Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.



Adoption Target

July 18, 2011 permalink

The British government under Tony Blair believed that adoption was the cure to the ills of foster care and established incentives to encourage local authorities to increase adoptions. The result was not to adopt foster children, but the seizure of adoptable babies from good homes to meet the adoption targets. Here is a chilling recording of a social worker informing Martin and Vanessa Brookes of the planned seizure of their unborn baby: text recording (wmv). The Daily Express has an article on the topic, followed by an analysis by Birmingham MP John Hemming. The government claims the targets were abolished in 2006, it was really 2008, and they are still in force in some places. The technically literate Mr Hemming debunks many of the phony numerical claims by the government.




Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie’s death sparked action

AT LEAST 10,000 young children have been dragged from their families and needlessly adopted due to a flawed target at the heart of Government, it was claimed last night.

Vulnerable children were handed over in their thousands under a New Labour crusade driven by artificial adoption targets.

A top Oxford academic yesterday branded the policy as Tony Blair’s worst mistake.

The expert in social work who did not want to be named said: “Forget the Iraq War. “Blair’s adoption target was the reason I left the Labour party.” Last night backing came from MP John Hemming, who said the policy led to the unnecessary adoption of 1,000 children every year.

He claims the target set 11 years ago was flawed from the outset because it contained a fundamental error of maths and he has called for a full Parliamentary inquiry to prevent further damage.

One victim who had a 15-month-old baby taken from her and two siblings broke down in tears as she told her story to the Sunday Express, saying: “When you’re reliving it like this, it’s still as raw as the day it happened.

“It was like my heart was ripped out.”

Mr Hemming, who chairs the Justice for Families campaign group and exposed footballer Ryan Giggs’s misdeeds in Parliament, insists a “corrupt and secret” family court system shrouds adoption in silence and away from proper scrutiny.

Mr Blair introduced the controversial adoption formula in the wake of the abuse and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in north London in 2000, ordering a 50 per cent increase in the number of youngsters placed for adoption from care, and doling out more than £20million to councils as incentive bonuses to meet his aim.

Mr Hemming an Oxford-educated science scholar, said those rewards caused many social workers to go hunting for children from broken homes who could then be pushed through the care system into adoption.

Children were ripped not only from their parents, but also frequently separated for ever from brothers and sisters.

Though the target was dropped in 2006, Mr Hemming believes it caused a lasting change in social worker behaviour.

He said: “Tony Blair meant well when he introduced the adoption targets, but he and many others misunderstood the statistics.

“This is a really big issue. It involves corruption in the courts and legal system and a complete failure of our child protection system, which concentrates on getting children adopted rather than protecting them from harm.”

He said the formula was distorted because instead of comparing the flows of children in and out of care over a whole year, it focused on a random, meaningless snapshot by examining the picture on a particular annual date, March 31.

He said this meant people were duped into believing that barely any children were being taken from care and placed for adoption, when in fact the opposite was the case and there was, essentially, no problem to fix.

Between 1995 and 1999 about 2,000 children, most of them under four years old, left care for adoption each year. As the adoption target kicked in, those numbers rose to 3,100 in 2001, 3,400 a year later and peaked at 3,800 in 2004 and 2005, before settling at about 3,200 over the last two years.

Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, conceded targets were wrong but added: “Look at the figures: there were 22,000 adoptions in 1974. Last year, there were just 3,200. We have to make it easier for people.”

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said yesterday: “This Government has no intention of setting any new targets. Decisions about whether to adopt a child must be based on what is best for the child.”

Source: Daily Express (UK)

The Adoption Target and its effect today

The Sunday Express today has a story about how over a thousand children each year continue to be wrongly adopted as a result in part of an error in calculating the adoption target.

There is a lot of misinformation spread by civil servants (and parroted by ministers) about the adoption targets.

Each English Council with childrens services responsibility had a specific local target known as BV PI 163 or PAF C23. (Those are "Best Value Performance Indicator" or "Performance Assessment Framework".)

