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Cllr Harry Phibbs: Improving adoption rates

Phibbs_harry_2Harry is a Hammersmith and Fulham Councillor.

Congratulations to Conservative Home for launching this new section.  We have too many arm chair generals in our Party grumbling about how David Cameron and the Shadow cabinet should be taking a tougher line on cutting tax, or fighting crime or raising school standards but at the same time ignoring the considerable power that we already have in local government to make a difference in these and other areas.

One of the most important tasks of a local councillor is as a "corporate parent" to the several hundred children in care that each Council looks after. But are we doing a good job? Statistically the answer must be: "No." Vast amounts are spent but the life chances are dismal. Getting more children out of institutional care and adopted into permanent loving homes is not easy - but it is critical.

So I regard being on the Adoption Panel - with its fortnightly Wednesday meetings preceded by the heart rending telephone directory sized reports that come thudding down before each one, as the most important thing I do.

Frequently problems such as crime and disruptive pupils in class are caused by 'Looked After' children.  Despite the dedication of social workers and foster parents the harsh reality is that the state makes a bad parent. It also makes for a phenomenally expensive one. How many of those Councils that insist it is quite impossible for them to reduce the Council Tax have made a serious effort to increase their adoption rates?

In 2005-06 only 12 children were placed for adoption in my local Council. In the last year the number more than doubled to 25, including 11 in the new category of Special Guardianships which is recognised by the DFES as equivalent to adoption. Adoption transforms the life chances of the child compared to be brought up in care.

Together with improved preventative measures and the decrease in teenage conception this means that the number of children in care fallen over the past year from 393 to 373. There is a target to place 45 children from adoption this year.

Political correctness needs to be confronted by Tory councillors rather than deferred to - especially when it is particularly black children who are perversely denied loving homes in the name of Political Correctness. It is a great pity that statutory requirements prevent us from having an entirely "colour blind" approach to adoption. But while looking for an ethnic match is a requirement we are quite entitled to balance this by the need to be flexible and avoid delay. Any Conservative Council worthy of the name should ensure that this is the approach adopted by its Social Services department.


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