Barrister, 14 Gray's Inn Square:
The government wishes to increase the number of children adopted from care and, in pursuit of this outcome , to speed up the progress of care proceedings through the courts. More children, it is said, 'deserve permanency'. But are enough prospective adopters available and is sufficient support in place, particularly in relation to older children with challenging behaviour or special needs?
Are there dangers that in pursuing a dash for adoption we neglect to take sufficient account of each child's particular needs and existing relationships, including with siblings?
The government's legislative proposals include reducing the scope of public law proceedings in relation to their length, use of experts and consideration of care plans. The 'modernisation' of court structures and procedure will place greater emphasis on 'compliance' with process and the use of a central corpus of 'good practice' materials. Is such reductionism compatible with the objective of providing the most suitable outcome for children, often with complex backgrounds and needs?
Everyone wishes to avoid delay in determining the right future for children in care proceedings but if we are serious about doing so we must also address the external contribution of institutions such as Cafcass and The Legal Services Commission.
The full version of this article appears in the January 2013 issue of Family Law.