22 October 2012
Family Law Solicitor Duncan Ranton continues with the Northern Ireland Adoption Debacle
Picking up the theme from my two recent blogs last week: Instalment One, Instalment Two, the Judgment of Mr Justice Treacy is now available for general consideration. I'd recommend reading it in full. If that seems too onerous, the final paragraph captures the overall tenor of the decision:" Adopting a child is no small undertaking. This is even more so nowadays when the profile of children who need adoptive families has changed dramatically. Baroness Hale pointed out in "Re P" that the adoption of healthy babies (the traditional adoption) and adoption by step-parents are both becoming less common, while adoption of 'looked after' children is a more pressing need. Looked after children who require permanent adoptive homes tend to be older and often have special needs. They also often retain some links with their biological families. A loving, permanent, stable home is infinitely preferable to growing up in care. The potential benefit to a child adopted in such circumstances is immeasurable. As well as a huge benefit to the child, these adopters also provide an invaluable service to the State. No relationship is perfect and while there are benefits to an adopted child in entering a relationship where a web of legal rights exists between the parents, that web is no guarantee of a lifelong, stable, committed relationship. The most important consideration is that decisions are made in the best interests of the child. As the First Division of the Court of Session observed in "T" there can be no more fundamental principle in Adoption Law cases than that it is the duty of the court to safeguard and promote the interests of the child. Issues relating to the sexual orientation, lifestyle, race, religion or other characteristics of the parties involved must of course be taken into account as part of the circumstances. But they cannot be allowed to prevail over what is in the best interests of the child."
In other words, his Lordship held that the sexual orientation of Adoptive Parents ought to be taken into account with all other factors. At the heart of the enquiry would always remain the best interests of the particular child, and whether the adoptive parents could meet his or her unique needs. Those needs, rather than some arbitrary and irrational preconception about whether individuals from particular backgrounds and of particular persuasions could meet them, must always dictate the outcome.
This is the statement of principle that has so offended Northern Ireland's Health Minister that he has declared within twenty-four hours of the Judgment his Department's intention to appeal, at the expense of the public purse, no less…Is it just me, or does it feel like the Inquisition is alive and well?
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