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Adopted Children

Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

3. What steps he is taking to improve outcomes for adopted children in (a) Enfield North constituency, (b) London and (c) England. (145454)

Adoptive families can struggle to get the help that they need, and I am determined to change that. We have already announced measures that give adopted children rights to priority schools admission and free early education, and we are introducing an “adoption passport” so that adoptive families know about their entitlements. Further measures in the Children and Families Bill are aimed at tackling delay and improving outcomes for adopted children, including children in Enfield North.

Is the Minister aware that the children of adoptive adults who have died without locating their biological families are often left in a quandary, as they are unable to gain access to vital information about their parents’ families, including information about hereditary medical conditions? What steps will he take to rectify that? Will he agree to meet me to discuss this important matter, in which the British Association for Adoption and Fostering is taking an interest?

My hon. Friend is right to raise what is indeed an extremely serious and important matter. We must think carefully about the information that adopted people have to find out about their parents’ families, particularly when there may be hereditary medical problems. I know that the matter was referred to the Law Commission in 2010, but we must do more work to establish how we can ensure that more information can be provided when it is needed. I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend and discuss the matter in more detail.

Given that adoption is sadly never likely to be the solution for all looked-after children, may I ask the Minister what measures he is introducing to ensure that children in foster care or residential care homes also manage to bridge the attainment gap?

The hon. Gentleman is right: we need to consider all routes of permanency for children who go into the care system. There is no inbuilt hierarchy, although we know that adoption is a very successful route for many—we think more—children. Through the Children and Families Bill, we are trying to improve the educational attainment of children in care by introducing a statutory duty for local authorities to appoint a virtual school head, whose remit is specifically to try to improve the educational attainment of children in the care of local authorities so that the outcomes are better and they have the prospect of a fulfilling adult life.

Having visited on Friday a remarkable lady who both is an adoptive mother and advises Kent county council’s adoption panel, may I say that the measures the Minister has announced over the past year are extremely welcome but that the overriding need is to speed up the court processes, which are still much to slow?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why, under the Children and Families Bill and the work we are doing with the Family Justice Board, we are trying to drive every element of unnecessary delay out of the court process and are bringing in a 52-week maximum limit on the time a care case should take to ensure that, where there is an opportunity for a child’s adoption placement to be made permanent, that happens sooner rather than later and they can get on with their life and form those all-important attachments with their new family.