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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 08:10 GMT
Kilshaws prompt adoption overhaul
The Kilshaws
The Kilshaw case prompted a law rethink
Britons who adopt children from overseas without getting proper clearance could face a up to a year in jail under a proposed revision of the adoption system.

The move - in part a response to the case of Alan and Judith Kilshaw who attempted to adopt twin baby girls from the US - was announced in the Commons by Health Secretary Alan Milburn.


Adoption is a service for children, not for profit

Alan Milburn
The proposals won broad support from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The Kilshaws from north Wales, sparked an international custody battle earlier this year, after they tried to adopt the twins who they found over the internet.

They reputedly paid 8,000 for the adoption.

Their fight to keep the girls in Britain ended after a judge ruled that Belinda and Kimberley should return to their home in the US state of Missouri.

Mr Milburn condemned the practice of adoption for profit and promised to overhaul the current system which he branded as too slow and unfair.

Stiffer penalties would be introduced in the Adoption and Children Bill for anyone who flouted adoption laws at home or abroad.

There would also changes in court procedures to speed up the process.

Mr Milburn said: "Adoption is a service for children, not for profit.

"It should happen in the interests of the child, not as a commercial transaction."

Prejudice

The new legislation would introduce a vetting system for parents who wished to bring back a child from certain countries whose adoption procedures were acceptable to the UK.

It will also try to rid the adoption system of some of the prejudice against certain types of parents.

"Whatever the warped logic of those who introduce these blanket bans, the fact is they fail to put the interests of the child first. They put petty prejudices first," said Mr Milburn.

With nearly 60,000 children in local authority care, the government intended to increase the adoption figures of 1999/2000 by 40% by 2005.

An extra 66m will be given to the adoption service over three year, Mr Milburn said.

Perverse

He said: "Children should not be left waiting indefinitely for the perfect family on spurious grounds or a perverse sense of what is and what is not politically correct."

Although he said the law would continue to stipulate that only married and single people could adopt children - ruling out unmarried couples.

Tory health spokesman Liam Fox said: "We will give it a fair wind and seek to improve it further.

"We are dealing with some of the most vulnerable in society.

"We must not allow politics, prejudice, bureaucracy or short term convenience to stand in the way of them having a chance of a loving family."

Disgust

Referring to the Kilshaw case Dr Fox said that the unregulated trade in babies through the internet would "disgust all sides of the House".

He went on to say that another provision in the bill that took account of the racial and cultural origins of the child was right although he warned that there should be a "hard and fast" rule.

"We need to understand the sensitivities and banish the nonsense of the politically correct brigade," he said.

For the Lib Dems Evan Harris said there was "broad agreement" across the main political party over much of the Bill which he described as a "once in a generation opportunity".

Same-sex couples

Parliament had been reluctant in the past to deal with adoption, he said.

Dr Harris urged the government to clarify its position on adoption by same-sex couples.

"There should be the right of unmarried couples to adopt jointly," he argued.

"I don't believe that the sexuality of adoptive parents needs be relevant by exactly the same token."

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