Government U-Turns on Adoption Drive

This is really good news, and thanks to Natasha at Researching Reform for calling out the proposal as illegal, and helping to force this climb down! Researching Reform 24 Jan 2020

The government’s acting Children’s Minister, Michelle Donelan, made a dramatic U-turn on Wednesday over a policy pushing adoptions for children in care after this site published a post explaining the proposal was illegal.

Donelan had asked all councils in a letter sent on January 16, to prioritise adoptions in every child protection case, and to ignore court judgments which approved alternative forms of care.

The proposal was met with strong resistance by several key stakeholders inside the child welfare sector, including fostering agencies who were concerned that the policy would lead to a reduction in business for foster care agencies.

Children’s charities and child welfare professionals with no vested interest in fostering or adoption also expressed concerns that the minister’s demand was out of touch with reality, and overly simplistic.

But on January 22, Donelan released a video statement through the Department of Education’s (DfE) Twitter feed, expressing a different view.

In the video, the acting Children’s Minister, who is filling in for Kemi Badenoch while she is on maternity leave, said that all forms of care should be considered, including kinship care.

Donelan also unveiled a new project in an answer she gave to a written question sent to the House of Commons on January 23, which asked what recent assessment the DfE had made on the effectiveness of contextual safeguarding.

Answering the query, Donelan announced that the government had been looking at this issue in a pilot to test “contextual safeguarding theory”. Contextual safeguarding examines the way councils respond to vulnerable children who may be being exploited outside of a family setting. She confirmed that the DfE had given Hackney Council up to £2 million to work on the project.

The pilot has been running since 2017, and focuses on phenomena like county lines exploitation and is led by Professor Michelle Lefevre at the University of Sussex, Dr Carlene Firmin from the UoB Contextual Safeguarding team, as well as Professor Gillian Ruch and Dr Kristie Hickle from the University of Sussex.