HC Deb 08 February 2001 vol 362 cc650-1W
Mr. Llwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the formal procedures are for adopting children from abroad; and if he will publish them; [147386]

(2) if he will make a statement on the international laws governing the adoption of children; and if he will list them. [147415]

Mr. Hutton

Inter-country adoption is underpinned by a number of international agreements to which the United Kingdom is party. In particular, the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption aims to Establish safeguards to ensure that inter-country adoptions take place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or her fundamental rights as recognised in international law. Establish a system of co-operation among those who have ratified the Hague convention to ensure that those safeguards are respected and thereby prevent the abduction, the sale of, or traffic in children. Secure recognition in countries who have ratified the convention of adoptions made in accordance with the convention.

The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999 will be implemented in full later this year and, together with relevant Northern Ireland legislation, will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Other relevant agreements are:

1986 United Nations Declaration on Social Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children;1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Where people habitually resident in England and Wales wish to adopt a child from overseas they should go through the same assessment and approval process as a prospective adopter of a child in the UK. Once completed, their papers are usually submitted to the Department, and if in order, the Department will issue a certificate of eligibility. The procedures that follow vary from country to country. They are contained within information sheets on various countries issued free of charge by the Department. The most popular ones can be found on the Department of Health website at www.doh.gov.uk/ adoption.

Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children are in national care waiting to be adopted; and how many are awaiting adoption in(a) Tyne and Wear and (b) South Tyneside. [148416]

Mr. Hutton

Information on the number of children in national care for whom adoption is the plan is not held centrally. However, the Department does hold figures on the number of children who have been placed with families who intend to adopt them.

The estimated number of children who were being looked after by local authorities in England and who were reported as being placed for adoption at 31 March 2000 are as follows:

England 3,140
Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County 130
South Tyneside Metropolitan District 20


Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.

The table excludes children looked after under a series of short term placements.

Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many couples are on the(a) national, (b) Tyne and Wear and (c) South Tyneside child adoption register. [148417]

Mr. Hutton

There is no central register of people approved to adopt but yet to be matched with a child. However, a 1999 survey by the Department's social services inspectorate revealed that at that time nationally 1,297 adopters had been recruited but had no children placed with them. We are currently collecting information on the approved adopters yet to be matched with a child in each local authority. In the future we expect this information to be held on the adoption register for England and Wales.

Mr. Hepburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures are being taken to improve the efficiency of the child adoption service. [148414]

Mr. Hutton

On 21 December 2000 we published the White Paper "Adoption: a new approach", together with draft national standards on adoption. Together they set out plans for a faster, fairer adoption service and the most radical overhaul of adoption legislation for 25 years. To make sure that these changes happen we have set a new target to increase the number of adoptions by 2004–05 by 40 per cent. (and if possible 50 per cent.), provided investment of £66.5 million over three years, set up the adoption and permanence task force, and are setting up an adoption register to match children with adoptive parents across the country.

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