MP claims 1,000 children 'wrongly' adopted every year

Boy digging in sand Adoption rates are falling year on year

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A Liberal Democrat MP is claiming up to 1,000 children a year in England are being adopted for the "wrong" reasons and should stay with their families.

John Hemming says the threshold for taking children into care is also often too low.

He is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the secret court decisions that lead to many adoptions.

But his claims have been strongly disputed by the government's adoption adviser Martin Narey.

Both men have been giving evidence to the Commons Education Committee inquiry into child protection.

Mr Hemming, who set up the Justice for Families to help families who believe their children have been wrongly taken into care, said the child protection system was in "crisis"

He told the MPs that in two cases children were taken into care and later adopted when parents talked to their children in a manner that a court believed "undermined their self-esteem".

"Secrecy without accountability"

He also highlighted another case: "Somebody fails an assessment because mum puts a baby on a mat with another baby and that's deemed to be risky to the baby and that's just not on."

He says the threshold at which children are initially taken into care - when social workers "believe" there is a risk - is too low.

Start Quote

To suggest that a 1,000 out of 1,300 forced adoptions were inappropriate is I believe very misleading”

End Quote Martin Narey Government adoption adviser

Once a child is in the care system it often proved difficult for them to return to their parents.

He said too many were being "wrongly" adopted.

"I estimate it is about 1,000 a year based on looking at comparative statistics over a number of years," he said.

"The difficulty is that it is all done without real transparency. The whole process has not got integrity because it operates in secrecy without accountability."

But Martin Narey, who is the ministerial adviser on adoption and was previously chief executive of Barnardo's, said the number of adoptions was too low and should be increased by about 50% a year.

"I differ very strongly from Mr Hemming," he said. "Last year there were 3,040 adoptions - 1,360 were without the parents' consent.

"Overwhelmingly in all the cases that I have looked at, in all the research I have read I don't think there's anything to suggest that a significant proportion of those are inappropriate.

"The proportion would be tiny, 1 or 2%. And to suggest that a 1,000 out of 1,300 forced adoptions were inappropriate is, I believe, very misleading."

The latest official statistics show that the number of children being adopted is falling.

In the year ending 31 March 2011, there had been a 5% decrease in the number of children in care placed for adoption.

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