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50 A Better Future

50 Years of Child Care

in Northern Ireland

1950-2000

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

An Roinn Slαinte, Seirbhνsν Sσisialta agus Sαbhαilteachta Poiblν

 

CONTENTS

PAGE

PREFACE 3

CHAPTER 1 SETTING THE SCENE 7

CHAPTER 2 FOSTER CARE 15

CHAPTER 3 ADOPTION 39

CHAPTER 4 RESIDENTIAL CARE 75

CHAPTER 5 JUVENILE OFFENDING 105

CHAPTER 6 DISABLED CHILDREN 123

CHAPTER 7 CHILD PROTECTION 153

CHAPTER 8 SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION & TRAINING 171

CHAPTER 9 INTO A NEW CENTURY 187

BIBLIOGRAPHY 197

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 1

 

PREFACE

There is both an acceptance and expectation on the part of modern

society that children should be valued, and in doing so the utmost

importance should be placed on their care and protection. In addition

those who are deprived or disadvantaged should be entitled to the

benefits of a support system which will help their families through

difficult periods, or in more extreme circumstances provide an

alternative form of care and upbringing for the child or children who

cannot remain within the natural family.

Increasingly as the public have become more aware of the existence

and extent of child abuse their reaction is often one of great anger

and demand for immediate action to protect vulnerable children. This

however was not always the attitude held towards children especially

those who through no fault of their own became destitute or the

victims of parental deprivation. A hundred years ago public sympathy

was not as strong as it is today and many children suffered as a

consequence. A changed attitude and response began to emerge

during the first part of the century culminating in a series of

important legal changes in the late 1940s which set the tone and

direction for a new child welfare system for the next 50 years. Since

1950 there has emerged the development of a comprehensive child

and family support service made up of a number of components.

These range across fostering, adoption and children's homes to

arrangements for juvenile offenders, children with disabilities and the

provision of a child protection service. There are other elements but

in examining the key developments during the 50 years I have

decided to focus on a number of the most critical areas.

The chapters on each of these describe the position in the 1940s, the

changes and developments that subsequently took place and the

issues and concerns which emerged during the following decades.

Some of these relate to the deaths of children or their abuse on

occasions at the hands of those who were paid to care for them.

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 3

As these events unfolded the response of society was to make much

stronger demands for a safer and supportive child welfare system. As

a consequence children's legislation has been passed detailing better

and improved arrangements. Northern Ireland now has some of the

most progressive and supportive laws to be found in any country

legislating for a child welfare system. In parallel organisational

structures have also been developed to support the legal direction

and within generic social service departments there are specialist

child care sections organised to provide a range of children's support

services.

It will be evident from the report that in many ways significant

progress has been made in developing a protective safety net for

vulnerable children. However, it is also evident that people still

neglect and abuse children. We have in no sense reached the end of

this development or the need for protection. Fifty years is a

comparatively short time. What is important is that if we value our

children and regard their upbringing as vital for their future then we

need to continue to progress further our child welfare system. There

are many lessons to be learnt from the past and many are still coming

to terms with the harm and hurt of that period.

I hope that the reflections within this report will give a

comprehensive and balanced account of the issues as well as the

progress made. While there is much to applaud in the progress over

the past 50 years there are still many tasks to be accomplished and

issues to be addressed. This cannot remain the sole responsibility of

one agency or department or group of professionals. There is a

continuing requirement for a combination of public reaction, political

response and the commitment and dedication of many carers and

staff if we are to secure that 'better future' for all children.

A report like this could not have been prepared without the support

of many Departmental colleagues, in particular I want to thank - Miss

Marion Reynolds, Dr Hilary Harrison, Mr Chris Walker, Mr John

Hughes, Mr Victor McElfatrick, Mrs Evelyn Gilliland, Miss Eleanor

Simpson and Mr Roy Blair for their industrious work in preparing a

number of the chapters.

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 4

Finally, I am indebted to Mr Selwood Fitzpatrick, Mrs Maire McMahon

and Dr Eugene Mooney for their invaluable support in taking

forward this report to its final stage for publication.

PAUL MARTIN

CI SSI

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 5

 

SETTING THE SCENE

Background to legislation and policy

If a society's maturity is judged by the value placed on the care and

protection of children then the period 1950-2000 has to be one of

particular significance and importance in Northern Ireland. During

this time the recognition of the needs of children, and the

responsibility both collectively and individually to meet these, has

moved increasingly to the forefront of modern society. Prime

importance is now given by the legislators and specific statutory and

voluntary organisations to ensuring that children, with a range of

social, physical and emotional needs have access to services to enable

them to achieve their full potential. Increasingly this right is being

enshrined in legislation. Children are now seen as individuals who

have the right to be heard and to participate in decisions, which

affect their life opportunities and well-being.

Alongside these legal developments the period has experienced

major improvements in the range of children's services provided.

Some of these have emerged through the energy and vision of

particular groups and organisations; others, through reports on the

deaths, serious injury or abuse of children caused most often by

abusive adults. There is now universal child welfare services in place

throughout the country. The focus of these is to promote better care

of children within the family. Where this is not possible, it is ensured

that every effort is made to place children in a form of substitute care

which will provide a loving and supportive environment. This has

been achieved through the enactment of new and improved

legislation, an increase in resources and the dedication of a skilled

workforce. The public has played its part with its expectations of

higher standards in the provision of care for vulnerable children.

Back in 1950 most of this could not have been contemplated. The

United Kingdom had just emerged from a World War and was in the

throes of major change - political, economic and social. Legislation

which would form the foundation of a modern 'welfare' state had

just been passed. This would affect the lives of all citizens but it was

to have a major impact on the lives and well-being of children. These

1

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 7

Chapter

decisions, taken in the late 1940s, did not just come about as a result

of World War II, they had their origins in the living conditions of the

early 1900s and even earlier.

In the 19th century the impact of the industrial revolution caused a

major population shift from the country to cities and towns across

the United Kingdom. As a result most working people lived in

appalling housing conditions with inadequate income to maintain

the family. Deprivation and poverty were rife and it is impossible to

contemplate the absolute poverty of so many during this period.

Families unable to secure employment or those who for whatever

reason lost their employment became destitute. To be so at this time

meant a reliance on the only form of support provided by the State -

the Poor Law Workhouse system. The impact of this system on

families and particular children was often devastating. Families on

occasions were separated and children as young as 5, out-placed for

employment rather than for care.

The early part of the 20th century still maintained all the hallmarks of

a society steeped in the social values and mores of a feudal system.

Some small changes were taking place which recognised the need to

provide better care for children. However as the statistics show

children's life expectancy only began to improve during the second

part of the 20th century.

The infant mortality rate for 1925 was 86 deaths per 1000 children in

the first year; by 1950 this had dropped to 36.6; by 1975 to 21 and by

the end of 2000 close to 6. Obviously health - both medicine and

public health greatly influenced these achievements but this was

accompanied by changes in society - living conditions, income support

and a general move to provide for children and families under stress.

Legislation and policy - prior to 1950

Prior to the 20th century any policy and legislation in respect of

children had their basis primarily entrenched in the Poor Laws. These

were established in Elizabethan times and for 300 years had

governed the provision of care to poor and destitute families.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 8

Because of the prevailing attitudes to parents who were out of work

and in poverty, children had little opportunity to have their own

needs recognised.

The 19th century saw a rise of both social reformers and the

development by both church and voluntary organisations of provision

for children as an alternative to the Poor Law system. It was not

possible for these to have more than limited scope. Child care

provision largely rested with the Board of Guardians in each of the

local 'parishes'. The Guardians could take responsibility for the care

of children whose parents were deemed unfit and were receiving

relief in a workhouse. They had the powers to maintain children in

the workhouse or to place them in foster homes.

There must have been sufficient concern raised by the end of the

century to influence Parliament to establish two Royal Commissions

on the Poor Laws between 1900 and 1910. Certain Acts emerged as a

result of these reports - the 1902 Pauper Children (Ireland) Act, which

amended the earlier 1898 Pauper Children (Ireland) Act and the 1904

Prevention and Cruelty to Children Act. These were significant,

especially the latter, as they set out to improve the legislation

regarding the protection of children. These together with the 1908

Children Act together with the Pauper Children (Ireland) Acts

continued following the establishment of Northern Ireland in 1921,

to be the governing legislation until after World War II.

Policy and legislation 1950 - 1968

The impact of World War II together with major political changes

created a climate of reform across a number of public service areas in

the late 1940s in Great Britain. These would have a major impact on

the range of welfare services and formed the foundation of today's

social services provision.

With regard to child care, the Report of the Care of Children

Committee 1946 (the Curtis Report) was accepted by the Government

and subsequently new children's legislation for England and Wales.

The Northern Ireland Government produced its own White Paper in

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 9

1946 which resulted in the Children and Young Persons Act 1950.

Both of these pieces of legislative work were influenced by the

Monckton Inquiry into the death of Denis O'Neill - a child who died

in foster care in 1945 as a result of neglect and ill treatment.

The Children and Young Persons Act extended the provision with

regard to children in need of care and protection. It repeated the last

vestiges of the old Poor Law and provided for a range of services to

support children coming into the care of the State.

The responsibility for this legislation was given to the newly

established county and county borough councils. New legislation

passed in 1949 created 8 new statutory bodies to take responsibility

for a range of public services. These included the establishment of a

'welfare committee' to include responsibility for children's services.

This was the first centralised organisational structure to be developed

and was the forerunner of the current health and social services

arrangements.

In 1950 the 'welfare committees' had to tackle the need to not only

physically dismantle the Poor Law and workhouse systems but to

create a new regime and culture of care and commitment to the

well-being of vulnerable children. Many of the initial tasks were

focused on establishing children's homes, old people's homes etc. The

first efforts towards setting up a modern fostering service were

directed towards young children aged between 2 and 5 years still

housed in workhouses. It was also recognised that staff training and

development was critical to changing attitudes and thereby the

development of services. However this did not receive a high priority

in those early days.

Further developments from 1968

During the 1950s and 1960s there was a growing awareness of the

need to provide both care and protection for children in their own

homes and to give more help and support to families. It was

becoming increasingly recognised that a greater emphasis on

preventative services could reduce the need to remove children from

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 10

certain situations. A further review, The Ingleby Report of 1960,

highlighted the need for powers to combat neglect, ill-treatment and

juvenile offending. The impact of this and subsequent legislation in

England in 1963 led to the new Children and Young Persons Act (NI)

1968. For the first time prevention was established as an underlying

principle in child care practice in Northern Ireland. It also introduced

discretionary power to provide families with material help as a means

of preventing children coming into care.

The 1970s saw a move away from a specialist to a generic emphasis

on service provision. The Report of the Committee on Local Authority

and Allied Personal Social Services 1968 (the Seebohm Report)

proposed the abolition of specialist local authority departments and

replaced by comprehensive social services departments provided a

range of community care services to both children, their families and

other adults in need of care or support.

Northern Ireland followed suit in that following the Booz, Allen and

Hamilton Report (1971), the Government agreed to establish in 1973

the first integrated health and social services organisation in the

United Kingdom. This created a new generic social services

department with similar responsibilities to local authorities in Great

Britain.

During the 1970s a number of child care enquiries together with

some media campaigns brought greater public attention and

awareness to the issue of child abuse. Largely a hidden social concern

the public were increasingly forced to confront the reality that adults

not only physically abuse vulnerable children but can and do also

emotionally and sexually abuse them. The death of the child Maria

Colwell and the subsequent enquiry in 1974 proved to be a landmark

in the awareness of abuse and the need for appropriate responses.

The Northern Ireland Government established in 1976 a group under

the chairmanship of Sir Harold Black to review arrangements for

children. The Report published in 1979 recognised that children's

behaviour is affected by the environment in which they live and that

many children experience serious deprivation and poverty which has

an effect on their pattern of social behaviour. There was also a

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 11

recognition of the effect of the ongoing political violence in

Northern Ireland and that so many children grow up in a society

never knowing alternatives to violent and socially aggressive

behaviour.

If the Maria Colwell Inquiry was to have a major impact on policy and

legislation, the Hughes Inquiry (1986) into Kincora Boys Home in

Belfast was to have the same in Northern Ireland. The media publicity

and outcry following the revelation of abuse of boys by staff caused

the Black Report (1979) to be placed on the 'back burner' in the light

of a lengthy legal inquiry. The shock to public and professionals alike

was twofold - firstly, that vulnerable children were being sexually

abused and secondly, that staff trusted with their care were carrying

out such acts.

There followed in the 1980s further revelations not just in Northern

Ireland but across Great Britain and Ireland as to how paedophiles

had used the residential child care system to gain access to young

people. Hughes introduced a number of important changes to the

recruitment and management systems in residential homes together

with improved 'check' arrangements with the police. There was also

an emphasis on improving the training, qualifications and pay to staff

working in this difficult and extremely demanding area of child care.

Residential children's homes no longer provided for young children

but rather for young people with a range of social and emotional

problems - some traumatised by sexual abuse in childhood.

The 1980s and early 1990s saw greater emphasis on improving the

procedures for staff engaged in child protection work. This included

the development of protocols and joint training with the police. It

was vital that both groups of professionals understood their

respective responsibilities and worked in close collaboration.

Legislation and policy 1990 to date

In 1991 the United Kingdom adopted the United Nations Convention

on the Rights of the Child. This was a further landmark in the

development of child care services as it was to influence the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 12

forthcoming Children Order (NI) in 1995. The Convention established

that children had specific rights in law and that these should be

enshrined in legislation.

The 1995 Order has been described as one of the most significant

pieces of social legalisation of the 20th century. If the Acts of 1902

and 1908 heralded the dawn of a new era of legislative protection

and care for children, the 1995 Order was to place children's needs

and rights in law in an entirely new domain. The focus of the Order

was about acknowledging children with individual needs. Some of

these may be universal, others will be specific. The need for children

to be listened to and their statements and opinions accepted was

now recognised. Greater emphasis was to be placed on collaboration

across a wide range of agencies and a partnership with parents.

