Clause 41 - Child to live with adopters before application

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:00 pm ar 29 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 3:00, 29 Tachwedd 2001

I placed the interests and needs of the child at the beginning of my response. As has been suggested, we must bear in mind that agency placement may be appropriate if there is a strong desire and approval for it to be taken. We propose a reduction from 13 weeks to 10 to overcome some of the possible causes of delay that have been mentioned.

We believe that it is in the child's interests to ensure that, for something as significant as adoption, the child and the applicant have a proper opportunity to establish a relationship that will justify the making of an application to adopt. We believe that that extends also to relative applications. That is why the 1996 draft Bill proposed introducing a three-year residence requirement for non-agency adoption cases. That was generally supported in the consultation on the Bill. It is broadly consistent with the provisions of the Children Act governing applications for residence orders where anyone with whom the child has lived for three of the past five years is automatically entitled to apply. We believe that it is right that those periods should be brought into line. However, as with foster care applications, subsection (6) allows for the court's leave to be sought to make an earlier application, which will allow for cases where there is a particular reason why the general approach should not apply.

Members of the Committee are rightly concerned about safeguards. Subsection (7) provides that in any adoption case the court is not to make an adoption order unless it is satisfied that the adoption agency, or local authority if it is a non-agency case, has had a proper opportunity to see the child with the applicants in their home. That will ensure a proper assessment of the suitability of the adoption can be made.

I have made a compelling argument for the Government's belief that, in difficult adoption cases, one size does not necessarily fit all. The distinctions between agency and non-agency adoption routes need to be recognised, as do the different circumstances of various cases. I hope that the hon. Member for North Dorset will withdraw the amendment.