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Adoption Changes Lives – New Bill imminent

Photo: Announcing a new Adoption and Children (Northern Ireland) Bill at the start of Adoption Week 2020 are (l-r): Minister For Health Robin Swann; EJ Havlin, Adoption UK and Marie Roulston, Director of Social Care and Children, Health and Social Care Board..
Announcing a new Adoption and Children (Northern Ireland) Bill at the start of Adoption Week 2020 are (l-r): Minister For Health Robin Swann; EJ Havlin, Adoption UK and Marie Roulston, Director of Social Care and Children, Health and Social Care Board.

To mark Adoption Week NI (12-18th October), Health Minister Robin Swann announced his intention to introduce a new Adoption and Children Bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly later this year.

Each year around 85-90 children are adopted in NI. Significantly, last year 111 children were adopted from care of which almost one third were adopted as part of a sibling group.

The children who wait the longest for adoption are brothers and sisters who need to be adopted together, children aged 4 and over and children with disabilities or developmental delay.

Announcing the new Bill, the Minister said:

“I want to thank all the adoptive families in Northern Ireland. For some children in care who are unable to return home, adoption can offer the best chance for them to experience stability in a safe and loving home. It is therefore important that we support these children and their new families in the years ahead and encourage others to come forward to create new adoptive families.

“The Adoption and Children Bill will reform and modernise the legislative framework for adoption. It contains provision which will improve the efficiency and robustness of the adoption process and eliminate unnecessary delay and uncertainty for children. It will ensure that the child is put firmly at the centre of the adoption process and support mechanisms will be improved for anyone involved in adoption.

“I therefore intend to introduce the Bill into the Legislative Assembly by the end of this year.

“I believe that, by way of the Bill, we can significantly improve the whole adoption experience and help more children find their forever homes,” he said.

Welcoming the announcement at the launch of this year’s ‘Adoption Changes Lives’ campaign, Marie Roulston, Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board commented:

“This long-awaited Bill will modernise the legal framework for adoption in Northern Ireland and radically improve the care and support of some of our most vulnerable children.”

“The ‘Adoption Changes Lives’ campaign this year is all about celebrating our amazing adoptive families who are navigating life with COVID-19 just like everyone else at the minute. We want to encourage anyone interested in becoming an adoptive parent to come forward.”

“Over recent years there has been a decline in the number of adopters coming forward, however, it is welcoming news that adoption enquiries have increased over the last few months and HSC Adoption and Foster Care has reported a 60% increase in adoption enquiries during the recent pandemic lockdown period. Nonetheless, we are urgently seeking more adopters particularly within the Western area and I encourage anyone interested to get in touch.”

Supporting the campaign, adoptive parents Judith and Alastair commented:

“Six years ago we adopted twins and then went on to adopt our son last year. Adoption has been the most incredible, life-changing experience for us. With all 3 of our children we fell in love at first sight and we couldn’t be more thankful for our wee family. Lockdown obviously brought many questions and challenges but there were also so many positives for our family. To enjoy completely uninterrupted family time, filled with bike rides, swimming in the river and building obstacle courses gave us memories we will cherish forever! Family time is so important for any child but for children who have had a difficult start in life, it is especially precious! When the world stood still we were so thankful to have each other”.

EJ Havlin from Adoption UK added; “Adoption UK welcomes the Adoption and Children Bill and this opportunity for the voice of adopters to be heard. Adoption is the beginning of a different journey for children and their families. We provide a range of support services and are aware of the damage an absence or delay in bespoke support can have on a child who has already experienced early trauma.

Post adoption support is imperative for the additional needs adopted children have, which are as varied and individual as the children themselves. It is vital that families know what support is available and can access it when needed. This Bill will provide the opportunity for an assessment which considers the current and future needs of a child, offering early interventions. The Bill will include many things which are already available to children across the rest of the UK, and our local children who have been adopted, deserve an equal chance to thrive”.

The ‘Adoption Changes Lives’ campaign was led by the Health and Social Care Board in partnership with Health and Social Care Trusts, the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service and Adoption UK.

If you would like to find out more about adoption call for an information pack on 0800 0720 137 or log onto www.adoptionandfostercare.hscni.net.

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