There was to be a greater shift towards prevention and family

support.

This philosophy has also influenced the approach towards adoption.

The principle of ‘freeing’ older children for adoption has been

introduced. This has encouraged social workers to consider

alternatives to fostering and residential care for children who may

spend a lengthy period of time in the public care.

New policies and legislation continue to emerge as our knowledge

and understanding of the needs of children grow. The Northern

Ireland Assembly, the Executive and the Minister have made a

number of important commitments which should lead to further

improvements in the life opportunities and well-being of children.

The period 1950-2000 has been of major importance in the care and

protection of children in our society. Following World War II the

public was determined to provide a better future for all children and

especially those caught in poverty and living in deprived

communities. There began a period of sustained development in

which new policies and legislation have emerged. These have laid the

foundation of a modern child welfare service free at delivery,

universal in approach and committed to provide children and their

families with the best possible help and support.

1

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 13

 

FOSTER CARE

Background and developments pre - 1950

One of the earliest records of fostering is the biblical story of Moses

who was brought up by Pharaoh's daughter after being rescued from

the river and fostered by his mother who had had to abandon her

son to ensure his survival. The philosophical linking of fostering to

child rescue, particularly from incapable parents, was particularly

evident in the social philosophy of the 1800s. It was only after World

War II that there was a shift from the Poor Law principle of

undeserving poor and an emphasis on providing high standards of

care to children who were the responsibility of the State. Prior to

1950, the Boards of Guardians established under the Poor Law

enactments undertook the care of children in Northern Ireland who

could not be cared for within their own families.

Due to the high mortality rate of infants admitted to workhouses

without their mothers, the Poor Law Amendment Act (Ireland), 1862

introduced new provisions for the boarding-out of children. There

was recognition that workhouses were not well suited for the "care

and nursing of such children during infancy". Boards of Guardians

were, therefore, empowered to "place any orphan or deserted child

out of the workhouse if they shall think fit to do so, by placing such

child out to nurse". While an age limit of 5 was established, provision

existed for this to be extended to 8 years.

Legislation, which sought to improve the situation of children in

deprived circumstances, included:

• the Orphan and Deserted Children (Ireland) Act 1876, which

extended the age which children could be placed at nurse up to

13 years. Regulations which accompanied this Act were the first

step in what later became the Boarding-Out Regulations.

Standards set included that the child should be kept clean,

provided with shelter, food and clothing, medical attention,

education and that attendance at religious services should take

place. A Relieving Officer was required to visit each child who was

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 15

Chapter

boarded-out at least once a month and to keep a written record

of each visit;

• the Pauper Children Acts of 1898 and 1902 defined the classes of

children eligible for boarding-out and permitted the central

authority to set an upper age limit.

The effects of these enactments can be seen from the decreasing

percentage of children aged under 15 years in workhouses as a

proportion of all residents, between 1872 and 1902, these being

25.5 per cent and 13.1 per cent respectively.

At the beginning of the century the Poor Law legislation was in a

chaotic state in Ireland and two commissions sat between 1900 and

1910 to report on the situation. The Poor Law Reform Commission

(Ireland) reported in 1906. It noted that on 11 March 1905 oneseventh

of the total population of 109 workhouses were children

(5,900). The report made a range of recommendations regarding the

care of children and promoted boarding-out as the most appropriate

way of looking after them. The reasons for this endorsement of

boarding-out was for practical purposes and included:

• institution reared children were less handy than others when put

out in the world to work;

• institution reared children were awkward and out of their

element when placed in the ordinary surroundings of the houses

of the poor;

• they were not so tough or hardy as other children;

• there was a growing dearth of agricultural labourers;

• boarding-out was the cheapest way of rearing children.

The Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress Report,

(Ireland) 1909 adopted the 1906 Commission's recommendations but

was cautious about wholesale boarding-out. It wanted the merits of

boarding-out to be more fully investigated and to be assured of the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 16

adequacy of the supply of foster parents. There was considerable

emphasis in this report on continuing supervision, even up to the

age of 21.

In 1908 the Children Act was enacted and applied to Ireland. In 1921

after the establishment of the Northern Ireland State, this Act and

the Pauper Children (Ireland) Act continued to be the legislative base

for working with children in need of care. Within the newly formed

Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland a designated inspector

was appointed to carry out the inspectorial role for such children. On

notification that a child had been boarded-out the Ministry inspector

would contact and visit the child on a regular basis. The inspector was

also required to maintain contact with the workhouses to influence

the number of children available for boarding-out and to suggest

suitable foster carers to the workhouse staff. In 1928-29 there were

320 children in workhouse care and 332 boarded-out.

The Boards of Guardians had boarded out 361 children by 1937. It

was thought that a shortage of foster carers, limited allowances and

legal constraints were preventing more children from being placed

outside the workhouse. In 1938 the Lynn Committee was established

to consider how far the changes brought about in the law of England

and Wales by the Children and Young Persons Acts 1932 and 1933

could be applied to Northern Ireland. In its report (Report of the

Committee on the Protection and Welfare of the Young and the

Treatment of Young Offenders (1938) Cmnd. 187), the Committee

recommended the adoption of regulations similar to the English

Children and Young Persons (Boarding Out) Rules of 1933. The

Committee's report was not acted upon and it was not until 1946

that there was another appraisal of child care legislation.

In 1946 the Government published a White Paper, 'The Protection

and Welfare of the Young and the Treatment of Young Offenders'

(Cmnd. 264). This paper recommended:

• the establishment of children's homes by the newly formed

welfare authorities;

• the devising of realistic boarding-out rates for foster parents;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 17

• regular review of boarding-out allowances by a Child Welfare

Council;

• the establishment of a Child Welfare Council.

Legislative and policy context since 1950

The experience of the evacuation of children in Northern Ireland due

to World War II differed from England. Prior to the Blitz of April 1941

there was a general feeling of complacency in Northern Ireland

regarding its susceptibility to a bombing campaign. A limited

evacuation of children, therefore, occurred until after the April Blitz.

Immediately after that, some 22,000 women and children were

evacuated from urban areas. Unlike England, however, where many

children were evacuated for the duration of the war, in Northern

Ireland the evacuation lasted for 9 months. Children's experience of

life away from their families varied but the duration of the

separation of children from their families was shorter than in

England. In England several thousands of children were never

returned to their parents and became the responsibility of the newly

appointed children's departments in 1948. Children's experiences in

England had considerable impact on welfare services and policy.

These changes extended to Northern Ireland and the foundation for

a modern child care service was laid as a result of the Report of the

Care of Children Committee (September 1946), known as the Curtis

Report. The Curtis Report urged that each child in care be the

personal concern of the new children's officer and their staff -

personally known to them and able to rely on other known people

for stable relationships and consideration of their needs. Curtis was

also concerned about the multiple placements of children and the

separation of siblings, issues still of concern to those working in the

child care field.

In Northern Ireland, the White Paper 'The Protection and Welfare of

the Young and the Treatment of the Young Offender', (Cmnd.264)

paved the way for the Children and Young Persons (NI) Act 1950,

which brought Northern Ireland into closer line with England and

Wales. Section 90 of this Act directed welfare authorities to provide

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 18

residential care to children where "it is not practicable or desirable

for the time being to make arrangements for boarding-out". This

preference for foster care as the most appropriate form of substitute

care reflected the thinking of the 1946 Curtis Committee Report in

England and the Children Act 1948 (England and Wales).

Accompanying the Children and Young Persons Act 1950 were several

Statutory Rules and Orders, including Children and Young Persons

(Boarding-Out) Regulations (NI) (1950) (SRO 1950 No 43). These

regulations covered the following:

• the procedures required in approving and maintaining contact

with foster homes;

• a requirement that welfare authorities should report to the

Ministry of Home Affairs if children had not been boarded-out

within 3 months of their admission to care and acquire its consent

for alternative arrangements.

In 1950, the number of children boarded-out was 472, an increase of

31 per cent from the 1937 figure. The number of children boardedout

increased dramatically following the commencement of the

Children and Young Persons Act 1950, as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1 - The Number of Boarded out Children 1950-53

In 1956 the Northern Ireland Child Welfare Council published a report

"Children in Care" (Belfast, HMSO) which noted that of the 1,303

children in the care of welfare authorities, 891 (68 per cent) were

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 19

Year No. Boarding Out. % increase % of all in care

1950 472 - 67

1951 579 27 69

1952 652 13 67

1953 934 43 70

boarded-out. It concluded that a large number of children who were

in children's homes could have the "happiness and security of a

normal family life" if suitable substitute parents could be found. A

basic assumption underpinning the Council's recommendations was

that "the child in care has a right to a house of his own as much like

other children as possible". It noted that the best way of providing

this was through adoption but where this was not possible, boardingout

should be considered as the best alternative. The Council also

emphasised that all possible safeguards should be taken to prevent

the abuse of children through careful supervision of their placement.

In 1960, the Northern Ireland Child Welfare Council examined child

welfare services ("The Operation of the Social Services in relation to

Child Welfare", Belfast, HMSO), it surveyed the children in care in

1959-60 and contrasted its findings with the situation in 1947 before

the establishment of the welfare committees. Its findings confirmed

the reducing role of the voluntary residential sector and the decrease

in the number of children cared for in residential settings. It noted

that with the exception of children in Barnardos care, those in the

care of voluntary organisations were rarely boarded-out.

The final report of the Child Welfare Council was made in 1969 and

considered the Boarding-Out Regulations of 1950 (Report on the

Children and Young Persons Boarding-Out Regulations, Belfast,

HMSO). The Council's recommendations were influential in the

revision of the Boarding-Out Regulations of 1976. Of particular

significance within the report were the following:

• the Council's observation that up to 1969 there had been no

statutory regulations aimed specifically at the protection of

children boarded-out from voluntary homes, apart from the

general provisions of Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act

(NI) 1968;

• the requirement for the Ministry of Home Affairs to receive

reports on children who were not boarded-out within 3 months of

being received into care.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 20

Both these issues were addressed in the 1976 Boarding-Out

Regulations which introduced regulations concerning children

boarded out by voluntary organisations and gave the new Area

Health and Social Services (HSS) Boards the power to take over and

perform such duties. It also terminated the requirement to notify the

Ministry given that it should be a professional decision as to which

form of care best met the needs of individual children. It is

noteworthy that in England and Wales the legislative bias in favour

of fostering was repealed in the 1969 Children and Young Persons

Act. In Northern Ireland this statutory bias remained, however, until

the commencement of the Children Order in 1996.

From 1976 a number of factors suggested that foster care was having

an increased significance for practice, these included:

• the increasing professionalism of social work practice;

• the emergence of foster parents groups; and

• the establishment of the Northern Ireland Foster Care Association

in 1978.

There were also forces at work promoting foster care for children. In

1980 a sub-committee of the Central Personal Social Services Advisory

Committee (CPSSAC) published "The Report of the Sub-Committee of

Foster Care in Northern Ireland" to the DHSS. The remit of the subcommittee

was:

"to examine the current arrangements for the

boarding-out of children and make recommendations

for the improvements for foster care in the Province".

The Report noted:

"Our study seemed to have a fine sense of timing as

interest and debate about foster care in Northern Ireland

was gaining momentum".

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 21

Similarly, events in England and Wales had led to the production of

the "Guide to Practice" (Foster Care: A Guide to Practice (1976),

London, HMSO), which was to inform social work practice for more

than 2 decades.

The sub-committee addressed the legislative bias in favour of

fostering set out in Section 114 of the Children and Young Persons

Act (NI) 1968. This required that a HSS Board should provide

accommodation and maintenance for a child in its care "on such

terms whether as to payment by the Board or otherwise as the Board

may, subject to the provision of the Act and regulations thereunto

determine". Section 114(1)(b) further states "where it is not

practicable or desirable for the time being to make arrangements for

boarding-out", the accommodation and maintenance may be

provided "by maintaining the child in a children's home or by placing

him in a voluntary home". The sub-committee's report on fostering

noted:

"we are convinced that the primacy given to fostering,

by legislation (no matter how it is qualified) is no longer

appropriate and we recommend that it is repealed"

(Para 2.5).

The Children and Young Persons Review Group chaired by Sir Harold

Black, which reported in 1979, ("Report of the Children and Young

Persons Review Group", Belfast, HMSO, December 1979) also made

this recommendation. Neither of these committees sought to

downgrade fostering as a means of caring for children, rather they

sought to ensure that decisions relating to individual children were

informed by professional judgement. The objectives of both these

reports to ensure that assessment determined placement type was

not achieved legislatively until the commencement of the Children

(Northern Ireland) Order 1995, in November 1996.

Neither the Black Report nor the CPSSAC sub-committee's report

recommended the introduction of custodianship orders giving foster

parents greater rights to the children in their care, as in the Children

Act 1975 of England and Wales. The sub-committee's report stated:

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 22

"On balance and taking into account not only the foster

parents but also the child and natural parents we

recommend that foster parents should have no special

rights in relation to adoption or custodianship ... as the

result of the passage of a certain number of years"

(Para 2.9).

Black argued that the provisions in England and Wales were as yet

untested and that no case had been made for custodianship orders in

Northern Ireland. These views were tenable at the time but practice

has shown that for many children, foster care has become a quasiadoption

situation and both children and foster carers are seeking

greater clarity about their respective positions.

Other factors, which promoted fostering were at a Departmental

policy level. The Regional Strategies for Health and Personal Social

Services (1987-92 and 1992-97) strongly promoted foster care. The

Regional Strategy (1987-92) required that:

"Boards should seek to reduce the need for residential care and with

the development of preventive and foster care services as alternatives

to residential care, to reduce the stock of residential provision".

This policy had the twin objective of placing a downward pressure on

the number of residential places while actively promoting alternatives

such as foster care. The promotion of foster care was further

reinforced in the succeeding Regional Strategy which established a

target for each Board of having at least 75 per cent of children in

care living in a family placement, excluding those children placed at

home on a "home on trial" basis, by 1997.

