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Published: 5 June 2008
Gavin and Teresa Allen with their adopted baby, Bo, at her christening in Hampstead
Gavin and Teresa Allen with their adopted baby, Bo, at her christening in Hampstead

Children left waiting for homes despite offers from ‘parents’

COUPLES hoping to adopt children are being forced to look overseas for babies because social services are not being flexible over ethnicity in adoption decisions.
The Town Hall has been told its attempts to match babies and prospective parents on racial grounds are taking too long and ignoring offers from loving families.
The warning came as a couple from West Hampstead revealed they had been through 10 years of frustration in their efforts to adopt a baby through Camden’s social services and nationwide before giving up and adopting a Chinese baby.
Camden currently has 12 children looking for homes.
Eight have been linked with prospective parents but the remaining four are without a match despite five potential carers being on Camden’s books.
A further 14 are likely to be added to the list once a judge has passed an adoption order, effectively a court ruling allowing them to be offered to potential adopter parents.
All of the children have or will face roughly two years in the care system.
Gavin and Teresa Allen, who live in West Hampstead and have well-paid jobs, said they were willing to take a child of any ethnicity and thought their chances were good.
Instead, they discovered because they were white and the babies on Camden’s register weren’t, they were not eligible.
Mr Allen, 39, a senior TV journalist, said: “It’s pretty sad we had to go to China because our own authority is too useless. We went halfway over the planet to adopt because the place three miles up the road won’t help.”
The couple adopted baby Bo three years ago.
Camden said it does not have a policy against “trans-racial” adoption, but that wherever possible they would place a child with a family that matched its ethnicity – in line with government policy.
But many familiar with the 4,000-long national adoption register are sympathetic to calls for a more flexible system.
Mr Allen, 39, said as a result of the policy children are left trapped in the care system while loving homes lie empty and willing parents remain childless.
He said: “Of course you try and match a child with someone from the same background but there has to be a cut-off point. You have to say OK we’ve explored that and we’ve done all we can,” said Mr Allen.
Mrs Allen, 42, said the social workers needed to “stop just following procedures and start thinking about the needs of the children”.
Adoption experts are cautious in their criticism of the system and praised Camden for having shorter waiting times than the national average.
Jeffrey Coleman, a director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said the policy to place children with parents from their ethnic background was supported by research.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of information that children who are given transcultural and transracial placements have had real difficulties in terms of identity and capacity to deal with racism.”
However, Mr Coleman said local authorities had to find a balance, adding: “If you’re faced with delays you have to compromise.
He added white families looking to adopt a baby faced a bleak future because of “the relative scarcity for very small [white] children available for adoption.”
While Camden said it had approved “trans-racial” adoptions it was unable to say how many.
Lorna Zumpe, deputy head of King’s Cross adoption agency Coram supported the Town Hall’s stance, but said they should be flexible in their attitude to inter-racial adoptions.
“I think there is much more awareness now that children shouldn’t be delayed,” she said.
A council spokesman said: “We would never keep a child in care or with an unsuitable family if there was a suitable match. We know it can be hard waiting for a much-wanted child, but every match must rightly be made in the interest of the child – they often have complex medical or emotional needs and we need to ensure they are adopted by parents who can meet these needs into adulthood.”

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