Paid an interesting visit today to the Catholic Children's Society adoption agency in St. Judes. Had a really useful discussion about its role in placing children with adoptive families, and how local authorities and the courts have to strike a balance between taking the time to gather enough evidence to ensure that adoption is justified (i.e. where a child is taken away from its family for its own protection) and not delaying for so long that it affects the child's well-being. She gave the example of a child born in 2007 who entered the care system at 5 days old. The adoption proceedings are not scheduled to be brought before a court till December 2008, so the child will have been in a temporary foster placement for the first year of her life. Obviously, as it now seems sure that the child will be placed for adoption, you could argue that the case should have been fast-tracked and all the formalities completed much earlier. But what about those cases where the birth mother is, for example, addicted to hard drugs but has promised to kick the habit for the sake of her new-born baby? Or where the mother has mental health problems, but is undergoing treatment or therapy? Or where the mother is in an abusive relationship, but people are trying to persuade her to break free? How long do you wait? We've all read horror stories about children being taken away from parents without good cause, but we've also all read about children suffering harm because they've been left with families when they should have been removed much earlier.
The issue I expected to raise its head, the Sexual Orientation Regulations, didn't. (These, inter alia, prohibits adoption agences from discriminating on the grounds of sexual orientation, so they can't refuse to take gay/ lesbian couples onto their books). The local Catholic diocese and the CSS took the decision last year that they would comply with the legislation, which is good.