This was calculated as the number of children adopted from care each year by that local authority as a percentage of the total number of children that had been in care for at least 6 months as at the 31st of March of the same year. (The years go from 1st April to 31st March same as the financial years).

All local authorities had specific funding to encourage adoption and some also had financial rewards from the government for hitting their local target.

From April 2006 the adoption target was redefined to be a permanence target which included Adoption, Residency Orders and Special Guardianship orders.

This was scrapped from 1st April 2008.

The target, therefore, had the effect of skewing local authority decision-making up to and including the year that ended in 31st March 2008 (which is called in the stats 2008).

The first government lie is to pretend the target only lasted until 2006. It was redefined in 2006, but lasted until 2008.

Some local authorities (eg Merton) still have such a target. These targets, however, are not nationally agreed.

The mathematical error is to have as the numerator (children per year) and the denominator (children). This does not give a percentage. A percentage is a dimensionless number. This gives a dimension of (per year).

The problem is that it was generally thought that the proportion of children being adopted was in fact relatively low when it was far more common.

An example of this error of thinking can be seen in Ofsted's APA of 2008 or Alan Rushton's paper from 2007.

Outcomes of adoption from public care: research and practice issues written by Alan Rushton includes the following:

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to think that any wholesale moving of children from birth families into adoptive families is taking place. Adoption from care concerns just a small proportion (6%) of all looked after children in England (Department for Education and Skills, 2005) and so remains a relatively uncommon solution to the needs of these young people.

The problem is that the proportion is not a "proportion".

If we take all the children that left care aged under 5 in 2005 (4,200) we find that 2,100 were adopted. That is 50%.

Realistically as children get older they are less likely to be adopted. Those children that go into care above 10 are often those that do so because their parents cannot cope with their behaviour. It is, therefore, unlikely that they will be adopted.

In 1997 2,000 under 5s left care, but only 640 did so through adoption. That is a lower percentage (because a higher proportion went home to their parents). However, it is still 32% which is a lot more than the 6% figure that is quoted.

The argument that was put by the government is that they were dealing with children "languishing in care". Superficially you could say that there was an increase in the number of children leaving care and those were those which ceased languishing in care (again looking at those aged under 5). However, you find in fact that the difference between the number taken into care and that leave care still remains at about 2,000 per year (although 2010 was in fact 2,800).

What you find, in fact, is that when the pressure for adoptions started (which was actually earlier than the adoption target) that the numbers taken into care also increased. There are anecdotal reports of local authorities looking for potential adoptees (called by some practitioners adoptible commodities).

Hence what was a laudable objective was based upon a misunderstanding of the statistical picture. Furthermore there is a continuing problem.

Practice has not substantially changed although there has been a relatively small drop of in permanence numbers (which includes a higher reduction in adoption numbers, but still to a much higher position than pre the adoption target).

As far as the under 5s are concerned the 2010 figure was 2,000 compared to the 2005 figure of 2,100.

Furthermore we now have the nonsense from Martin Narey who compares the historic numbers of theoretically voluntary adoptions (in an era before better contraception, abortion and changing social attitudes led to large numbers of babies being born inconveniently and being adopted) to those forcibly removed from families through the use of some corrupt experts and a legal environment which is biased against non-institutional parties.

The Government Minister is also calling for more adoption from care without having any evidence base to identify which children it is that need to be adopted.

There is undoubtedly a big problem with reactive attachment disorder. This appears to be caused at times by babies being removed at a very early age and then getting insufficient personal attention.

Whether this policy will be shifted before enough of the people who have been through it create an outcry is unclear. A lot of damage is being done - particularly to the children - by a policy based on mathematical errors and a lack of intellectual rigour in policy setting.

The real flaws in the decisionmaking remain hidden, however, by the secrecy in the system and desire to protect the backs of those people who earn money from the system.

Source: John Hemming