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Britain Stops Paying Baby Stealers
January 21, 2008 permalink
Labour's adoption targets to be scrapped
A controversial policy offering cash rewards to councils for arranging "forced adoptions" of newborn babies is to be scrapped after its dangers were highlighted by The Sunday Telegraph.
Under the initiative, town halls compete for payouts of up to £36 million for increasing the number of children they remove from their natural families and place with adoptive parents.
The original aim of the drive, announced by Tony Blair in 2000, was to reduce the amount of time children spend languishing in council care before finding permanent new homes.
However, critics have claimed that the Whitehall targets give councils a perverse incentive to take more children away from their natural parents, rather than trying to find homes for hard-to-place children already in their care.
The decision to scrap the target was revealed in a consultation paper issued, without publicity, by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Entitled National Indicators for Local Authorities: Annex C2: Children and Young People, the document proposes 68 new targets to replace the present set. The adoption target is omitted, and will cease to exist when the replacement targets take effect in April.
John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of Justice for Families, welcomed the move. He said: "This target was part of the cause of massive injustices. I am pleased that the Government are getting rid of one aspect of a badly broken system."
This newspaper, in its "Stop the Secrecy" campaign, has highlighted cases in which babies have been removed from their natural families, on questionable grounds, at family court hearings held behind closed doors. Parents are threatened with imprisonment if they speak out.
In one case, a professional married couple had their baby taken because the mother had a history of mental illness and the father had been "confrontational" towards social workers.
Another couple were cleared of abuse but had both daughters taken for adoption.
One heavily pregnant woman secretly recorded a meeting with social workers in which they told her that her baby would be taken away, even though there was "no immediate risk to your child from yourselves''.
The number of newborn babies removed from their parents has almost doubled from 540 in 1995 to 1,400 in 2005/6. Yet the policy has failed to reduce the number of infants murdered, which rose in the same period from 17 to 24.
Although the number of babies adopted has risen, the numbers for older children -the ones the policy was meant to help - have gone down.
Critics claim that financial incentives encourage social services departments to target children who can easily be placed in adoptive homes, rather than those at the greatest risk. White baby girls with no health problems are in highest demand.
A spokesman for the Department of Children, Schools and Families said: "The Government has sought to ensure that children do not languish in care waiting for adoption. There is no case for new national targets."
Source: Daily Telegraph