Letter: Adoption rules are too strict

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THE AUTOMATIC ban on any person adopting a child who has a conviction of an offence against a child, even when acquired when they themselves were a juvenile, was introduced by this government in September 1997 ("Why can't we be parents?", Real Life, 22 August). This was in the wake of the conviction of Roger Saint, an adoptive parent and foster carer, for sexual offences against children in his care. It was revealed in court that social workers had exercised their discretion in disregarding a conviction for indecent assault 25 years previously. The Government decided it was unsafe to leave discretion about previous offences in the hands of social workers.

It became apparent to BAAF and others in this field that the net of exclusion had been drawn too widely and that children thriving in placements with prospective adopters or foster carers would be severely disadvantaged and have to be moved to comply with the legislation. BAAF supported an application for a judicial review of the "Protection Against Offender Regulations 1997", pointing out some of the deficiencies of the regulations and the risk of reducing the poor adoptive parents and foster carers at a time when there was a shortage of suitable families.

While the application did not succeed, the judge said that "some discretion for the decision-maker" would be likely to assist in making the decision that would be best for the child on the facts of the case. He urged the Secretary of State to consult the President of the Family Division before reaching a final view on the terms of any amending regulations. Consultation took place in November 1998, and there was an indication that the regulations would be altered to make it possible for people with convictions or cautions for non-sexual offences commited when they were teenagers to be approved as adopters or foster carers, as well as other amendments providing flexibility. We are still waiting for the revised regulations which would allow Andrea and Nigel to become adoptive parents.


British Agencies for Adoption & Fostering, London SE1