Children left in care by family breakdown

Family breakdown is “by far the biggest reason why children end up in care” and curbing it should be a Government priority, says the head of a leading public policy think tank.

Jill Kirby, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, warns that “a generation is paying the price for the authorities’ tolerance of drugs and alcohol on our streets and our culture of acceptance of casual relationships”.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, Mrs Kirby says that “where mothers move through a succession of relationships, and new partners and half siblings enter their lives, the risk of child abuse and violence rises sharply”.

These factors mean a growing number of children are being placed in local authority care, where frequent disruption often translates into poor education, a high risk of involvement in crime and a one in three chance of living on the streets.

Figures show that nearly a quarter of the prison population has been in care and teenage girls leaving care are three times as likely to become pregnant.

Addressing adoption and rectifying the reasons for family breakdown “should be a priority for any Government serious about improving the lives of our most vulnerable children”, says Mrs Kirby.

Yet recent examples show couples facing increasing challenges when attempting to adopt. A couple in Newham admitted smacking their adopted son for swearing, and were later told that this method of discipline, though lawful, prohibited them from adopting the boy’s half-sister.

A judge this week ruled that the decision was “bizarre” and ordered Newham Council to reconsider the couple’s application.

Pointing out the inadequacy of the care service in the UK to provide the necessary stability and love needed for a child, Mrs Kirby says, “councils should not be making it even harder for children to be adopted”.