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The BBC's Alison Holt reports
"Many feel there's still room to improve adoption"
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 15:14 GMT
Blair reviews adoption law

Couple with child Couples say adoption process is too long


An overhaul of adoption procedures has been ordered by the prime minister, in the wake of the Welsh child abuse scandal.

Tony Blair believes too many hurdles are placed before couples wanting to adopt, leaving many children needlessly in care.


The great tragedy [revealed in] the Waterhouse report is that young people's childhoods were robbed
Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy
Many couples say the process of adopting a child takes too long and is too difficult. Meanwhile there are an estimated 50,000 children in England and Wales living in care.

Mr Blair will chair a committee of Home Secretary Jack Straw, Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy to address the issue.

In Scotland adoption laws are the preserve of the new Parliament.

The cabinet ministers will look into whether adoption could help resolve some of the long-term problems identified in Lost in Care - the report of the Waterhouse inquiry into child abuse in children's homes in north Wales.

Sir Ronald Waterhouse's report recommended a massive overhaul of the care system after uncovering a paedophile ring that targeted hundreds of young people in care in the 70s and 80s.

It also highlighted the vulnerability of children in care.

'Last resort'

For children over five years old there is an average wait of five years before adoption proceedings are completed. Even for new born babies the wait is an average of eight months.

Mr Blair is just one of the many MPs who receive letters from constituents complaining their lives are scrutinised in minute detail before they are considered as prospective parents.

Ministers are concerned that some Social Services departments regard adoption as "a last resort" instead of one of the first options looked at for children needing to live apart from their natural parents.

Mr Murphy said he hoped the review would be swift and thorough.

Paul Murphy MP Paul Murphy: "Review should be swift"
"What really matters is the children themselves and the best circumstances in which they can grow up to be decent adults," he told BBC News 24.

"The great tragedy [revealed in] the Waterhouse report is that young people's childhoods were robbed."

Mr Murphy also said he favoured a shake-up of the rules regarding which couples could adopt which children.

He acknowledged it was difficult for a white couple to adopt a child of mixed race and that adoptions across England and Wales had fallen during the 1990s.

It is thought the prime minister's committee will draw up a consultation document by the summer.
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See also:
16 Feb 00 |  Wales
Further abuse prosecutions unlikely
17 Feb 00 |  Wales
Hunt continues for child abuse suspects
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Children in care: Now and then
13 Feb 00 |  UK
Children in care 'need a voice'
09 Feb 00 |  Wales
Abuse victims' evidence was 'harrowing'
10 Jan 00 |  Wales
Care children still at risk of abuse

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