Why adoption rates are falling and what is involved in the adoption process in Scotland
Our family team have written informative blogs relating to step-parent adoption, the issue of consent in adoption proceedings and even the prospect of adult adoption. Here we aim to give a brief overview of the recent trends, the process, and our thoughts on the ways in which good legal advice can make that process easier.
Are adoption rates decreasing?
In 2020, the latest figures were announced by the Scottish Government in their report on social work statistics 2018-2019. The recent trend shows:
- Between 2012-2019 the number of children in Local Authority care has fallen sharply.
- There appears to be a correlation between the children placed outwith the care of the natural family decreasing and the children in kinship placements increasing.
- Children placed in prospect adoptive placements or permanent foster placements have declined.
- As at 2019, more than 50% of the children who were looked after by the Local Authority either resided within their own family home or with kinship carers. Only 1% of looked after children were in adoptive placements.
- Of the number of children who ceased to be looked after by the Local Authority, 58% returned to reside with one or both of their natural parents, 14% went to reside in a kinship placement and only 7% were placed for adoption.
- Between 2010 – 2019, whilst the most common type of adoptive parents are joint adoption applications involving a male and a female, adoption applications involving one male, one female, or a same sex couple have risen.
It would appear that in recent times, there has been a greater emphasis placed on alternatives to adoption within Scotland. There will however, always be cases where adoption is the best option for a child. What is encouraging is that there is an increase in the number of single individuals, and same sex couples seeking to adopt. This suggest that there may be changing social attitudes which make the adoption process more inclusive.
The adoption process
Individuals and couples choose to adopt for a whole variety of reasons. The journey through the process can be an emotional one. It can be lengthy and involves a detailed look into the lives of the petitioner/s as well as the child. That said, when an adoption order is ultimately granted, the reward for both the petitioner/s and the child is one which is almost immeasurable, and certainly life changing. The Court is ultimately the one who creates a new legal relationship between the child and the adoptive parent/s following the lodging of a Petition for Adoption.
The process of ingathering information for the reports is one which can feel like you are being put under the spotlight as a petitioner. The process is not designed to catch you out, or to expose private or personal information, but simply to inform the Court whether there are likely to be any barriers to granting the adoption order. Similarly, the process of a contested adoption, where evidence is required to be led, is one which can be stressful.
The reports required for adoption
In advance of lodging the petition for adoption, a report is requested from the local authority on behalf of the petitioners. This report aims to ascertain the suitability of the applicants to adopt, It is a detailed insight into the applicants and will involve discussions with the prospective adoptive parent/s, the natural birth parent/s and the child themselves. The conclusions and recommendations in the report are informed by any existing information the local authority may hold, as well as information about the applicants health and medical history, lifestyle, employment, culture and religion. Similar information about the child’s background is also sought in order to ensure that the adoptive placement stands the best chance for success.
When a petition is lodged with the Court, the Court will also ask for two independent reports to be obtained. The first is to ensure that all parties who have an interest in the proceedings are aware of them, and where applicable, their views regarding consent to the petition are recorded. The second report is a detailed report in which the reporter seeks to ensure the best interests of the child are preserved in the proceedings. The report focusses on the child specifically and requires comment on the child’s accommodation with the petitioners, whether the child has any interest in property, the reasons for the petitioner’s seeking to adopt, the religious, racial, cultural and linguistic background of the child and the petitioner/s and importantly whether they consider that the adoption is likely to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child through their lifetime.
How can good legal advice help with the process?
Within the family team at Harper Macleod, we have an established team of solicitors who have a wealth of experience and a depth of knowledge in the adoption process. We regularly assist clients who are involved in complex adoption cases, where consent to the adoption is withheld, or where there is an element to the process which involves another jurisdiction within the UK, or internationally.
Our sensitive but professional approach means that our team is well placed to help clients navigate through the journey to adoption. We work closely with our clients and guide them through each stage of the process, ensuring that they are advised fully and that their overall experience is a positive one.
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