Clause 83 - Overseas adoptions

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:15 am ar 11 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Robert Walter Robert Walter Ceidwadwyr, North Dorset 11:15, 11 Rhagfyr 2001

I hear what the Minister says, although I hope that she will forgive me if I was not paying full attention when the fire alarm sounded. She referred to clause 129, which states that

'''child', except where used to express a relationship, means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years''.

The definition of children in clause 83 includes those who were children when adoption was applied for. If my understanding is correct, the Minister is suggesting that it means a better deal for those—I hesitate to use the word ''children''—who are adopted abroad in cases where the adoption procedures are not completed by the time they turn 18. I acknowledge the validity of that point, but I am concerned about the fact that the legal niceties of an adoption procedure that is started in this country or abroad may not be completed before the child reaches the age of 18: in such cases, the child would have reached adulthood and would not in normal circumstances qualify for adoption. That would be relevant to inheritance law, which may require the procedures to be completed even if the child has already reached adulthood.

Let me try to explain why I am still perplexed by one point, although I shall go away and think about it. To turn the clause on its head, people could undermine an adoption, saying, ''We can still challenge this overseas adoption and the procedures in this overseas adoption because the child is older than 18.'' Although the child considered himself adopted, lived with his adopted parents and felt that they were now his family to all intents and purposes, some mischievous person could take a retrospective approach, saying that the child had only just reached the age of 18 and that something was wrong when he was 16 or 17 when the procedure

began. A legitimate adoption could therefore be challenged after the child reached adulthood, which was why I tabled the amendment.

The Minister's explanation of the drafting of the clause and the purposes it serves are acceptable. My only objection is that another person might try to use the definition of children retrospectively to undermine the legitimacy of an adoption on the grounds of something that took place when the child was a child and had to all intents and purposes been adopted, although all the legal niceties had not been completed because it was an overseas adoption. I would not want us to make a law under which a child might find his adoption undermined if all the legal niceties had not been completed. I remain concerned about the use of the definition in other circumstances, because a child who had reached adulthood might feel that his adoption had been undermined, even though it was perfectly legal in his mind and in the minds of the adoptive parents.