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Health minister Paul Boateng has attacked social services departments' poor adoption work in the wake of a critical...
Health minister Paul Boateng has attacked social services departments' poor adoption work in the wake of a critical Social Services Inspectorate report.

The report was based on inspections in seven council adoption services: Barking and Dagenham, Tower Hamlets, and Hammersmith and Fulham LBCs, Doncaster and Wirral MBCs, and Dorset and Shropshire CCs. It found delays in the adoption process, a lack of post-adoption support for families, inadequate services for adopted adults and a lack of commitment to inter-country adoption.

Mr Boateng said: 'I find it unacceptable that local authorities are failing to find children proper homes because of a lack of real commitment, inadequate management and sheer inefficiency.'

SSI chief inspector Sir Herbert Laming said he was very concerned by the professional issues report raised and would be organising a programme of conferences and seminars for managers.

Association of Directors of Social Services president Bob Lewis said councils should ensure adoption was not dealt with in isolation. He said they should examine whether the process could be speeded up or if there were ways to promote the needs of older children.

The study pointed to a need for legislative change, he said. The findings should be seen in context and there was no evidence that overall policy was not good.

Adoption issues also occupied the High Court this week, as a St Austell couple's fight to keep a baby they have fostered since she was less than a month old ended in defeat. The pair wanted to adopt the child, now 14 months, who was born suffering from heroin and methadone withdrawal because of her natural mother's drug addiction.

Mr Justice Cazalet told the court: 'I wish to pay tribute to the enormous contribution they have made to the baby's future.

But he said he had no legal grounds for overturning a decision by Cornwall CC that they were not suitable adopters, partly because the baby's natural father - also a drug addict - objected to the family and threatened to disrupt the fostering arrangement.

The judge described an earlier attempt to remove the child as 'wholly improper', because the council had failed to give the couple adequate notice.

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