A father from Royston launched a protest against forced adoption outside Barnsley Town Hall on Christmas day to raise awareness around the impact of forced adoption and the policies the UK uses to implement the practice. John Aveyard lost his four children to the care system. The siblings were then split up and forcibly adopted.
Forced adoption, or non-consensual adoption as it is sometimes called, allows the government to remove children from families where there is a risk of harm, without getting parental consent. The practice is used in a small minority of countries around the world, with consensual adoption being the preferred approach for the majority of countries.
As part of the demonstration, John put a table up outside the town hall and placed four candles on it, one for each of his children as a reminder that they would not be sitting with him at the table on Christmas day. John told the Barnsley Chronicle, “Christmas Day is the time of year you want to be with your children, watching them open their presents and see how happy they are and it’s my favourite time of year as a dad. For some parents, they miss out on this because their children are forcibly removed from them.”
The protest also focused on laws which allow the government to remove children for adoption without parental consent, including Section 31 of the Children’s Act 1989 which gives local authorities the power to remove children from parents where “the child concerned is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.” Aveyard would like to see a review of Section 31 by the government, as the Section enables the removal of children from parents where there is a likelihood of future harm without any robust processes to evidence the likelihood of harm itself.
Currently, removal of a child can be made on hearsay by social workers and reports produced by social work teams who often have no proper medical, psychological or child welfare credentials. Similar problems exist with so-called medical experts and family court approved psychiatrists, who also do not have the necessary training to assess families. A 2012 report by Professor Jane Ireland found that over 20% of psychologists in family cases were unqualified and 65% of expert reports were either of ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ quality.
John went on to tell the Barnsley Chronicle:
“I am not denying that we need social services and I understand in some circumstances children to need to be taken away from their parents. What I do not agree with is a decision being made based on an assumption. It’s absolute madness, and how they can split up a family acting like Mystic Meg is insane.”