The promotion of one form of care over another ended with the

commencement in November 1996 of the Children Order, which

requires that decisions regarding placement type be determined by

assessment of a child's needs. The Children Order provides a

legislative framework for children's services based on principles

relating to the paramount welfare of the child, the importance of

sustaining the family through family support services and the benefits

of working in partnership. The Children Order seeks to ensure that

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 23

where consistent with safeguarding and promoting children's welfare

that they are cared for within their own families. Where that is not

possible it also provides a means whereby foster carers who have had

children in their care can acquire parental responsibility for them by

applying to the courts for residence orders (Article 10). Legislative

provision has, therefore, been provided to give effect to the

permanency needs of children who will not be returning to the care

of their parents/family for a variety of reasons and for whom

adoption is not deemed appropriate. Permanency planning is now

seen as essential to ensure children have the security and stability of

placement necessary for their future emotional development and

overall well being.

During 2000, the Prime Minister commissioned a review of Adoption

Services with the aim to improve the outcomes for children in public

care. A White Paper, "Adoption: A New Approach", was issued and

the Adoption Bill currently before Parliament addresses the need to

address weaknesses within the residence order process for children

who were previously fostered by their carers. A special Guardianship

Order is also proposed which would legally secure and would provide

permanence for those children for whom adoption is not appropriate

by conferring full parental responsibility on the special guardian

while preserving a basic legal link between the child and his/her birth

family. In Northern Ireland it has yet to be decided how the

permanency needs of looked after children will be addressed.

Although it is envisaged that consultation on a forthcoming regional

children's strategy, which will succeed the 1997-2002 strategy, will

wish to address similar issues. Both at practice and policy levels it is

recognised that foster carers are now a significant group of adopters

and there are also children who are fostered, for whom adoption is

not appropriate but who require a greater degree of security than is

currently available within foster care.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 24

Numbers of children fostered and the social context

Following 1954's high of 952 children in foster care, the number of

children boarded-out reduced and averaged 769 for the next 15 years

(range 701 to 864). It should be noted that at this time welfare

authorities were expanding the number of residential children's

homes. As a proportion of all children who were in the care of a

welfare authority the number of children in foster care reduced from

its high of 70.2 per cent in 1954 to a low of 40.6 per cent in 1979. It

was not until 1992 that the percentage of children in foster care

again reached over 60 per cent (actual figure 60.9 per cent). Since

then the percentage of children who were in foster care has been

steadily increasing and at 31 March 2000 accounted for 1,611

children, 66.5 per cent of all those looked after by HSS Trusts. It is

noteworthy that at the start of this study period, 66.8 per cent of

children were in foster care - in 50 years, therefore, we have returned

in percentage terms to our starting point.

The reason for the increasing number of children in the care of the

State from 1950 is due to the legislative authority placed upon

welfare authorities to make provision for children in need. In

addition, over this period the role of the voluntary sector in making

provision for children was reducing. As already noted above, with the

exception of children cared for by Barnardos, few children in

voluntary organisations' care were fostered.

The number of children who were fostered as opposed to being in

residential care varied throughout this period. Fostering was at its

height during the 1950s, when nearly two-thirds of children were

cared for in foster homes. From mid 1960 until 1984 the balance had

shifted with just over half of all children being cared for in residential

settings. From 1984, however, there was an increasing emphasis on

foster care noted year on year and by 1995 some two-thirds of

children were cared for by foster carers. This period is also one where

the number of children in care in general increased, as demonstrated

in Table 2:

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 25

Table 2 - The Number of Children in Care from 1965-2000

The increasing numbers of children in care in Northern Ireland is

typical of the rest of the United Kingdom. It is noteworthy that

following the commencement of the Children Order the number of

children looked after has generally fallen each year, a position which

mirrors the English and Welsh situation immediately following the

introduction of the Children Act in 1991.

The increased use of foster care as a placement choice in Northern

Ireland during the 1980s may have been linked to the increasing

professional and public concern regarding children in residential

settings occasioned by the Kincora scandal, which came to public

attention in January 1980. Two enquiries reported on the sexual

abuse of children in residential settings on foot of the allegations

made against residential staff:

• the Sheridan Report ("Homes and Hostels for Children and Young

People" (June 1982) DHSS(NI));

• the Hughes Report ("Report of the Committee of Inquiry into

Children's Homes and Hostels", 1985, Belfast, HMSO).

Both these reports put in place a range of monitoring and

management systems to safeguard and protect children in residential

care. These children, now represent a small proportion of all children

who are looked after, 11.8 per cent (March 2000).

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 26

Year Children in care

1965 1,433

1970 1,717

1975 1,823

1980 2,444

1985 2,512

1990 2,850

1995 2,624

2000 2,422

Safeguarding children in foster care

Safeguarding children in foster care has increasingly come to the

fore, as more and more children are cared for in the privacy of foster

families' homes. Abuse of children in foster care is not new, for

example:

• in 1845 Benjamin Disraeli in his novel 'Sybil: A Story of Two

Nations' outlined the cruelty and neglect of children by paid foster

mothers. He noted that infanticide by them was "practised as

extensively and legally as it is on the banks of the Ganges";

• in 1871 the Select Committee on the Protection of Infants led to

legislation in 1872 to stop the abuse of baby farming;

• in 1945, Walter Monckton, QC, chaired an enquiry into the death

of Denis O'Neill, a foster child (Monckton Enquiry Report, 1945);

• in 1997, Billie-Jo Jenkins was murdered in England by her

foster father.

In 1997, however, the issue of improving the safeguards for children

in foster care was given increased prominence following the

publication of reviews into safeguarding arrangements for children

undertaken in England and Wales, and Scotland, by Sir William

Utting and Roger Kent, respectively. Following national scandals

within the children's residential sectors Government set up both

these reviews. Both reports highlighted the need to safeguard

children in foster care. Utting's report, "People Like Us: The Report

of the Review of the Safeguarding for Children Living Away from

Home" (The Department of Health & Welsh Office, 1997, Stationery

Office), recommended that:

"The Department of Health/Welsh Office should

commission a Code of Practice for recruiting, selecting,

training and supporting foster carers". (Recommendation 5)

Kent in his report ("Children's Safeguards Review", 1997, Social Work

Services Inspectorate for Scotland, Stationery Office) recommended

that foster care should be brought within the inspection process

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 27

(Recommendation 33). While a Safeguard Review was not

undertaken in Northern Ireland, as there was no evidence that the

factors giving rise to them in the rest of the United Kingdom were

relevant here, the Chief Inspector, Social Services Inspectorate, (SSI)

undertook an audit of the safeguards available to children in public

care. SSI, also undertook an inspection of foster care services, across

Northern Ireland during 1997-98, which among other things

considered:

• children's right to be protected;

• children's right to complain;

• the monitoring of services for compliance with statutory

requirements; and

• the training, skills and support of foster carers.

The Government's response to the review of the safeguards available

for children in foster care was to establish a United Kingdom Joint

Working Party on Foster Care in 1998, which was representative of

the 4 countries of the United Kingdom. The Joint Working Party

published in June 1999 three documents:

• the United Kingdom National Standards for Foster Care;

• Report and Recommendations of the United Kingdom Joint

Working Party on Foster Care; and

• Code of Practice on the Recruitment, Assessment, Approval,

Training Management and Support of Foster Carers, which is a

document tailored for use within each of the 4 countries.

In Northern Ireland the National Standards and the Code of Practice

were launched in September 1999. The Department of Health, Social

Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) is currently requiring each HSS

Trust to audit its fostering services against the National Standards to

identify gaps in services and to provide an information base for policy

developments.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 28

Prior to the adoption of the National Standards for Foster Care,

Northern Ireland was the only part of the United Kingdom to have

produced standards for fostering service. These standards sought to

promote: the quality of care provided to children; the support and

training of carers and the monitoring and self-evaluation of services

by senior managers, ("Quality Living: Standards for Services: Children

living in family placements", 1996). These standards were used to

inform the first inspection of fostering in Northern Ireland

undertaken by SSI during 1998 ("Fostering in Northern Ireland:

Children and their Carers", DHSS, 1998) which found a total of 63

(whole time equivalent) social workers employed in providing

fostering and adoption services across the 11 HSS Trusts. The key

findings of the inspection were that:

• the demand for foster care places exceeded the supply;

• the level of recruitment in areas was failing to meet the annual

turnover of foster carers;

• levels of placement disruption for children in Northern Ireland

were high and for young children of significant concern;

• the remuneration and support of foster carers needed to be

reviewed in light of the nature of the fostering task;

• the deployment of staff in fostering teams was insufficient to

ensure that adequate resources were available for the

recruitment, support, training and retention of foster carers.

The aim of producing standards for foster services and a Code of

Practice is to enhance the standard of care provided to children living

with foster carers. It is recognised that this requires that the structure

of fostering services is well managed and resourced at HSS Trust level

and that foster carers need to be properly supported to discharge

their caring responsibilities for children placed with them. For the

first time, across the United Kingdom there are common standards

against which to assess the service provided to children and their

carers. These standards will enable those affected by fostering

services to know what they can reasonably expect of social services

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 29

and provide a firm basis for both internal and external examination

of the quality of the service provided.

Practice developments within the social context

It is hard for us to imagine a time in the United Kingdom when dead

babies were left in gutters and young children fended for themselves

on the streets as described in Mayhew's Study of London Life 1851. It

was, however, events like these, which spurred nineteenth century

social reformers such as Dr Barnardos, Mary Carpenter and Thomas

Coram. The general harshness of life in the 19th century for children

throughout the United Kingdom is unimaginable now. In pursuit of

disciplining and training children, parents and others used many

harsh methods.

In the 19th century fostering was viewed as a means of separating

children from their "feckless" or undeserving parents and of better

fitting them for employment and independence. No arrangements

were in place to enable children placed with foster parents to have

ongoing contact with their parents or family of origin. Indeed, such

contact was positively discouraged to prevent them copying the

"moral laxity" of their parents. They were also frequently separated

from their siblings, with again no effort made to facilitate contact

either through direct or indirect means. During this period children

were also not encouraged to express their views, the conventional

wisdom being that "children should be seen but not heard". A

dramatic shift in these attitudes and practices is apparent from the

legislative and policy context established by the Children Order and

its associated regulations and guidance. Now a legislative base is

available which:

• promotes parental responsibility and provides for its termination

only through adoption;

• encourages care, where consistent with safeguarding and

promoting the welfare of a child, within the family of origin;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 30

• encourages partnership working with parents, children and all

other relevant parties;

• promotes listening to and respecting the views of children when

decisions are being made about them;

• facilitates sibling groups being cared for together, where possible;

and

• encourages the placement of children near to their families to

facilitate ongoing contact.

The thinking within the Children Order, is, however, the culmination

of shifts in societal attitudes to children and their care which have

changed dramatically over the past century. As Eileen Younghusband

noted "the new understanding of the emotional needs of children

began to seep through in the late 1940s with explosive consequences

over the years for the child care services" (Eileen Younghusband,

"Social Work in Britain: 1950-1975"). The development of child care

between 1948-1970 was strongly influenced by the public concern

resulting from the evacuation of children during the war, the Curtis

Report, the death of Denis O'Neill and the post-war determination to

break with the past and provide greatly improved services. This was

also a time when fostering was being powerfully promoted and

underpinned by a legislative bias in its favour.

The Children and Young Persons (NI) Act 1950 for the first time

enabled relatives or friends to provide care for children. It sought to

secure the child's care with a parent/relative, previously fostering had

been used to break this bond. It encouraged child care officers to

rehabilitate children to their parents' care where this is consistent

with the child's welfare. Section 1(3) stated:

"the welfare authority shall in all cases where it appears to

them consistent with the welfare of the child so to do,

endeavour to secure the care of the child is taken over

either

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 31

(a) by a parent or guardian

(b) by a relative or friend of his ... ".

Given the previous philosophy of rescuing children from unfit parents

this shift is revolutionary.

The obligation to work to rehabilitate children with their families

was cast within legislation with a bias in favour of fostering and its

portrayal as being a new family for children. On the one hand foster

parents were being encouraged to treat the children as their own

while social workers were encouraged to place as many children as

possible with foster parents and also to work towards rehabilitation.

The work of John Bowlby ("Maternal Care and Mental Health", 1951)

had a considerable impact both on the policy of rehabilitating

children with their parents with whom they had made their crucial

first bonds and the policy of providing substitute care.

The Children and Young Persons (NI) Act 1968, went further by

encouraging for the first time work to prevent family breakdown.

The importance of the blood tie for the healthy development of

children was emerging, but mixed legislative and policy messages

were creating practice dilemmas for social workers. From a singleminded

pursuit of severing the contact between children and their

birth parents in the 19th century, there were now complex questions,

which accompanied the emphasis on "permanent" substitute

placement for children. From "rescuing" children from their families

there was now a growing sympathy for families who had failed. The

emphasis in practice on the blood tie and rehabilitating children with

their birth families was brought into sharp focus by the death of

Maria Colwell in 1973. Like the death of Denis O'Neill in 1945, Maria's

death generated considerable public interest and generated demands

for change. Unlike Denis, who died at the hands of his foster parents,

Maria died at the hands of her step-father after being removed from

her foster carers, who had cared for her for 6 years. The

consequences of her death for child care policy was an increased

emphasis on child protection and a drawing back from the working

with parents approach encapsulated within the 1950 and 1968

Children and Young Persons Acts. As Packman notes:

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 32

"The most important general issue which the Maria Colwell

report highlighted, therefore, was how far child care

policies had, through their growing commitment to the

family, ultimately failed the child" (Jean Packman, The

Child's Generation, Blackwell & Robertson, 1975, (P177).

