New adoption plan by charity Coram strives to keep babies out of the system

November 2, 2009 by Shawn Douglas

Coram’s new adoption plan proposes to place babies with prospective parents within days of being born.
Hosting a conference in London today, U.K. charity Coram hopes that its fresh approach to adoption wins new converts at a time when child care systems have come under increased strain.

At the root of the proposal is a method known as concurrent planning. The method places a newborn in the care of an adoptive family within days of birth. The newborn would then be given the opportunity to interact with both the adoptive family and the natural mother through a series of visits agreed upon by both parties.
The adoptive family would agree to take the child to visit the natural mother a set number of times a week, allowing the natural mother time to organize her life and demonstrate that she’s able to raise a child. The mother, commonly a drug addict, is offered extensive support by the charity to give her the best chance of sorting out her problems. After one year, social workers make a final decision about whether the natural mother is ready.
As conventional adoption can be very complicated and take several years to complete, a child may bounce around a long chain of foster families, usually without contact from the natural mother. This process may leave children with psychological traumas later in life.
“It is crazy that there are not more local authorities using concurrent planning,” said Coram’s head of adoption, Jeanne Kaniuk.
“It is a great system for parents who want to adopt a baby, although obviously they carry all the risk and have to be quite courageous. It is very sympathetic to the birth parents, who are given help and support and every chance to show they can care for their baby. It speeds up the process and a decision is made early. And, of course, it is good for the baby.”Coram has already tested the program, cooperating with local authorities over the past two years to successfully place almost 50 new children. However, the charity faces perceptions that the method is time-consuming and not nearly as beneficial to the prospective adoptive family.
“There is also often a fear that some solicitors representing birth parents will fight it very hard in the belief their clients are not getting a fair deal,” said Kaniuk. “But the baby’s welfare should be paramount, and concurrent planning is a fair offer to both adoptive parents and birth parents.”