Adoption Agencies Shun UK

Britons adopt fewer children from abroad than any other country because an increasing number of developing countries believe Britain is an unsuitable home, new research has revealed. The study, which shows many countries are automatically rejecting applications from British families, comes in the wake of the controversy sparked by Madonna over her decision to adopt a child, 14-month-old David Banda, from Malawi.

She had been granted an interim order by an African court allowing her to take David out of Malawi but, after being told his passport had yet to be processed, she returned to London last Friday without him.

Her hopes of bringing him to England soon were further undermined by the announcement that the country’s main children’s rights group, Eye of the Child, has asked the government to delay the order until a new law is passed giving adopted children formal legal rights.

The difficulties faced by many Britons trying to adopt from abroad is causing them to turn to countries whose approach to the process is less rigorous, such as Guatemala and Bulgaria, raising questions about whether the children are being freely given up by their parents.

“Most other countries seeking children from overseas have individual agreements with the foreign governments, detailing the post-adoption care the children will receive,” said Dr Peter Selman, Britain’s leading expert on overseas adoption and chairman of the Network for Intercountry Adoption, who presented his research in Barcelona last week.

Overseas adoption in Britain remained largely unorganised, unsupervised and unregulated until the Adoption Act in July 1999. However, experts say Britain still fails to take overseas adoptions seriously. “The list of countries who now refuse to even consider applications from Britain is growing. If nothing changes, there is a real danger that the number of foreign children available to British families will dry up completely,” said Gill Haworth, director of the Intercountry Adoption Centre.

In Norway, the rate of foreign adoptions is 15 for every 100,000 people in the country. In Spain it is 13, while Sweden took in more than 12. In Britain, however, the rate is 0.55.

According to Selman’s research, increasing numbers of countries, including South Africa and India, refuse to consider any adoption application from Britain at all. “The demand to adopt foreign children is so high that states looking to place children with overseas families can take their pick from countries across the world,” he said.

“The attitude these countries hold is quite correct: our procedures are embarrassingly under-developed. If I was a government wondering where to send my children, I would not touch a country that makes as little effort as Britain.”