The issue of contact with birth families and stability of placement has

been placed in sharp focus by the Children Order with its emphasis

on contact and parental responsibility alongside the principle of the

paramount well being of the child. The issue of parental contact is

complex and one where a standardised approach cannot be

employed to guide practice. Rather each situation requires careful

assessment so that a child's need for continuity of carer and

placement is addressed appropriately. The issue of contact with birth

families and stabilising the fostering situation for children, for whom

a return home is not appropriate, is now firmly fixed on both the

political and professional agenda. Fifty years has, therefore, seen a

dramatic shift in attitude and practice in relation to children's contact

with their parents. The benefits of contact for children's sense of

identity and continuity are now firmly recognised. There is, however,

alongside this an increasing recognition that children in substitute

family care require a sense of belonging and security. Some of the

factors, which have contributed to this shift in practice are discussed

below.

From the 1950s social workers' uncertainty about their priorities and

the consequent problems they had in weighing parents' rights and

wishes against children's need for long-term substitute care caused

delays in placing children with foster carers. In 1975 Rowe and

Lambert's study 'Children who Wait' portrayed thousands of children

waiting in residential care who were unlikely to go home. In England

as a consequence the Children Act 1975 concentrated exclusively on

facilitating the removal of children from their families and on

reducing the rights of birth parents. This Act also conferred on foster

parents the right to apply for an adoption order for a child for whom

they have cared for 5 years. Similar legislative change was not

embarked upon in Northern Ireland, but the research messages of

'Children who Wait', and the need for planning and decision making

to secure children's well-being has made considerable impact on

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 33

practice in Northern Ireland. Social workers have been working to

secure adoption for children in long-term foster care and foster carers

who adopt looked after children now represent a significant

proportion of all non-family adopters. The changes in adoption also

created a context which enables children to benefit from either

ongoing direct or indirect contact with their families of origins

following their adoption.

The blurring of fostering and adoption, which is perhaps inevitable

with the increased emphasis on permanency planning is at an early

stage of development in Northern Ireland. It is of interest to note

that Jane Rowe in her study of the effect of the 1975 Act on foster

parents applying to adopt found it had not led to any explosion in

the number of applications by long-term foster parents to adopt (J.

Rowe et al "The Influence of Section 29", Adoption and Fostering

103(1) 1981). It will be interesting to find how foster carers respond

to the policy and planned legislative change, which will favour

promoting permanency planning for children.

The implications of shifts in child care policy for foster carers over the

past 50 years has been considerable. Increasingly, they are being

asked to care for children with more complex needs and of an older

age than would have been the case in 1950. They are also now more

involved in facilitating children's contact with their birth families and

helping them come to terms with events in their lives. From being

viewed exclusively as volunteers they are now recognised as being

part of the team of people working together to help children and

where appropriate their birth families. As noted in the inspection

report of fostering services, "Fostering in Northern Ireland: Children

and their Carers", the majority of carers are now actively involved in

planning for their foster children's care and in reviewing progress on

a regular basis.

Foster carers now perform a range of tasks from the short-term care

of babies through to the professional fostering of young people with

serious behavioural difficulties. Their contribution to the care and

well being of children and to the child welfare system cannot be over

stated.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 34

The main achievements in foster care since 1950

1. The need for children in public care to have experiences of family

life and contact with their birth families is now firmly established

within legislation and child care policy.

2. Greater emphasis is now made on placing siblings together and in

close proximity to their community, family and school. Foster

carers are now actively involved in facilitating children's contact

with their birth families.

3. There has been a shift in emphasis from "foster parent" to "foster

carer", as part of the growing recognition that the task of

fostering children is more than providing substitute parenting for

children but is a skilled work requiring foster carers to be

appropriately trained and supported. This has led to the

development of foster carer training programmes, such as the

NVQ 3 for foster carers, and the development of national

standards against which fostering services can be evaluated.

4. Increasingly foster carers are regarded as partners with HSS Trusts'

staff, rather than volunteers. This can be demonstrated through

foster carers involvement in the assessment, planning and review

of children and in working therapeutically with children.

5. Changes in society have placed a downward pressure on the

recruitment and retention of foster carers, which is leading to an

increased recognition of the value and contribution made by

them. This recognition has led to a greater emphasis being

afforded to how foster carers should be remunerated. There is

now, therefore, greater use of skill and fee paid foster carers

alongside the traditional foster care allowances to ensure a

sufficient number are available to care for children in public care.

6. There is an increasing awareness that the emphasis on family

contact and access can leave some children who are fostered in an

ambivalent situation. Steps are, therefore, being considered to

bring greater clarity and security to fostering situations, which are

"permanent" without having to resort to adoption.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 35

7. Fostering is now used for children with a wider spectrum of needs

and more complex needs than would have been thought possible

50 years ago.

The way ahead

Changes in society in terms of the family and rising thresholds for

admission to care result in children entering public care with a range

of complex needs. Foster care as a result is now dealing with children

and young people who need both emotional nurturing and

therapeutic help. This has implications in terms of:

• the selection, recruitment and retention of foster carers;

• the training and support of foster carers;

• the remuneration of foster carers for the tasks they undertake;

and

• providing a legislative basis to support/underpin fostering

situations which are "quasi-adoption" situations.

Changes in family structure and working practices are, however,

occurring in society; the effect of which is reducing the potential

supply of foster carers. In Northern Ireland, as in the rest of Great

Britain there is, therefore, a need to recruit more carers and to retain

them within the service.

The United Kingdom National Standards for Foster Care and the Code

of Practice creates a basis for promoting high standards of practice in

foster care. The current audit being undertaken within HSS Trusts

against the National Standards will provide an update on fostering

services, which will enable a policy reappraisal. This in conjunction

with the publication of a children's strategy for Northern Ireland will

set the future agenda for foster care taking account of the needs of

children, their parents and their carers.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 36

The Human Rights Act 1998, also by establishing children's rights to

family life (Article 8) provides an expectation regarding the care of

children. It is noteworthy that as early as 1956 the Northern Ireland

Child Welfare Council stated:

"the child in care has a right to a house of his own as much

like other children as possible".

The aim of child care policy must be to deliver on this aspiration,

whether a child is cared for within a residential or family setting.

Legislatively, the Children Order is neutral in regard to placement

type. Its emphasis is on placement type determined by an individual

assessment of need, and this creates the catalyst for practice that is

specific to each child and responsive to addressing his/her needs. The

recognition that there is no one best way for children means that

there is a need to construct a child welfare system capable of

meeting the variety of needs of children. This means that in the

future foster care of both a short and long-term nature will remain a

significant part of the child welfare system. To be fit for the purpose

this service will need to be well managed, properly resourced and

responsive to the needs of children placed within it.

2

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 37

 

ADOPTION

Introduction

From ancient to modern times, the adoption of children has always

been sure to catch the public imagination. Adoption presents one of

the most emotive challenges to individuals, families and indeed,

society itself. At its most basic level, adoption is a legal procedure

that creates a permanent family for a child where birth parents are

unable, unwilling or are legally prohibited from caring for the child.

Adoption transfers all parental responsibility to adoptive parents and

places the child within a new kinship network. The legal procedure

occurs at one point in time. But adoption is a lifelong journey that

takes on new meanings and significance for all parties through every

life stage. In its broadest sense, adoption strikes at the very core of

society's values about the 'ownership' and 'belonging' of children. It

is 'about love and loss, about concern and commitment, passion and

grief ' (Rowe, 1966), and it is never simple.

Arguably no other children's service has seen such dramatic change

over the last 50 years. Shifting social attitudes and norms have found

expression in legislative, welfare, policy and social support

frameworks that have shaped adoption over this period. Whether

looked at from the point of view of children, birth parents,

prospective adopters or adoptive families, at any point in history it

can be claimed that 'good adoption practice is complex, important

and fraught with controversy' (Tresiliotis et al, 1997). This chapter

traces key developments that help to define the past, present and

future challenges of services for children and adults affected by

adoption.

The development of adoption services prior to the establishment of

the Welfare State in 1947

Legislation to 1947

Whilst various provisions and obligations were made under the Poor

Laws (1800-1920) with regard to children who had been adopted, the

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 39

Chapter

Adoption of Children Act (NI) 1929 introduced to Northern Ireland

the first legislation which dealt specifically with adoption and laid the

foundations of modern adoption law.

Contrary to popular belief, the history of adoption has not been

dominated by the placement of orphaned, abandoned or neglected

children with 'stranger' families. Non-kinship adoption is a relatively

modern phenomenon. O'Halloran (1994) observed of feudal Britain

and Ireland: 'In societies where the functioning of the whole system

was accepted as being of greater importance than that of each

individual family unit, then the modern problem of unwanted

children did not seem to arise. An extra pair of hands was always

useful in societies tied to the land. But when the economy of a

society changed from being land based to industrial, wage earning

and mobile, the nuclear family unit became more independent and

children often simply represented more mouths to feed'.

In Great Britain, the gap left by the disappearance of social systems

based on feudalism, Catholicism and the extended agricultural family

was, for 300 years, filled by the State in the form of the Poor Laws. In

1921, when the State of Northern Ireland was established, a

substantial legacy of the Poor Law existed in the form of the

workhouses. These contained large numbers of unmarried mothers

and their illegitimate children as well as abandoned children and

orphans.

Non-kinship adoption of children was not encouraged by the Poor

Law administrators who feared that this would so completely relieve

parents of their responsibilities as to amount to condoning

immorality. The perception was that adoption outside of the family

would encourage the production of more children to become a

burden on the rates of the parish. Kinship fostering, where a family

would take in its own rather than let or be seen to let relatives go to

the workhouse was both common and encouraged. Significant

numbers of children were boarded-out. Few were adopted, although

prior to 1929 a non-judicial form of adoption existed. Under the 1899

Poor Law Act, the Board of Guardians had inherited obligations to

have children who had been 'adopted' with their consent visited by a

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 40

competent person at least twice in each year. This was to continue for

3 years after the child had been adopted and if the Board was not

satisfied with the reports, the child could be withdrawn.

During the period following World War I there was a significant rise

in the numbers of illegitimate births and large-scale orphanhood

resulting from the war. This, together with the many custody disputes

in cases of de facto adoptions, gave impetus to the 1926 Adoption

Act in England, the first adoption law to be made in the United

Kingdom (Tresiliotis et al, 1997). The 1929 Adoption Act followed in

Northern Ireland, heralded by the then Attorney General:

' ..... if this Bill becomes law, I believe that many persons

who are at present afraid to contract ties of affection for

the children of others lest they be rudely broken, will be

prepared to offer comfortable homes and happiness to

children, who through the misfortunes of their parents

would otherwise have to depend on charity and would be

condemned to a childhood barren of all pleasure and

opportunity ...'

Adoption Bill, Second Reading 1929 Northern Ireland House

of Commons.

Thus, for children unable to be brought up by their birth families, the

principle that legal adoption provides a form of security that cannot

be offered by other forms of care was firmly established and still

prevails today. Adoption became a judicial procedure and, for the

first time, transferred parental rights and responsibilities from one

party to another. An adoption order once made was irrevocable.

Unlike present day adoption, this law preserved the adopted child's

right to inherit from his or her birth family but required specific

provision to be made if the child was to inherit from the adoptive

family. It reflected reluctance on the part of the establishment to see

inheritance passed to 'outsiders' and contemporary beliefs about

maintaining the class structure through kinship ties.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 41

The social context to 1947

Poverty was rife in Northern Ireland during the 'depression' years of

the 1920s and 1930s with the decline of the shipbuilding, linen and

textile industries. In the severest times almost a quarter of the

insured population were unemployed. Great numbers of families

were dependent on Poor Law Relief assistance. There were no

statutory benefits for unwed mothers who were not in a position to

work, until 1948 when the National Assistance Act (Northern Ireland)

introduced minimal aid to one-parent families, other than widows.

Many women and their illegitimate babies who were admitted to the

workhouse had no hope of reunification with their families. They

shared their living circumstances with others who were vulnerable

and poverty stricken. 'Unmarried mothers' and 'infants' were only 2

categories in an official 1905 classification of workhouse residents

which included 'the sick'; 'the aged and infirm'; 'lunatics'; 'sane

epileptics'; 'children between infancy and 15 years of age'; 'casuals or

'ins and outs'; 'vagrants or tramps' and 'other able bodied'. When the

Poor Law Commission of Inquiry reported in 1906, there were 2,129

unmarried mothers in workhouses. By 1938 a number of institutions

had been established, mostly by churches and charitable bodies to

support unmarried mothers and their numbers in workhouses had

reduced to 61.

The rate of illegitimate births in Northern Ireland declined steadily

from a peak of 5.1 per cent of all births in 1930 to 4.6 per cent in

1940, although by 1945 the rate had risen to 5.4 per cent. There was

a sharp increase in the annual number of adoption orders during the

war and immediate post war years. The numbers peaked at 387 in

1945 and then began to fall despite marriage and divorce rates

remaining steady during the same period. O'Halloran (1994) proposes

that this was due to the re-distributing of legitimate children

orphaned by the war and stepparent adoptions rather than a

significant increase in placements of infants born to unmarried

mothers. Tresiliotis et al (1997) observed that the stigma attached to

non marital births and fears that adopted children might inherit

traits, including 'immorality' and 'bad habits' was an attitude that

limited adoption before about 1945 mainly to the working class.

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 42

From the 1930s to the post war years, few details about an adopted

child's background were passed to prospective adopters. Birth parents

(almost always the mother, as birth fathers were rarely identified and

not usually visible) were in turn given sparse information about the

adopters' circumstances. The information required of both the

mothers placing children for adoption and the prospective adopters

was minimal - often contained in brief proformas. These

concentrated purely on the material facts rather than the wishes,

feelings and emotions of the parties concerned. Fathers, if identified

by the mother, were rarely interviewed and in many cases were

unaware of the existence of the child.

Adopted people were not permitted to have access to information

held on adoption agency records about their birth circumstances.

