Contact and plans to keep siblings together or to place them separately are key and complex parts of the child welfare system. When decisions are made about these issues, the child’s needs and long term welfare must be our primary concern. We need to ensure that this drives policy and practice.
Contact Arrangements for Children
We welcome the fact that the call for views recognises that most children in care come into care for short periods and are soon reunited with their families and that most children who come into care are not adopted. It is absolutely right for all these children to maintain contact with their birth families where it is safe for them to do so. In our experience for children who are adopted contact can be an important way for those children to maintain positive links with members of their birth family and may even help them to settle into their adoptive home. However, any contact arrangements after adoption will have a different purpose than for those who are returning home to their families and it is important that legislation and policy and practice encourage a clear assessment of what is right for the child and will assist the child in establishing themselves in their permanent families.
BAAF has however, been advocating for a change in practice in relation to the level of contact that is being agreed for some babies and children – daily contact sessions in some cases often accompanied by long journeys – this cannot be good for children and is contraindicated by research. For this reason we particularly welcome the suggestion that statutory guidance should be strengthened to ensure that more consideration is given to the purpose of contact for infants. Indeed contact for all children needs to be purposeful and should only be agreed when it is in the best interests of a child.
We look forward to responding to the call for views on behalf of our membership.
Placing Sibling Groups for Adoption
Again we welcome this call for views. The decision whether or not to place siblings together or apart for adoption is one of the most profound decisions that a local authority can take. It is a decision that will impact upon a child and their siblings for the rest of their life although for some children we agree that separate placements will be the right decision. It is a decision that must always be taken with great care and on the basis of sound assessment evidence.
BAAF’s greatest concern in this area is that we do not have enough adoptive families in the system that are ready and willing to adopt children in sibling groups where assessment has established that it is right for them to be placed together. This problem is getting worse.
We know of many adoptive families who have successfully adopted sibling groups and we hope that this call for views will provide a springboard for national awareness raising work about the need for more prospective adoptive families for children in sibling groups to come forward. There are currently hundreds of sibling groups waiting for adoption in England but we believe that there are also hundreds of families who could adopt and keep these children together and if given the right support would find great rewards in doing so.
Again we look forward to responding to the call for views on behalf of our membership.
David Holmes, Chief Executive