant harm. In all cases the mothers have frequent contact with their babies and are encouraged to breastfeed."

Newcastle Council confirmed that two babies had been removed during the same period.

Last edited by Marina on Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:25 am

. ... opt108.xml

MP bids to lift secrecy in family courts

By Ben Leapman and Andrew Alderson
Last Updated: 11:36pm BST 07/07/2007

A legal bid to lift the secrecy surrounding children taken from parents and put up for adoption has been launched by an MP.

John Hemming claims to have details of 90 cases where mistakes were made in family courts, whose hearings are held behind closed doors.

He has applied to the High Court for permission to pass details to watchdogs -- including the General Medical Council, Solicitors' Regulatory Authority and the Bar Council. If turned down, he is threatening to disclose the information in the Commons under Parliamentary privilege.

Mr Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: "We know that there are cases where children are wrongly removed from their parents and put up for adoption. This, however, is far more common than people think. It is important for an MP to be able to speak about injustice. "

The Sunday Telegraph revealed last week that judges, senior lawyers and politicians have relaunched attempts to open up family court proceedings to more scrutiny - even though Lord Falconer seemed to have crushed the move less than three weeks ago, shortly before stepping down as Lord Chancellor.

Campaigners said they have renewed hopes of bringing about change under Gordon Brown's Government.

The current law means reporters or members of the public cannot attend family court hearings, see documents, review evidence or obtain copies of judgments.

Last week's article led to a huge response from readers. One, who wrote in anonymously, said a female relative took her daughter into hospital only to be accused of abusing the girl.

The accusation led to a second child, born weeks later, being taken into care almost at birth. The mother was cleared of abuse but the children have not been returned because they are "settled".

Sarah Harman, sister of Harriet, the Labour Party deputy leader, and others formed Families Action for Court Transparency and Openness (Facto) three years ago in an attempt to open up the family courts system.

Other leading figures have backed the campaign, including Lord Justice Wall, a senior Court of Appeal judge. He believes that allowing the media to report proceedings would help rebut accusations that the family justice system was secretive. "I find it unacceptable that conscientious magistrates and judges should be accused of administering 'secret justice'."

Family courts in England and Wales hear 400,000 cases a year, mostly divorces and child custody cases. However, in some 20,000 cases a year, local councils apply to remove children from parents on the grounds that they are abusive of neglectful.

Concerns over secrecy were heightened two weeks ago by the case of the Webster family from Cromer, Norfolk. Mark Webster, 34, and wife, Nicky, 26, were told they could keep their fourth child Brandon, aged 13 months.

The couple fled to Ireland to have him after claiming they were wrongly accused of child abuse and had their first three children taken into care four years ago and later adopted.

Norfolk county council withdrew proceedings to take Brandon into care after conceding that injuries to one of the couple's other children might have been caused by vitamin deficiencies. The authority said it no longer relied on evidence which suggested that leg fractures were caused by abuse.

New figures show that more than half of all children taken into care below the age of five end up being adopted. Statistics released by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that last year, 4,160 under-fives were taken into care, while 2,490 were adopted.

Critics claim that targets set by Tony Blair to increase the number of adoptions, intended to cut the number of children languishing in foster care, have given social workers a perverse incentive to seize more children, a claim strongly disputed by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.

Do you know of a victim of injustice resulting from the secrecy in the family courts system? If so, please email us at [email protected] We will not identify individuals without their consent and will publish only those details permitted under law.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 10, 2007 5:20 pm

. ... 395&z=2&p=

NAPLES: The Naples adoption worker who admitted to keeping a child from Guatemala for herself has changed her plea to guilty.


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