O'Halloran (1994a) points out, however, that an adopted person was

always able to obtain some information - where he or she knew their

date of birth and the birth surname, it was possible to apply to the

Registrar General's office for a copy of the original birth certificate.

The need to preserve strict confidentiality in respect of the

identification of personal details of all parties did not feature

strongly in adoption practice until the 1960s. A study undertaken by

McVeigh (1995), which considered a sample of persons who had been

adopted in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s who had sought access to

their birth records, found that the majority of these adoptees had

retained their original Christian names and most had information

about their birth surname. Some had background information such as

the age of the birth mother and her place of origin. In the early

years, it was not unusual for legal documentation containing the

details of birth parents, the child's birth name and prospective

adopters to be openly passed to each party for signature. Indeed,

there was an assumption in the 1929 Act that most hearings would

take place in open courts and only in exceptional circumstances

would there be proceedings 'in camera'. In practice, however,

hearings were conducted in private (Caul and Herron, 1992). What is

interesting is that despite this knowledge, in general, birth parents,

adoptive families and adult adoptees preserved each other's

confidentiality. The implicit ethics were such that it would have been

rare, if not unknown, for either party to have made direct contact at

any stage.

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 43

The management and structure of adoption services to 1947

Between 1929 and 1947, the Board of Guardians was responsible for

discharging statutory obligations in respect of children who had been

adopted. Inspectors and Child Protection Officers carried out duties

on behalf of the Board. In 1947 the Board of Guardians' welfare

functions transferred to eight newly established welfare authorities

established within the county and county borough councils. Each

authority's powers were carried out by a statutory welfare

committee, which appointed Children's Inspectors and Welfare

Visitors. The latter appear to have acted as investigating officers for

the adoption court.

The period between the 2 World Wars also saw the establishment of

a number of non-statutory societies to arrange adoptions. Whilst the

1929 Act upheld the principle that all decisions in relation to

adoption should be taken with regard for the child's welfare, the

Horsburgh Report (1937) in England found that some agencies were

advertising with financial inducements and profit motives that had

little regard for the welfare of children. There was some evidence

that a similar situation existed in Northern Ireland (Caul and Herron,

1992). It was not until 1950 that new legislation abolished such

activities. According to the 1950 Northern Ireland Yearbook at least

12 adoption societies were operating here at that time.

Adoption legislation, the social context and structure of services

1948 - 1967

Legislation 1948 - 1967

The Adoption of Children Act (NI) 1950 followed new adoption

legislation in England in 1949. The Act introduced a number of

requirements which developed further safeguards for children and

addressed deficiencies in the 1929 legislation. The new provisions

included:

• the making of an interim order in all cases for a period of not less

than 3 months and not more than 2 years;

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 44

• the appointment of a guardian ad litem in all cases; and

• the registration of voluntary adoption societies and the

prohibition of any 'body of persons' other than a registered

adoption society or welfare authority from making adoption

arrangements, advertising or profit making.

Whilst the Act was very similar to its English counterpart, there were

important differences. Applicants had to be resident or domiciled in

Northern Ireland, whereas there was more flexibility in relation to

residence in the English Act. In Northern Ireland, two court hearings

were separated by a 'probationary' period of at least 3 months

before the final adoption order could be granted. This was in

contrast to the English system whereby if the child had been in the

care and possession of the applicant for at least 3 months beyond the

age of 6 weeks, a final order could be made. The English Act had

now established that for the purposes of the law of succession and in

the absence of any contrary intention, a reference in any will made

after 1958 to 'a child of the family' was to include an adopted child

(O'Halloran, 1994). This provision did not exist in the Northern

Ireland Act.

The Act was accompanied by further statutory rules and orders

governing court procedures for making adoption orders and the

registration of adoption societies. It is important to note that this Act

did not prevent individuals from making private arrangements to

place children for adoption directly or through a third party. Priests,

ministers of religion and doctors were often able to secure infants for

childless couples and acted as the intermediary between a usually

distressed mother and 'respectable' couples longing for a child.

When the Hurst Committee reported on deficiencies in English

adoption law and procedure in 1954, a new Adoption Act followed in

1958. In Northern Ireland, the Child Welfare Council was asked by the

Ministry of Home Affairs in 1959 to carry out a similar inquiry. The

Council published its report, "Adoption of Children" in 1963 (HMSO,

1963). The report indicated that from 1955-59 the number of

adoption orders which had been made was 1,267 and of this number

99 per cent of the children were under 5 years and more than 50 per

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 45

cent were under 2 years. Third party and direct placements accounted

for 39 per cent of the children placed. The Council made a number of

recommendations including the need for:

• more control over third party and direct placement of children for

adoption;

• the retention of interim orders but that normal practice should be

for an adoption order to be made at a single hearing after 3

months continuous care and possession of the child by the

adoption applicants (subject to more supervisory powers being

introduced to protect the child's interests);

• more flexibility for applicants domiciled in Great Britain and

resident in Northern Ireland and vice versa;

• the retention of existing arrangements vis a vis the right of an

adopted child to see his or her birth certificate. The Council

proposed that because Northern Ireland was such a small

community, easy access to birth details could lead to all sorts of

personal tragedies. The Registrar General was to continue,

therefore, only to provide information about an original birth

certificate in exceptional circumstances and only by order of

the court;

• closer links should be established between adoption societies

(there were only 4 active at this time) and voluntary children's

homes; and

• the appointment of a guardian ad litem independent of the

placing agency in all cases.

The Adoption (NI) Act 1967 in effect enshrined all of the above in

legislation, with the exception of the appointment of the

independent guardian ad litem. In England, guardians tended to be

appointed from neighbouring authorities. In Northern Ireland it was

not until the 1980s that the practice of appointing a guardian from a

team, other than that of the investigating officer, was established.

The guardian did not become independent of the placing agency

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 46

until 1996 when, as a result of the Children (NI) Order 1995, the

Northern Ireland Guardian ad Litem Agency was established.

An important feature of the 1967 Act related to cases where an

application had been made to dispense with parental consent.

Section 5(1) of the Act stipulated that in such cases the welfare of the

child must be the 'paramount' consideration. The child's welfare

therefore took precedence over all other considerations in this

situation. In 1967 the United Kingdom ratified the European

Convention on the Adoption of Children, which required that the

consent of a parent to adoption might be dispensed with "only on

exceptional grounds determined by law." The principle of

'paramountcy' of the welfare of the child was therefore to become

the focus of much deliberation prior to the 1987 adoption legislation

and continues to be the subject of some considerable debate.

The social context 1948-1967

In the period following World War II, adoption was beginning to be

seen as a solution to the problem of infertility and was gaining

popularity among the middle classes. Tresiliotis et al (1997)

commented: "Although this was a period when nurture was

supposed to rule over nature, this optimism was not reflected in the

practice of adoption agencies in the way they selected children for

placement. This came to be known as the era of the 'perfect baby'

for the 'perfect couple'. Great effort was put into matching infant

and parents in an attempt to create a family as 'like' a biological one

as possible. An 'adoptable' infant was, generally speaking, white,

healthy, with an acceptable background and developing normally".

Bowlby's (1951) theories of maternal deprivation and bonding had a

significant influence on adoption practice. The suggestion that

children separated from their parents from a very young age would

not be able to attach to adoptive parents served to focus adoption

practice on infants rather than older children. Many children over the

age of 2 or infants who had even a slight 'defect' in appearance were

rejected as unsuitable for adoption. To take but one example noted

in a Northern Ireland case record completed in 1955 on a healthy

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 47

baby boy: the child's mother did not wish to have anything to do

with him and was 'most anxious that the child should be adopted'.

The report on the 6-week-old boy noted that he was 'unsuitable for

adoption', the reason being that the child had 'infantile eczema'. The

child spent his life until the age of 19 years in the residential care of

a voluntary agency. Sadly, this was not untypical. Any history,

however remote, of mental illness, epilepsy or disability in the family

history automatically excluded a child from being considered for

adoption. The numbers of new born or very young infants who could

have been made available for adoption during this period far

outweighed the number of people wishing to adopt - perhaps the

only time in modern adoption history when this was the case.

The number of annual adoptions, having fallen after the war,

increased between 1950 and 1955 from 169 to 259. O'Halloran (1994)

links this to an increase in the numbers of children in care over the

same period and the growing popularity of boarding-out children. He

concluded that it is possible that the increase in adoption orders was

due to a rise in the number of foster parent adoptions rather than

more infants becoming available. During the next 5 years adoption

rates fell, as did the numbers of children in care.

Despite a new liberalism emerging in the early 1960s, social attitudes

towards unmarried women who became pregnant had not

significantly changed, even amongst 'professionals'. In the 1963

Council Report, referred to above, there was a suggestion that 'some

social workers were reluctant to place second or additional

illegitimate children of unmarried mothers or the illegitimate

offspring of married mothers as there might be some taint of

immorality which could be hereditary' (Caul and Herron 1992). The

report urged that this policy should be discontinued in the interests

of children. Speaking of his experience as a young curate in the early

1960s, Cardinal Edward Daly captured the public and private view of

adoption:

" ... Single women who had children outside marriage were

(also) treated cruelly. Parents could be quite ruthless with a

daughter caught in this unfortunate situation. Society

generally was not supportive or sympathetic to the single

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 48

parent, at that time. I dreaded and loathed being involved

in these situations. On a few occasions, thankfully not very

often, I was called to a house to be confronted by such a

situation. On arrival, I was told, usually by a distraught

mother but sometimes by both parents, that they had just

become aware that their daughter was pregnant. They had

younger children at home and they did not want them or

any of the neighbours to know of their daughter's

dilemma. I was then asked to make arrangements for the

daughter to go somewhere discreet where she and the

baby could be cared for until after childbirth. They almost

always insisted that the baby be placed for adoption, or, at

least, that it should not under any circumstances, be

brought back to the family home. The young woman

herself was seldom consulted on these occasions. It was a

very difficult situation and any suggestion that the young

woman might stay at home would be met with incredulity

and anger. It was my practice to try to comfort and support

the young mother as best I could, but usually she was so

distressed and ashamed that she too, at this stage, just

wanted to get away from all the hysteria at home as

quickly as possible. I felt quite inadequate in such

circumstances. An order of religious sisters would usually

care for mother and child for as long as was necessary ...

The father of the child or the existence of such an

individual, was seldom mentioned". Daly, 2002

From 1960-67 the annual marriage rate climbed steadily but after the

introduction of the Legal Aid Scheme in 1966, the number of divorces

suddenly doubled. The rate of illegitimate births also increased.

Adoption orders almost doubled from 231 in 1960 to 415 in 1967. In

view of the decrease in the numbers of children boarded-out during

this period, O'Halloran (1994) suggests that the rise in adoption

reflected increases in stepparent adoptions within reconstituted

families and adoptions of relinquished infants rather than adoptions

of children in statutory care. The numbers of infant adoptions

continued to increase until well into the 1970s.

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 49

The management and structure of adoption services 1948-1967

Adoption services came under the auspices of the newly created

welfare authorities in 1947. Caul and Herron (1992) note that by the

time the professionalisation of social work in the late 1950s and early

1960s was underway, local authority services had continued to

expand with a wider range of services becoming available to meet

specific needs. In the 1960s, whilst there was a tendency to move

towards general 'social welfare officers', the most senior posts

became specialist in nature. Children's Officers were established in

each welfare authority, reporting through a Deputy Chief Welfare

Officer to the Chief Welfare Officer. Their responsibilities included

adoption services, although the management of services fell to

Assistant Children's Officers. Each Divisional Welfare Office appointed

Senior Social Workers who, in addition to other child care

responsibilities, supervised adoption practice. Amongst a host of

general welfare, family and child care duties, social workers

undertook home approvals of prospective adopters and provided

support to mothers who were contemplating placing a child for

adoption. They also carried out guardian ad litem duties.

By the early 1960s adoptive applicants had become subject to more

intensive home study investigations, heavily influenced by

psychoanalytical perspectives that were promoted in professional

social work training courses. There were specific requirements to be

met on the part of adopters in relation to age, length of marriage,

income and housing conditions. The welfare authority's list of

approved adopters was maintained by the Assistant Children's Officer

who in discussion with Senior Social Workers, linked children with

adoptive families. Welfare committees, made up of local councillors,

approved all adoption placements of children.

The Northern Ireland Child Welfare Council Report (1963) referred to

above established the framework for a modern adoption service. The

Report noted that for the 1955-60 period, 26 per cent of placements

were by a registered adoption society - by this time only 4 adoption

societies were active and only one employed a full time fieldworker.

Third party and direct placements accounted for 39 per cent of the

children placed. Twenty one per cent of applicants were blood

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 50

relatives. The Report also found that voluntary children's homes had

a poorer track record than statutory homes of boarding children out.

As it was not unusual in the 1950s and 1960s for older children in the

public care to be adopted by their foster carers, there was therefore

less potential for children in voluntary homes to be adopted. Church

affiliated voluntary sector agencies continued to approve couples and

place children for adoption in increasing numbers. In 1961-62,

approximately 35 per cent of adoption placements were made by

registered adoption societies. During the same period 30 per cent of

children were placed by the statutory authorities and 9.7 per cent by

'other persons'.

Several residential homes/hostels were established, mainly by the

voluntary sector, to enable mothers to await the birth of their child

and, where they had decided against adoption, to care for their child

until they found a suitable home.

Adoption legislation, the social context and structure of services

1968-1988

Legislation 1968-1988

The Children and Young Persons Review Group under the

chairmanship of Sir Harold Black ('The Black Committee') was

appointed by Ministers in 1976 to review the legislation and services

relating to the care and treatment of young persons under the

Children and Young Person's Act (NI) 1968, the Adoption (NI) Act

1968 and the Probation Act (NI) 1950 and to make recommendations

as to changes in legislation and organisation in services

The consultative paper 'Adoption of Children in Northern Ireland'

(HMSO, 1980) was produced as a stand-alone report in recognition of

the fact that 'adoption was an important and complex subject which

required consideration separate from the main part of the Review'.

