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New Clause—(Removal Of Infants On Refusal Of Adoption Order)

Volume 466: debated on Friday 24 June 1949

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Where any person applies to the court for an adoption order under the principal Act and the application is refused, then, if the infant in respect of whom the application is made is in the care and possession of the applicant, the court may, if it thinks fit, make an order for the removal of the infant to the care and possession of his parents or guardian or any suitable relative or friend who is willing to undertake the care of him, or, if no such person is available, the court may, in the case of an infant under seventeen, make an order for his removal to the care of the appropriate local authority for the purposes of section one of the Children Act, 1948.—( Mr. Somerville Hastings.)

Brought up and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House will be familiar with the fact that when an adoption order is refused by a court it is usually because the proposed adopters are unsuitable, or the conditions in which they live are not suitable for the upbringing of children. In such a case the difficulty then arises of what should happen to the child. I think it would be the wish of everyone that when an adoption order is refused for good reason, the child should be removed from the care of the proposed adopters as quickly as possible.

This Clause suggests machinery by which this might be done. I daresay it will be urged that machinery already exists under Section 7 of the 1939 Act, which is incorporated in Clause 5 (3) of this Bill. That, of course, is true, but from actual experience, as I am informed by those who are engaged in this work, it is a difficult process. The matter comes before a court of summary jurisdiction, and it is difficult to prove that the conditions under which the child lives in the care of the proposed adopters are not very desirable. The legal process is long and relatively complicated, and it is suggested that if this could be carried out more expeditiously through the machinery of the juvenile court it would be greatly to the advantage of the child.

I think I can meet the views of Members opposite in this matter to a large extent. My answer to the case they make is two-fold. First, as the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) said, the difficulty is met already in a large part, and, second, consideration will be given to certain further Amendments which, I think, should satisfy him. The position is this: it is important to make certain that where an order is refused the child shall be placed under proper care. The effect of Clause 5 (3) of the Bill is that not only after the refusal of the adoption order, but at any time after the welfare authority has been notified of the intention to apply for an adoption order, the authority may apply to the court of summary jurisdiction for an order for the removal of the child to a place of safety until other arrangements can be made for it, i.e., by receiving it into care under the Children Act, or restoring it to parents or relatives, or by taking care and protection proceedings under the Children and Young persons Act. Further, if there is a fear of imminent danger to the child's health or well-being application can be made to a single justice of the peace.

The other part of my answer is this: I am assured that consideration will be given to an amendment of Section 7 of the 1939 Act so that a juvenile court refusing an adoption order may have power, then and there, to hear an application under that Section. While I can only say that it will be considered, I feel that in the circumstances the difficulty foreseen will probably be overcome.

In view of what has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield), and his hopes for further amendment of the Bill, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.