Social services bosses in Leicestershire defend forced adoption cases


July 21, 2010
Social services have forcibly adopted more than 200 children in Leicestershire in the past five years.

The figures, requested under the Freedom of Information Act by the Leicester Mercury, show the number of times that Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council have applied to the courts to have children adopted against their parents’ will on welfare grounds.

Adoption by another family is the final and most drastic stage of the child protection process, and is only carried out if all other attempts to make a child’s family home safe fail.

Cheriel O’Neill, the city council’s head of service for children’s resources, said: “Whenever a concern is raised about a child’s welfare a council’s ultimate aim is to keep a child with their parents, provided the environment they live in can be made safe.”

Both councils say that alcohol and drug abuse are factors in many of the adoption cases, but physical, sexual or emotional abuse are also triggers for action.

Ms O’Neill said: “If a child is at risk of significant harm in their environment then a child protection conference is called.”

This conference brings together agencies from across the city to put a plan in place with a child’s parents to improve their welfare.

If this fails, councils can apply to take the children into care. If the council then reaches a stage at which all options for allowing the child to return home are exhausted, adoption is then looked at as a possibility.

Ms O’Neill said: “Local authorities deal with hundreds of cases every year, so it really is a tiny proportion which reach the adoption stage.”

This year, 12 adoption orders have been made by the county council and a further 17 so far by the city council.

Ms O’Neill also pointed out that some parents choose to relinquish control of their children at birth. Two women have already chosen to give up their child in 2010 in the city. Parents go through counselling before making the decision, and have a period of several weeks in which to change their mind.