Several recommendations emerged in the final report of the

Committee: 'Adoption of Children in Northern Ireland : Report of the

Children and Young Persons Review Group' (HMSO 1982). Some of

these were disregarded by the legislation that was to follow. The

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 51

Adoption (NI) Order 1987 however gave effect to a number of the

recommendations, including:

• the introduction, for the first time, of a statutory duty on HSS

Boards to provide an adoption service;

• prohibition of independent or 'third party' placements of children

with non-relatives. All placements were to be made through an

adoption agency;

• the introduction of a freeing order for children - either with or

without the agreement of parents - through which parental rights

could be transferred by the court to an adoption agency;

• adoption placements arranged by voluntary adoption societies

should no longer be subject to HSS Board approval and the

welfare supervision of the child prior to the granting of an

adoption order should be undertaken by the placing agency;

• the mandatory appointment of a guardian ad litem and reporting

officer in all adoption and freeing order cases; and

• on reaching the age of majority an adopted person should have

access to his/her birth records.

It is noteworthy that the Black Committee, after much deliberation,

also recommended that Section 5 (1) of the 1967 Adoption Act, which

provided for the welfare of the child to be the paramount

consideration in dispensing with parental consent, should be deleted.

This was based on interpretations of the 1967 European Convention

on the Adoption of Children, referred to above. The Committee

commented that 'in Northern Ireland, there have been very few cases

in recent years involving dispensation of consent, hence there is little

evidence available as to the merits or demerits of the paramountcy

principle'. Had the Committee been reviewing the present day

situation in adoption, its members might have come to a different

conclusion.

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 52

The Black Committee recommended that the legislation should

provide that in deciding any course of action in relation to the

adoption of a child 'a court or adoption agency shall have regard to

all the circumstances, full consideration being given to the need to

safeguard and promote the welfare of the child throughout his

childhood'. The 1987 Adoption Order, however, closely followed

Section 3 of the 1975 Children Act in England and Wales by providing

that the court shall 'regard the welfare of the child as the most

important consideration' but in contested cases the court must then

go on to consider whether the statutory criteria can be met for

dispensing with parental consent.

The 1987 Adoption Order was implemented in 1989 in conjunction

with the Adoption Agency Regulations (NI) 1989. The regulations

required, inter alia, the establishment by each adoption agency of a

panel of experts (which has come to be known as an Adoption

Panel), to make recommendations to the Agency about the suitability

of children to be adopted, the suitability of applicants as adoptive

parents and the proposed placement of children with prospective

adoptive families.

The social context 1968 -1988

In the first half of this period, adoptions in Northern Ireland reached

unprecedented numbers. In 1970, there were 554 adoption orders

granted. In the late 1970s, however, there was growing concern

about the numbers of children languishing in care for want of

effective planning. The 'Children who Wait' study in England (Rowe

and Lambert, 1973) showed that whilst some children could have

rejoined their parents, others required a long-term alternative. At

about this time the idea of 'permanency planning' was sweeping into

the United Kingdom from the USA. The number of adoptions of

children in care in Northern Ireland, however remained very low,

bolstered by occasional adoptions of children by their foster carers.

The 18 years from 1970 saw a gradual fall in the numbers of

adoptions to 270 in 1988. During this period the percentage of

'stranger' adoptions as a proportion of all adoptions also fell. The

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 53

figures available show that in 1974 the 211 adoptions of children by

'strangers' accounted for 64 per cent of 332 adoptions. By 1987 there

were 104 'stranger' adoptions accounting for only 36 per cent of 285

adoptions. The remaining adoptions involved stepparents or other

relatives.

O'Halloran (1994) shows that both the annual rates of adoption and

marriage reached their peak during this period, despite little or no

change in the rate of illegitimate births. From the early 1970s to the

late 1980s, he claims, several statistical trends are apparent which had

a direct bearing on shaping the modern use of adoption:

• marriage became less popular with a marked decrease in the

marriage rate after the introduction of the Matrimonial Causes

(NI) Order 1978 and the Domestic Proceedings (NI) Order 1980;

• childbirth became less dependent on marriage (perhaps as a

consequence of the above) and the number of illegitimate births

increased from 3.8 per 1000 to 12.7 per 1000 in 1986, accompanied

by preferential welfare benefits for single parents;

• advances in law and medicine increased the extent to which

maternity became a chosen option. Pregnancy could be avoided

through the use of improved contraceptives or terminated by

abortion. Persons undergoing abortion in England but giving an

address in Northern Ireland increased from 199 in 1970 to 1,724 in

1986; and

• more children were being cared for by the State. Numbers

increased from 1,717 in 1970 to 2,448 in 1984 with the proportion

of those committed under a compulsory care order rising from

37.6 per cent in 1964 to 74.8 per cent in 1984.

The stigma associated with illegitimacy had diminished by the early

1980s - "the status of unmarried motherhood came to be absorbed

into the rapidly growing number of 'lone mothers' which followed

the relaxation of the grounds for divorce ... the issues of illegitimacy

... were subsumed into the new concern about lone parenthood, a

concern partly aroused by the poverty with which it was often

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 54

accompanied ... moreover, the sheer numbers of unmarried mothers

meant that pregnancy outside of marriage could no longer be seen

as a special problem of the deviant few", (DoH, 1999).

The whole character of non-kinship adoption had changed

dramatically by the end of this period from being dominated by the

placement of illegitimate babies to securing alternative arrangement

for children who had been removed from 'defaulting parents'

(O'Halloran, 1994).

Structure of services 1968 - 1988

In a major reorganisation of the Health and Personal Social Services

in 1973, the functions of welfare authorities were transferred initially

to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Ministry delegated these to the

4 HSS Boards. Primary responsibility for the 1967 Adoption Act (as for

all other statutory functions) was subsequently transferred to the

DHSS. The 4 Boards were thus entitled to act as adoption agencies,

although there was no statutory duty to provide an adoption service

until the 1987 Adoption Order came into force.

In 1973 each Board established administrative Districts, (District Social

Services Office) each of which had a Senior Social Worker responsible

for adoption services, accountable to a Fieldwork Services Manager at

Principal Social Work level. The model for service delivery varied

across Boards. In some Districts, all home study assessments of

adoptive applicants were undertaken by specifically designated

'adoption' social workers. In others, particularly in the Eastern Board,

social workers continued to operate as generic workers and in

addition to general welfare responsibilities fulfilled the full range of

adoption services including: support for mothers contemplating

adoption and those placing children for adoption; home study

assessments of adoptive applicants; reporting officer and guardian ad

litem duties on behalf of other District teams who were the placing

agencies. By the 1970s Boards had begun to 'close' adoption waiting

lists - normally divided into Protestant and Catholic lists - for periods

due to the growing numbers of adoptive applicants and the

decreasing numbers of infants available for adoption. In some

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 55

situations, Catholic lists remained open, as there were greater

numbers of relinquished Catholic infants. The maintenance of lists of

each Board's approved adopters and the linking of children with

adopters was co-ordinated centrally by an Adoption Services Manager

or equivalent. Boards also established Standing Adoption

Committees/Working Groups to oversee and review adoption policies

and procedures. The Assistant Directors of Social Services chaired

these and membership included the Principal Social Workers for

Fieldwork Services.

The mid 1980s saw a move away from the generic model of service

delivery and the introduction of specialist Programmes of Care. All

Districts created fostering and adoption teams relating to specialist

managers within Family and Child Care Programmes of Care. This

model was to prevail through further re-organisation of the HSS into

general Units of Management in the early 1990s.

The years 1968-1988 were characterised by a significant period of

retraction for voluntary adoption agencies. In 1980, the Black

Committee reported that there were 3 agencies still in operation:

• the Church of Ireland Adoption Society for Northern Ireland;

• the Poor Sisters of Nazareth Adoption Society; and

• the Catholic Family Welfare Adoption Society.

In 1974, voluntary societies had placed 49 children for adoption.

Placements over the following years reduced, although 1980 and

1983 respectively saw 49 and 51 adoptions placements by voluntary

agencies. By the latter part of the 1980s the numbers were steadily

falling and stood at 21 placements for 1987. The 1987 Adoption

Order, however, relieved voluntary societies of seeking the approval

of Boards to their adoption placements and vested in societies the

right to provide the welfare supervision of the child until the

adoption order was granted.

3

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 56

Adoption legislation, the social context and structure of services

1989-2001

Legislation 1989 - to the present

The Children (NI) Order (1995) and its associated regulations and

guidance introduced a number of changes, which were to have a

direct bearing on adoption services. These included:

• the establishment of the Northern Ireland Guardian ad Litem

Agency (NIGALA). The Children Order provided for the

appointment of a guardian ad litem for a child who is the subject

of proceedings specified in Article 60 (6) of the Order. This

includes all public law proceedings in respect of children and all

proceedings associated with adoption. NIGALA was launched in

time for the commencement of the Children Order in November

1996, as a special agency of the then Department of Health and

Social Services (DHSS). The main function of the Agency is to

establish, organise and manage a regional guardian ad litem

service. NIGALA is independent of HSS Boards and Trusts. For the

first time, therefore, the role of guardian ad litem within adoption

proceedings became entirely independent from that of the placing

agency;

• the setting up of an Adoption Contact Register to enable adopted

people (from 18 years old) and their birth parents or other

relatives, where they wish, to make contact with each other; and

• the repeal, amendment and insertion of articles in the Adoption

(NI) Order 1987, by the Children Order. Most notable was the

insertion of a requirement in relation to a child whose father does

not have parental responsibility for him/her. The court must now

satisfy itself that the father has no intention of seeking a parental

responsibility agreement or a residence order in respect of the

child and that if he did make such an application, this would be

likely to be refused. Whilst the Adoption Order already provided

that 'all reasonable steps' should be taken to identify the father of

the child, this new requirement brought putative fathers into

adoption considerations in a hitherto unprecedented way.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 57

The Adoption Allowances Regulations (NI) 1996 followed the

Children Order and enabled adoption agencies to pay allowances to

people who intend to adopt a child in pursuance of the

arrangements made by the agencies. This created greater potential,

in particular for older children to be adopted by foster carers or to be

adopted by families who would otherwise find it difficult to meet the

financial implications of the child's assessed needs.

In the early 1990s, a new phenomenon - intercountry adoption - was

to have a significant impact on adoption services in Northern Ireland.

Before 1990, adoptions from abroad were almost unheard of here

and the few that had taken place were of children adopted by

relatives. The United Kingdom and several other contracting States

were parties to the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of

Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The

Hague Convention established fundamental principles, based on the

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that were to

govern intercountry adoption arrangements. These were to be

enshrined within legislation in participating States to:

• establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoption takes

place in the best interests of the child and with respect for his or

her fundamental rights as recognised in international law and

without any profit being made from the process;

• establish a system of co-operation amongst those who have

ratified the Hague Convention to ensure that those safeguards

are respected and thereby prevent the abduction of, the sale of,

or traffic in children; and

• secure recognition of adoption orders between convention

countries.

The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act (NI) 2001 provided for the

first time a statutory basis for the regulation of intercountry adoption

in Northern Ireland. The main provisions of the Act amended the

Adoption (NI) Order 1987 to:

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 58

• place a statutory duty on HSS Boards and Trusts to establish and

maintain a service that covers both domestic and intercountry

adoption;

• make it illegal for any individual or agency other than HSS Boards,

Trusts and registered voluntary adoption agencies to undertake an

assessment of a person's suitability as an adopter; and

• make it an offence for anyone habitually resident in the British

Isles to bring a child into Northern Ireland for the purpose of

adoption (other than adoption by a parent, guardian or relative)

unless they meet the requirements to be prescribed in Regulations.

When fully enacted, the Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act (NI),

together with similar legislation in England, Wales and Scotland will

enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Hague Convention.

The social context 1989 - to the present

Looked after children and birth families

When the Adoption Order was implemented in 1989, HSS Boards had

to come to grips with the new legislation, in particular the concept of

freeing children for adoption and the testing of this in the courts.

Few children were freed in the years immediately after the

implementation of the Order. There are views that professional

practice at that time was dominated by 'themes' emanating from the

Children Act 1989 (England and Wales). Although the paramountcy

of the welfare of the child was the central tenet of the Children Act,

principles such as the 'no order' principle and 'partnership with

parents' appeared to be significantly influencing child care decisions

in Northern Ireland. Adoption, therefore, which would involve the

severing of all legal ties with birth parents, was not often considered

to be a satisfactory option for children.

Between the implementation of the Adoption Order in October 1989

and May 1996, only 50 children in the Eastern Health and Social

Services Board (EHSSB) (the Board with the largest 'in care'

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 59

population) had been freed or were in the freeing process. Kelly and

Coulter (1997) have commented 'not only was freeing little used, but

the process was fraught with the delays and difficulties common to

other jurisdictions. Also, its use was largely confined to babies, 75 per

cent being under one year old. Thus, freeing has rarely been used to

move children out of long term care, but rather to try to prevent

them entering it'.

The late 1990s and the first years of the 21st century in Northern

Ireland, however, have seen an unprecedented emphasis on achieving

'permanency' and positive life opportunities for children in a care

system that has traditionally failed them. There is now greater

recognition of the right of every child to a safe, stable and

permanent family that will provide life long relationships with

nurturing care givers. Permanency planning is about establishing a

foundation for the child's healthy cognitive, physical and emotional

development into adulthood. The Children Order regulations and

guidance require a plan for achieving 'permanency' to be considered

at each statutory review of a looked after child. In some situations,

where children cannot live with their birth families, this might be

achieved through stable foster care situations where it is evident that

foster family ties will continue beyond the child reaching the age of

majority. More often, this is unlikely to be the case and adoption is

becoming the optimum care plan for greater numbers of children.

