Although not formally confirmed yet on the Department of Education website it is reported in Community Care that “Former Barnardo’s chief Martin Narey will be tasked with encouraging “sceptical” social workers to see adoption as an option for more children in care in his role as the government’s first adoption tsar.”
I’m all for permanence for children who cannot return home, but did nobody learn from the adoption targets episode and predict that this is precisely the kind of thing that will confirm the impression in people’s minds, peddled by many activists, that there is a system bias in favour of removal, adoption, “baby snatching”? This sort of soundbite initiative will have an untold impact on the ability of parents to engage constructively with professionals regarding concerns about their care of the children – parents could be forgiven for seeing everything as a step towards the end game of adoption. And there are those who will do their utmost to encourage that view. In order to promote adoption, it seems to me this initiative may play a part in the more chronic erosion of public confidence in the family justice system, and the care system in particular.
We don’t need Tzars to beat “soft-touch” social workers into shape, to “persuade” them of the rightness of adoption. Based on my experience, I’d say there is no shortage of social workers ready to recommend adoption at the drop of a nappy. We do need to make changes in the system though to speed up adoption where it is appropriate, such as by taking a sensible look at the regulatory framework for placement proceedings and adoption panels. And we may need to enlarge and broaden the pool of potential adopters in order to speed up the matching and placing process. But why does that require a jazzy title exactly? (Perhaps, taking a leaf from certain other campaigners, the Tzar will don a ridiculous costume in order to curry attention for his cause?)
Community Care also reports that “It was today confirmed that The Times has commissioned Narey to produce a special report on adoption and that he will be known as the ministerial adviser on adoption.” Initially I thought that must have been a typo, and that it meant to say that The Times has confirmed that the Dept of Education has commissioned him. But apparently not so – if I read the Community Care articles correctly The Times is to be heavily involved in the active promotion of adoption, presumably to tackle a shortfall in prospective adoptive parents. Not sure how this squares with the now ancient history of The Times campaign for open family courts, which was, as I recall it, rather critical of removals of children which took place in secret.
I’m presently rather bemused about this whole story, and awaiting the official announcement in the hope that it will produce some clarity. This short post is my gut reaction to the limited information available – I welcome views on whether other people had a similar or different initial response.