Teen pranks stop couples adopting

COUPLES WHO want to adopt or foster children are being refused because of juvenile pranks they committed decades previously.

Regulations introduced to protect children from abuse at the hands of foster parents state that any prospective parent who has been convicted of a crime against a child cannot even be assessed, whatever the nature of the crime and however old the conviction. Adoption agencies are now lobbying for the right to use discretion in these cases, after a series of cases emerged in which "otherwise suitable" parents have been barred.

In one case, a Teesside couple in their mid-30s have been told they cannot adopt because the prospective mother shot one of her friends with an air rifle 20 years ago, when she was 15. The incident happened when Andrea Kelly and her friends were playing in local woods. She caused a minor injury, was convicted of assault and charged pounds 25.

Susan Rayner, director of Durham Family Welfare (the agency assessing the couple's application) has drawn the Department of Health's attention to the case. "You could say [she] was careless or even reckless of her friend's welfare," she says in a letter to the department. "She could hardly, however, be described as a child abuser. It does not seem fair or just that she should be arbitrarily prevented from becoming an adoptive parent."

The Protection from Offenders regulations were introduced in 1997 after the conviction of Roger Saint for the abuse of children in his care between 1976 and 1989. Saint sat on South Clwyd's foster care panel, despite a conviction for child abuse in 1972.

The regulations state that if an applicant or a child in his/her care has been convicted of a specific offence against someone under the age of 16, he/she cannot adopt. Ten similar instances have come to light and the Conservative MP Julian Brazier wants the issue examined within an adjournment debate.

Other cases include a Nottingham couple who were barred despite having fostered many children before. One of the children was accused of causing actual bodily harm and cautioned after pushing another child into a hedge. In Derbyshire, another couple were barred because their son, then 14, had been in a fight and was convicted of actual bodily harm four years earlier.

Miss Kelly, 35, and her partner, Nigel Turner, 34, had been through three courses of IVF treatment over six years before deciding to adopt. After four one-day preparation groups they received their first home visit from assessors at Durham Family Welfare.

"They said something had come up on the police check and looked a bit worried," said Miss Kelly. "When we filled in the application form, it mentioned convictions and I thought `surely they can't mean that'. I telephoned the local police station and they said that under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act we didn't have to disclose it."

On the day in question in 1979, said Miss Kelly, she and other children were shooting with air rifles. "I saw one of the boys climbing a tree and aimed at him," she said. "It broke the skin and caused a bruise and his mother pressed charges. It's difficult to comprehend. If I had been taking pot shots at old ladies I would have been all right."

Now the couple are resigned to having no children unless the regulations can be changed.

In her letter, Ms Rayner states: "The issue for us is that this couple are being denied even an assessment of their suitability. While I accept the intention of the regulations is to protect children from abuse, in not allowing discretion they are preventing otherwise suitable people from becoming parents."

Mr Brazier, MP for Canterbury, said: "It is important to have statutory curbs on those involved in child abuse but juvenile pranks should not be caught up in that, especially since we hear there is a lack of suitable parents."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living