The DHSS Circular, 'Permanency Planning for Children: Adoption -

Achieving the Right Balance' (May 1999) required Boards to consider

including adoption services in their children's services plans and

enjoined senior managers in Trusts to 'satisfy themselves that

adoption services are included' in the Boards' Plans.

In the period 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2001 in Northern Ireland there

was a significant increase in freeing order applications and in

'consolidated' proceedings i.e. applications for care and freeing

orders being brought simultaneously before the courts (Table 3).

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 60

Table 3 - Numbers of children who were the subjects of Freeing

Applications 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2001*

* Figures taken from NIGALA Annual Reports 1998-2001.

The numbers of children adopted in the period 1 April 1997-30 March

2001 are shown in Table 4. Preparation for the November 1996

commencement of the Children Order may have precipitated a large

number of adoptions of looked after children from long term

fostering or wardship situations in the year 1997-88. Despite the

numbers of children placed for adoption in that year, there were few

children who were the subjects of freeing proceedings (see Table 3),

confirming that most adoptions were completed with parental

agreement. The sudden leap in the numbers of children placed for

adoption in 2001-2002, however, and the increasing use of freeing

during that year may indicate that 'permanency' policies are

beginning to have an impact on the lives of children in care. The

Government has given this further impetus by establishing targets for

securing the adoption of looked after children in its 2001 - 2002 and

2002 - 2003 Priorities for Action Programmes.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 61

Year Numbers of children who

were the subjects of Freeing

Applications

1 April 1997 - 31 March 1998 17 children

1 April 1998 - 31 March 1999 42 children (including 12 children

who were the subjects of

'consolidated' proceedings)

1 April 1999 - 31 March 2000 37 children (including 4 children

who were the subjects of

'consolidated' applications)

1 April 2000 - 31 March 2001 42 children (including 16 children

who were the subjects of

'consolidated' applications)

Table 4 - Number of children adopted during the financial years

1997/98 - 2000/01*

* Figures are taken from NIGALA Annual Reports (1998 - 2001) and

exclude adoptions of children from overseas.

The age of children placed for adoption has changed significantly

over the years. The NIGALA Annual Report 2000-2001 shows the age

ranges of children who were the subjects of adoption or freeing

proceedings during the period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2001. These

are presented in Table 5.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 62

1 April 1 April 1 April 1 April

1997- 1998- 1999- 2000-

31 March 31 March 31 March 31 March

1998 1999 2000 2001

Children placed by 84 54 50 99

statutory agencies (53.5%) (41.9%) (35.5%) (57.2%)

(% of year total)

Children placed by 6 1 7 4

voluntary agencies (3.8%) (0.1%) (5%) (2.3%)

(% of year total)

Stepparent 67 74 84 70

adoptions (42.7%) (57.4%) (59.6%) (40.5%)

(% of year total)

Total 157 129 141 173

Table 5 - Age of children who were the subjects of Adoption or

Freeing Order Proceedings during the period 1 April 2000 -

31 March 2001 (excluding Family and Intercountry adoptions)

Thus, from a service that was dominated from the inception of the

welfare state and well into the 1980s by placements of illegitimate

babies, the pre-eminent concern now is to find adoptive homes for

older children in the care system. Research has shown that the

younger the child is at the time of placement, then the greater the

chances of a successful adoption outcome, Department of Health

(DoH, 1999). In contested proceedings, however, the tension between

the Children Order principle of the 'paramountcy' of the welfare of

the child and the 'tests' that the Adoption Order imposes on the

courts in respect of dispensing with parental consent, presents

difficulties that, in turn, can have a negative impact on planning for

children. One of the major challenges facing adoption services and

the courts today is how to identify children early and enable them to

be placed quickly with an adoptive family without compromising the

quality of professional considerations about the potential of the birth

family to provide their own child with a loving, safe and permanently

secure home, or the due process of the legal system.

The role of birth families has assumed even greater significance in

modern day adoption practice. When parents place a new born child

for adoption, it is in the knowledge that the child may one day wish

to meet with them and perhaps establish a relationship. As recently

as the early 1980s, such an event was unthinkable for parents who

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 63

Age of Children Number

Under 1 yr 10 (7.6%)

1 yr - under 5 yrs 70 (53.4%)

5 yrs - under 10 yrs 32 (24.4%)

10 yrs - under 15 yrs 11 (8.4%)

16 yrs and 17 yrs 8 (6.1%)

TOTAL 131 (100%)

could be assured within the law that their confidence would be

preserved. The sensitivities of women who in the past did not wish to

identify the father of their child, cannot now be accepted to the

same extent without full exploration of the rights of the putative

father and, indeed, the child's right to an identity in which full

knowledge of his or her parentage plays a significant part.

The issue of contact between children who are adopted at an older

age and their birth families also distinguishes adoption today from its

distant - and relatively recent - past. The presumption within the

Children Order that looked after children will have continuing

contact with birth families where this is in the child's interests has

had a significant influence in promoting a more 'open' approach to

adoption. Unlike the 'traditional' adoption of the past, this does not

automatically preclude direct or indirect contact with birth families.

Children in the care system will often have established links with

birth family networks or other siblings in care. It is not uncommon

now for birth parents and prospective adoptive parents to meet, even

in the case of relinquished infant placements. Where there is no

direct contact, adoption agencies have established 'post box'

arrangements for birth and adoptive families to share information at

important stages. Decisions about the level and nature of contact,

however, must always be carefully weighed in terms of the

'paramount' welfare of the child and its implications for children

striving to establish new identities in ways that will not jeopardise

their future well-being.

The current culture of openness is to be welcomed. Children placed

for adoption today have more access to knowledge about their

families of origin and are given a sense of history about themselves

and their past that was denied to former generations.

Once an adoption order is made, it is now widely acknowledged that

the days of 'closing the file' have gone. Many children and their new

families will continue to need support in dealing with the challenges

that their new situations bring. Some of these will include health,

social care and educational needs. Families will also require

reassurance that they can come back at a future date as the

developing child's needs unfold. Adoption services today and in the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 64

immediate future must take account of the structures and expertise

required to offer welcoming and effective multi disciplinary post

adoption support whenever this is needed, whether immediately

following the adoption or at some further stage along the road.

Adopters

Adoption has come to be 'acknowledged in official and professional

circles primarily as a means of meeting the needs of certain children

rather than as a solution to the problem of unmarried motherhood

or to the needs of infertile couples' (DoH, 1999). Childlessness due to

infertility is an increasing phenomenon in Western society. The

Northern Ireland Health and Social Wellbeing Survey 2001 indicated

that 13 per cent of people in a representative sample of the

population aged 35 - 44 years had sought medical or professional

help about infertility. Adoption agencies continue to be contacted by

significant numbers of people seeking baby placements, which are

now rare. The challenge to adoption agencies is to assist couples in

making the psychological leap from 'the perfect baby' to considering

whether they can offer an older infant or child a permanent family -

or indeed, to considering whether adoption is a suitable alternative

for them. One voluntary adoption agency on Northern Ireland

currently specialises in fertility counselling, which can help couples

towards learning to live with childlessness. Some couples in Northern

Ireland have remained on HSS Trusts' approved adopter lists for over

10 years awaiting the placement of a baby with no 'in care' history.

Historically, childlessness remains the most common reason why

people pursue adoption. The way applicants are prepared and chosen

to become adoptive parents has, however, changed significantly over

the years. The functional approach of the very early years, followed

by the psycho-analytical perspectives of the 1960s and 1970s and the

rather mechanistic home studies that have characterised more recent

times have given way to the need for approaches that more

adequately prepare applicants for the challenges of modern

adoption. The one-to-one method of engagement, which has

predominated adoption home study approvals in Northern Ireland,

has already been developed by some HSS Trusts to accommodate

greater opportunities for learning on the part of those considering

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 65

adoption. In the near future, few people - whether domestic or

intercountry applicants - will formally apply to be considered as

adoptive parents without having had the chance to gain, through a

range of experiences, some insight into the challenges of adoption

today.

Stepparent/family adoptions

Stepparent adoptions fell in the 10 year period from 159 in 1987 to

67 in 1997 with a slight increase over ensuing years (Table 4). The

general downward trend, however, perhaps reflects the continuing

rapid decline in marriage rates; a further loosening of the ties

between marriage and parenting and a diminishing need on the part

of reconstituted families to 'seal off' relationships from the former

family unit. Although the numbers of family adoptions have fallen,

they have consistently remained a high proportion of adoption work

since the late 1970s, accounting for approximately 60 per cent of all

adoptions in the period 1 April 1999 - 31 March 2000 (Table 4). Many

of these adoptions are complex, have significant implications for the

parents and extended families with whom the legal ties are either

severed or created, and for the child, who receives a new legal

identity. Traditionally however, family adoptions have not been

afforded the professional attention they deserve, often being

allocated to workers who have no specialist knowledge in adoption.

The challenge for the future is to ensure that such adoptions are

viewed as a crucial part of the adoption service and are supported by

organisational structures that are conducive to the development of

appropriate professional expertise in this area of work.

Intercountry adoption

Since the widespread publicity in the early 1990s about the plight of

children in Romanian orphanages, the level of interest in intercountry

adoption has increased steadily in Northern Ireland.

The intercountry adoption service is unique in that the DHSSPS in

Northern Ireland has a role in endorsing all intercountry applications

which are then processed through the DoH in London. The DHSSPS

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 66

also provides advice to Entry Clearance Officers in respect of children

coming to Northern Ireland who need to be adopted here. When the

Hague Convention is ratified by the United Kingdom (see above),

Northern Ireland will become a Unitary Authority for the purposes of

intercountry adoption and the DHSSPS will assume some of the

current functions of the DoH in London.

HSS Trusts and the Department handle approximately 20 intercountry

adoptions per year. Applications to date have represented a wide

range of 'designated' and 'non designated' countries. The effect of

an adoption order made in a designated country is that the adoption

order is recognised under United Kingdom law. Where countries are

classed as non-designated, the effects of adoption orders made in

those countries are not recognised in the United Kingdom. When a

child is adopted from a non-designated country and is brought here,

the placement is treated as a private fostering arrangement under

the Children Order until the adopters notify the Trust of their

intention to adopt in Northern Ireland. The child then becomes a

protected child under the Adoption Order. The Trust is responsible for

the investigation and the preparation of a report for the court.

Many intercountry adopters have opted for adoption from abroad

because of the lack of availability of relinquished infants in Northern

Ireland and negative perceptions about the waiting times to adopt

looked after children, the age of the children and the implications of

some of their life histories. Children adopted from abroad, however,

may be particularly vulnerable to additional difficulties arising from

very early life experiences in institutional care and limited

documentation or lack of birth family information. Such difficulties

can include developmental delay, lack of secure attachments, poor

primary health and social care, inadequate family or personal medical

history. Intercountry adopters face further challenges in bringing a

child to a country that is not so ethnically diverse as the rest of the

United Kingdom. To promote a positive sense of self in the child,

adopters need to be proactive in helping their children cope with

'difference' - in physical appearance, identity and culture - as well as

maintaining links for the child with his or her country of origin.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 67

The post placement and post adoption support needs of children

brought here from abroad will be a critical factor in the future

agenda for adoption services.

Adopted adults, birth parents and relatives of people who were

adopted

Article 54 of the 1987 Adoption Order created a new statutory right

of adopted people, on attaining the age of 18 years, to have access

to information about their origins. There is, however, a requirement

on those who were adopted prior to 1987 to receive counselling

aimed at helping them to understand the implications of the

information they are about to receive. Between October 1989 (date

of implementation of the Adoption Order) and December 2001, the

Registrar General had referred 2,091 persons to adoption agencies

for Article 54 counselling. There was a surge in the volume of

referrals from October 1989 to December 1990 when applications

were made by 408 people. In succeeding years, an average of 153

persons per year have been referred for counselling by the Registrar

General's office. People have the choice of receiving counselling from

any statutory or registered adoption agency of their choice.

The Adoption Contact Register, established by the Registrar General

in February 1996, is in two parts. Part 1 is a list of adopted people

currently holding 178 names who would like to make contact with

their birth families. Part II is a list of birth parents and other relatives

of people who have been adopted. It presently has the names of 72

people who are willing to have contact with their adopted relatives.

Since its establishment, the Contact Register has linked only 2

adopted people with birth relatives.

HSS Trusts and voluntary agencies in Northern Ireland, in particular

South and East Belfast Trust on behalf of the Eastern Board Trusts

and the remaining two voluntary adoption societies, counsel and

assist significant numbers of adopted people and relatives of adopted

people each year who are seeking to establish contact. Although

there have been a few special exceptions, agencies can only assist

those who have been adopted to make contact with their birth

relatives. The confidentiality of adopted people is preserved to the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 68

extent that birth relatives who are seeking to locate them cannot be

given any identifying information. They can, however, leave

information on file for their relative in the event that the adopted

person should seek information from the agency at a later stage.

The amount and quality of information held on adoption files by the

statutory and voluntary agencies varies greatly, depending on the

time when the adoption took place and - prior to 1987 - the method

of placement. In the case of third party or private placements of

children, the reports of the guardians ad litem (now held by HSS

Trusts) are usually the only sources of information available.

The majority of people who have received counselling under Article

54 are normally able to find birth relatives, although the task of

locating them can be an arduous one. Practice varies among adoption

agencies in terms of how far they will assist adopted people in

tracing tasks. All agencies offer advice. Some actively assist people to

find their birth families whilst others leave the responsibility entirely

with the applicants, but will act as intermediaries when relatives are

located. Most of these situations are complex. The outcome is not

always that anticipated by the adopted person and their desire to

make contact can cause considerable consternation both to the

family of origin and the adoptive family. Skilful oversight on the part

of professionals to manage the pace and extent of contact in the

early stages can help to make the experience a positive one for all

concerned.

