As a British Association of Social Workers member and having contributed to the BASW enquiry ‘The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights: An Enquiry’, I read with interest the report that was published in January 18th

The National Adoption Service for Wales (NAS) was created to improve adoption services in Wales. Just as NAS has been at the vanguard of redefining the arrangements for delivering adoption services in Wales, we have a key role in the evolution of adoption related practice.  

The BASW report touches on issues that are much wider than adoption agencies, setting out a range of issues that should be an ongoing focus for professionals working across social care – mainly for children’s services but for certain adult service teams too.  The report brings to the fore issues that need ongoing debate, particularly in relation to the use of adoption and in the role of social workers in listening to those who use adoption services.  These are the issues that have begun to be played out in the court arena leading to changes in the use of adoption as well as through the media with increasing challenge on many fronts.

Despite devolved government providing a differing policy context and the fact that the majority of views informing the BASW enquiry did not originate from Wales; these are also issues for Wales and its services.

Striking an appropriate balance between the state’s ability to intervene in family life and the inherent duty to support and help families to care for their children is essential. It is also vital to ensure that, where it is possible and in child’s interests, there is a presumption that they should stay with birth family. There must be services in place to enable this to happen.

The reality is, however, that an increasing number of children are the subject of family court proceedings because they are deemed to be at serious risk of harm. Current Welsh Government data shows a further 5% increase in the number of ‘looked after’ children in Wales during 2016/17.

It is important to recognise that for some children, a safe childhood that enables them to reach their full potential, can only be achieved in an alternative family. The many checks and balances that go into such decisions must be robust and we need to ensure that they work effectively for everyone. 

Permanence is the word used by children’s services when seeking to minimise the disruption caused by a child being unable to remain with their birth family and the subsequent, sometimes repeated, moves between care placements.  In adoption, permanence means providing children with an alternative, legal family. 

Adoption is on the statute books for children - to meet their needs and to give them an opportunity of a safe and positive upbringing. It succeeds for the vast majority of children placed with adoptive families. The fact that additional support may be required along the way as a result of its lifelong implications does not change that.

Adoption has and continues to change and evolve and the BASW enquiry asks important questions about its future as a form of permanence. Some children do well in other arrangements, we are increasingly aware that they are children with very similar needs.  This is why it is so important that there is a debate about the role adoption plays as part of the range of options available for children.  Each needs to be evaluated and be able to demonstrate its respective benefits through evidence based studies.  

In Wales, NAS has made strides in developing good practice and services but we know there is much more to do, including modernising services.   This work is taking place amid a shifting attitude to the role of adoption.  NAS can and will contribute to the debate about adoption reform, the role ethics plays in this and how the service continues to evolve within our changing society. 

Suzanne Griffiths

Director, National Adoption Service for Wales


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