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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Sunday, 16 March 2008

Overseas adoption

Mother and child

This government has a mantra: 'Every Child Matters'... and it is a government that is proud of its record in supporting the family.

But there is a small band of parents and would-be parents in Britain who feel increasingly frustrated by a government department which is supposed to help them; but which they say is not.

The parents in question have decided to adopt from abroad.

Every year about 350 of them successfully adopt from countries like China and Ethiopia. But it is a long hard process, with three distinct phases.


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First a couple has to be assessed as fit to adopt by their local social services department or approved agency

They have to pay for the service, and it can cost up to 6000.

Then they have to submit an application to the dept of children, schools, and families or DCSF.

Once a certificate of eligibility has been issued a couple can get in touch with an adoption agency abroad to match them to a child. And it's this second stage that adopter parents are getting increasingly concerned about.

They claim the government department is not fit for purpose and processes their paperwork in a slow, overly bureaucratic way.

The Politics Show has made a film about these parents and asked people who have adopted from overseas to give us an account of their dealings with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Below are a selection of their comments.

This from a woman who adopted from China:

Once an application goes to the department it seems like a black hole, and if queries are made as to the progress of processing, adopters are treated as small children who dare to question those in authority.

Another woman writes:

I am more than willing to accept that overseas adoption is a hard, costly and unpredictable journey but I was not prepared for how unsupportive, demoralising and worst of all slippery the DCSF have been. They do their utmost to provide the minimum level of service they can get away with.

And a couple write:

If you ring the helpline you get conflicting advice depending on who you speak to. In fact the phrase "helpline" is a contradiction in terms and is paying lip service to adopters.

Others echoed that anger: "We have been treated very poorly by the DCSF... and were so frustrated"... "It was very difficult to get paperwork moved on from each stage to the next. And I always had to phone on at least two occasions"... "I find their attitude arrogant and insulting to both adopters and the children who they claim they are protecting"... "My paperwork was 'left on a shelf'... and I was dealt with in a very cold-hearted fashion".

Strong comments

The government would not put anyone up for interview, but the Children's Minister Kevin Brennan gave us the following statement:

We appreciate that prospective adopters would like the process to be as quick as possible, and want to do the best they can by the children they want to adopt.

People can be, and often are, approved to adopt siblings, but otherwise, we would expect agencies to follow the established good practice of approving prospective adopters for the placement of one child at a time.

If applicants wish to adopt more than one child from overseas they may apply to adopt a second child after the adoption order for the first child has been made (either abroad or in a UK court).

However, it is important to allow time for the first child to settle into their new family and for the family to settle into these new arrangements too.

It is true that the UK has fewer inter-country adoptions than some other countries. That is because adoption of children from the domestic care system is a strong priority for this Government.

There are many children in the UK who are looking for adoptive parents, and who we know will do better if they are placed with these loving families.

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