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Minister criticised for interracial adoption comments

Date:4 NOV 2010

FamilyThe British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has criticised comments about interracial adoption by UK children's minister Tim Loughton in which he said social workers place "too great an emphasis on finding the ‘perfect match'".

The Association said Mr Loughton's intervention was ‘ill-thought out' and implied a need to listen more closely to social workers who work in adoption on a daily basis.

Mr Loughton made his comments as the government revealed it was updating guidance on adoptions in England to place a greater emphasis on the existing provision which states that while race should be taken into consideration when placing a child for adoption, it should not be a bar to interracial placements. The minister suggested that the current approach was contributing to the fact that 2,300 children were placed for adoption last year, compared with 2,500 the previous year, and 3,400 in 2005.

Acknowledging that "a child tends to do better if adopted by a family who share their ethnic and cultural heritage", Mr Loughton said that although the law already states that language, religion, culture and ethnicity should only be given ‘due consideration' rather than considered as definitive criteria, the guidance "isn't translating into practice". He added: "It is much better that a child is adopted by loving parents than left waiting for their future to be decided."

But according to BASW the children's minister was adopting an over-simplistic stance. "What is being over-looked is the evidence that whilst some transracial adoptions work, many have had a profoundly negative impact on children's development and identity formation" said professional officer Nushra Mansuri. "Whilst it's essential that a prospective parent can provide love and a secure base, these are not the only factors needing consideration; a parent also needs to provide a sense of belonging that is key to a child's identity, self esteem and development and will effect how they mature into adults."

Ms Mansuri highlighted the significant shortage of potential black and minority ethnic families, calling on government to help make the system more inclusive. She also urged Mr Loughton to look at "why there is an over representation of black children in the care system in the first place and address issues of inequality and discrimination to prevent this".

BASW also rebutted Mr Loughton's reference to ‘political correctness' as contributing to social work practice on interracial adoptions and said severe staff shortages in social work and the withdrawal of funding from voluntary adoption agencies were far more responsible for increasing delays in adoptions.