The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces fundamental changes to the way in which children in care will be dealt with. This Act seems to cover everything, from banning smoking in cars to how the most vulnerable children with special needs should be treated. This legislation represents one of the biggest shake-ups in childcare seen in decades.
One of the most important features of the Children and Families Act 2014 is expediting the adoption process, in terms of both attempting to make it easier to adopt children and reducing the length of time that care proceedings take through the court system, with a new maximum of 26 weeks.
Expediting the Adoption System
Before this Act was legislated, many local authorities and social workers realised that a large increase was needed in the number of people coming forward to adopt children. This legislation now makes it easier for potential adopters to assume the care of children. This could be accomplished through a ‘foster to adopt’ arrangement, which is an important aspect of this new statute.
The Act eliminates the requirement for a local authority to pay ‘due consideration’ to the religious, racial, linguistic and cultural background of the child. In the past it would often take longer to place children with non-white ethnic backgrounds. The new statute does not state that a local authority may not consider these details at all; it simply means they are not legally obliged to do so.
The elimination of the ‘due consideration’ requirement is probably the most controversial aspect of the Children and Families Act 2014. Many organisations and charities maintain that the background of a child is extremely important and should be one of the most important considerations when it comes to placing the child in care. However, although the legal requirement has been withdrawn, it is still highly likely that local authorities will continue to pay due respect to these details.
Outsourcing Adopter Recruitment
The Act makes it possible for the recruitment of adopters to be taken away from the local authority if it is thought that they are letting down cared-for children in any way. In such cases, adopter recruitment would be passed to an external agency to oversee. It is hoped that this requirement would rarely be used; however, it would at least be possible, and the worst-offending councils would not be permitted to carry on with the same poor care standards that prevailed in the past.
Extending Adopters’ Rights
This legislation introduces more benefits for people who choose to adopt. The Act will make adopters’ rights closer to those of birth parents and will extend even to recognising more rights for parents in ‘foster to adopt’ arrangements.
Adopter families will be consulted to a greater extent in future, when it comes to deciding what is best for the cared-for child. This will cover everything from health requirements to educational needs and will apply especially in the case of children with special needs.
Young carers will also be identified and offered more help in the future under this new legislation.
The Children and Families Act 2014 really does overhaul this area of social care. The new laws tackle the problems of the lack of adopters coming forward and the length of time that care proceedings are taking in the courts, and also address myriad other important issues that should make life just a little bit easier for adopted children in this country.