The management and structure of adoption services 1989 - 2001

The Government's policy paper, 'People First: Community Care in

Northern Ireland for the 1990s' (DHSS, 1990), led to a further

restructuring of health and social services in 1993. Aimed at

strengthening general management at Board level and creating Units

of Management at local level, the reforms introduced a purchaserprovider

relationship between Boards - as area level planners and

purchasers of services - and Units of Management - as local planners

and service providers. This had the effect of removing managerial

accountability for services from Directors of Social Services to Unit

General Managers. Directors of Social Services, however, retained

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 69

professional responsibility for services and Boards reserved their legal

status as Adoption Agencies under the 1987 Adoption Order and its

associated regulations. Assistant Directors of Social Services continued

to oversee adoption policy and practice through working groups or

adoption committees. Each Unit established an Adoption Panel, a

requirement of the 1989 Adoption Agencies Regulations. Units of

Management retained small Adoption Teams, which took on the

newly introduced 'compulsory' counselling of adults under Article 54

of the Order. The only Board to centralise this function was the

Eastern Board, which created a post adoption team to provide a

service to adults who had been adopted and to birth relatives of

adopted people.

The mid 1990s saw further reorganisation of the health and social

services which brought about the establishment of self governing

Trusts. The Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1994

empowered Boards to delegate to Trusts certain statutory functions,

including adoption services. The Order made amendments to the

1987 Adoption Order and to the 1989 Adoption Agencies Regulations

to enable each Trust to act as an Adoption Agency in its own right, to

provide for 2 or more Trusts to operate joint Adoption Panels and to

prescribe a revised membership of the Panels. The latter must now

include one Trust Board Director together with a social worker with

adoption expertise from each participating Trust. Agency decision

makers, whose responsibility it is to consider the recommendations of

the Adoption Panel in respect of children, adoptive applicants and

'matching' arrangements, tend to be either the Trusts' Children's

Services Programme Managers or Executive Directors of Social Work.

The relationship between each Board and its Trust is a contractual

one. Boards no longer have executive, managerial or professional

accountability for adoption services. They do, however, have a

responsibility to monitor the quality of services provided and

theoretically, have the power to remove the delegated statutory

functions from a Trust.

Trusts in each Board have developed one joint Adoption Panel, with

the exception of the Eastern Board where 2 Panels have been

established to cope with the volume of work emanating from 4

Trusts. The Chairs of the Panels maintain adoption waiting lists on

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 70

behalf of the participating Trusts. Despite the consortia arrangements

that exist, there are views that adoption services have lost out

because of the lack of central accountability or co-ordination of

services.

The structure of services varies and is changing across Trusts. For

example:

• a number of Trusts' adoption workers have been integrated with

former fostering teams into family placement teams. The aim is to

enable the development of concurrent planning for children and

to promote more flexible support in a climate when the lines

between fostering and adoption are becoming more blurred;

• the reporting officer role in respect of family adoptions is

undertaken by family and child care workers in some Trusts and by

adoption teams in others; and

• intercountry adoption is viewed as specialist area by the Trusts of

one Board where the service has been centralised in one Trust.

In the late 1990s and for the first time in the history of the statutory

adoption agencies in Northern Ireland, 9 out of the 11 Trusts here,

(the exceptions being the 2 Northern Board Trusts), exercised their

right under the 1987 Adoption Order to charge 'reasonable' fees' for

aspects of the adoption service. Intercountry adoption applicants

living in each of the other Boards' areas currently pay a £3,000 fee

for the home study report and related services up to the 'welfare

supervision stage' in the case of children from non-designated

countries and to the placement of child in the case of countries

whose adoptions are recognised by the United Kingdom. Unlike

domestic adoption, which is clearly a service for children, intercountry

adoption is primarily a service for prospective adopters until the point

of arrival in Northern Ireland of the child who has been adopted

abroad.

The period 1988 - 2001 has been one of further retraction for

registered voluntary adoption agencies. Only 2 now exist: the Family

Care Society (formally the Catholic Family Care Society) and the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 71

Church of Ireland Adoption Society. These agencies have placed only

small numbers of children for adoption over the past few years (see

Table 4), although they still carry out an important range of other

adoption related tasks, some on behalf of Trusts. It is clear that the

focus of their work has changed and will continue to change in the

future. The 1990s, however, saw the establishment in Northern

Ireland of a further 2 voluntary agencies, not registered adoption

societies, but mainly concerned with support for users of adoption

services, namely Adopt and Adoption (UK). The 4 voluntary agencies

are involved in partnership work with Trusts in a variety of activities.

Summary of the key changes in adoption services since 1950

This chapter has considered key historical developments in adoption

law, social issues and the way adoption services are structured. The

changes over the last 50 years have been significant.

Primary legislation governing the adoption of children in Northern

Ireland, enacted in 1950, 1967 and 1987 and the Children Order 1995

had a significant impact on adoption services. This chapter has

demonstrated that changes in the law have moved adoption firmly

away from the essentially 'private' arrangements of the 1950s. These

enabled babies born to unmarried parents to be quietly placed by

individuals or unregulated agencies within new families, where an

aura of secrecy safeguarded the details of the adoption and

prevented access to birth information in later life by children who

were adopted. By contrast, modern day adoption is highly regulated,

is overseen by not one, but several professionals, is mainly concerned

with the adoption of looked after children and is based on a culture

of openness which recognises the identity needs of adopted children

and adults, their right of access to information about their birth

family and the circumstances of their adoption and, in some cases,

their needs for ongoing contact with birth families.

The social context of adoption has changed dramatically over the 50

year period. Few babies are now placed for adoption directly from

birth. The social stigma associated with pregnancy outside marriage

has diminished - indeed today, approximately 30 per cent of live

births in Northern Ireland are to unwed parents. With the focus of

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 72

adoption now clearly on looked after children, the adoption task has

altered significantly. The developments in services to birth parents,

prospective adopters and newly constituted adoptive families have

reflected the demands of changing social norms and societal

structures. Furthermore, the growth of adoptions of children from

overseas will contribute to the changing ethnic profile of the

population of Northern Ireland.

Since 1950, adoption services have also undergone many

organisational changes. This period has seen the demise of a number

of voluntary adoption societies and dramatic changes in the character

and work of those societies that remain. Statutory services have

reorganised to bring adoption - formerly viewed as a specialist service

that bore little relationship to what was happening in other parts of

the child care service - into mainstream children's services as a

permanency option to be considered for all looked after children

who are unable to be returned to the care of their birth families.

The way ahead

Adoption Services in Northern Ireland are about to enter a new era.

For significant numbers of looked after children, now and in the

future, adoption will be the only means by which their need for a

safe, stable, and loving family can be met. But a comprehensive

adoption service must address the needs of all children who are the

subjects of an adoption process, including family and intercountry

adoption. Some of the key actions required to achieve this are likely

to be:

• the introduction of new primary legislation to make it easier for

looked after children to be adopted and to bring adoption

legislation into line with the central principle of the Children

Order i.e. that the 'paramount welfare' of the child is the primary

and overriding consideration in all decisions affecting his or her

welfare;

• the introduction of professional standards to inform all aspects of

adoption services;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 73

• the establishment of specialist assessment resources and expertise

to enable more timely and effective care planning, including

'concurrent planning' for children and their families;

• the creation of specialist social work posts to assist 'permanency'

planning and progress the adoption of children;

• new approaches to recruiting, preparing and supporting

prospective adopters to meet the challenges of modern adoption;

• formal post adoption support for looked after children and their

adoptive families and birth families;

• the development of specialist expertise in intercountry adoption

and structured post placement/adoption support for children

adopted from abroad;

• the integration of stepparent and family adoptions into

mainstream adoption services; and

• innovative partnership initiatives between statutory and voluntary

agencies.

It is clear from the history of services over the last 50 years that the

years to come will bring significant changes to the way society

perceives and manages the adoption of children. Adoption is

complex, but - if there is a will to establish the legal, organisational

and professional structures to ensure the best possible outcomes for

children, birth families and adoptive families - its future need not be

problematic.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 74

RESIDENTIAL CARE

Residential child care prior to 1950

Prior to 1947 the care of children was governed by the Poor Relief

Acts which empowered Boards of Guardians to care for children in

workhouses or to have them boarded-out (fostered). The functions of

the Boards of Guardians in relation to children transferred to the

newly established welfare authorities on 1 November 1947. At that

time the Ministry of Home Affairs recommended that the 8 welfare

authorities established under the Public Health and Local

Government (Administrative Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1946,

established homes to provide for persons in need, including children.

Almost 80 per cent of children in care lived in institutional

placements (Table 6).

Table 6: Children in care, 1947

The above table also demonstrates the significant degree of reliance

upon the voluntary sector for the provision of placements for

children; virtually all of this provision was in large institutions.

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 75

Chapter 4

Placement Number

Care of voluntary organisation 1,000

(Virtually all institutional)

Boarded-out 312

Workhouse/other 189

Local Authority Institution

TOTAL 1,501

During the 1950s the main concern confronting welfare authorities

was the dismantling of the Poor Law and Workhouse system. In an

effort to expedite the removal of children from workhouses they

were endeavouring to obtain suitable houses for conversion into

children's homes. By the beginning of 1950, the number of children's

homes opened, numbered 3 while 4 had been purchased for

conversion and negotiation was underway to purchase further

properties.

It was envisaged that each children's home would accommodate

between 25-30 children on a temporary basis pending their transfer

to foster homes. Only in exceptional circumstances would children's

homes provide a permanent home for children who were deemed

"not suitable to be boarded-out"

The beginning of the 1950s was, therefore, marked by a high

proportion of children who could not be cared for by their own

parents and families living in institutional care. There was also a high

degree of reliance on voluntary sector providers, who were

responsible for the financial support of children placed in their care

by parents. The 1950s marked the beginning of the statutory sector

making its own provision for children in children's homes to end the

use of placement within the workhouse system.

The legislative and policy context

The post-war years saw a dramatic increase in social legislation and

the dismantling of the Poor Law and workhouse system, which had

been in existence for more than 100 years. The emergence of the

notion of a Welfare State in the 1940s combined with the concepts of

the provision of social welfare to ensure societal cohesion and the

need for the State to become a provider of such services. For the first

time, therefore, a comprehensive statutory framework was

established which defined statutory and permissive powers in respect

of various groups of people, namely, children, elderly persons and

people who are either mentally ill or mentally handicapped or

physically disabled.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 76

The 1946 Public Health and Local Government (Administrative

Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland), created a new administrative

structure to carry out the functions of the Boards of Governors.

Eight welfare authorities were established across county and county

borough council areas in Northern Ireland. Each welfare authority

was required to appoint a Welfare Officer who would assume the

responsibilities that had previously been invested in the Boards of

Guardians. The welfare authorities were also required to act through

statutory welfare committees. A structure was, therefore, put in place

to divest the Boards of Guardians of their previous responsibility

for children.

In 1946 the Government published a White Paper, "The Protection

and Welfare of the Young and the Treatment of the Young

Offender" (Cmnd. 264, HMSO). The White Paper drew attention to

the lack of knowledge about the problem of caring for neglected

children due to the previous reliance, which had been placed on the

voluntary sector and the Poor Law system, to meet their needs. The

report also highlighted the need for one government department,

the Ministry of Home Affairs, to have responsibility for all children's

legislation. It also recommended:

• the establishment of an advisory committee, the "Child Welfare

Council" to provide advice to the Minister;

• that welfare authorities should appoint sub-committees to deal

with statutory duties in relation to children;

• that welfare authorities should establish their own children's

homes:

• that welfare authorities should set realistic boarding-out rates

which were to be reviewed regularly by the Child Welfare Council;

• that welfare authorities should arrange for staff to attend suitable

training courses;

• that voluntary homes should be subject to registration; and

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 77

• every attempt was to be made to have children boarded-out in

foster homes.

The policy stance articulated above in favour of fostering was to find

expression in legislation, the Children and Young Persons Act of 1950.

The 1950 Act also served to make good the gap in provision between

England, Wales and Northern Ireland for children in need of care and

protection which had resulted from the failure in Northern Ireland to

introduce legislation equivalent to the Children and Young Persons

Acts (England and Wales) 1933.

The main provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1950

were designed to:

• centralise the care of children under one Department, the Ministry

of Home Affairs,

• enhance the powers of welfare authorities to provide for children

that was not available under previous legislation. Section 92

specifically required welfare authorities to provide

accommodation for children in their care;

• end the last of the old Poor Law Enactments;

• regulate through registration (Section 95) and inspection

(Section 101), voluntary children's homes; and

• establish a statutory bias in favour of foster care.

The Children and Young Persons Act (1950) was far reaching in

relation to the requirements imposed upon welfare authorities in

relation to children's homes. Section 92 specifically addressed issues

such as:

• the equipment of homes;

• the medical arrangements for protecting children's health;

• promoting the religious upbringing of children;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 78

• requiring the approval of the Ministry for the appointment,

qualification and training of children's home staff;

• limiting the period in which children may be accommodated

in homes;

• providing for different types of homes for children with different

needs; and

• enabling the Ministry to close a home if it "is unsuitable for the

purposes or if the conduct of the home failed to comply with

regulation".

Section 96 also enabled welfare authorities to make arrangements

for the accommodation of children in care near their place of work

or education.

The above requirements made it clear that consideration had to be

given to the need for homes to have an explicit purpose, size and

function and also given to issues such as children's health,

educational and religious needs. The statutory bias in favour of

fostering contained within the legislation, meant that the notion of a

time limit on placement in a children's home was firmly enshrined in

the 1950 Act. The view was that residential care was a short term or

temporary measure, unless there were special circumstances, which

dictated otherwise.

Following the Children and Young Persons Act of 1950 there was a

rapid expansion in statutory sector provision of residential care and

an increasing number of children coming into the State's care. It soon

became apparent, however, that insufficient attention was being

afforded to the prevention of family breakdown. In England and

Wales, the call for preventative work to enable social workers to

anticipate crises in families and to act proactively to avoid the

reception of children into care, resulted in the Children and Young

Persons Act of 1963. This enabled local authorities to assist families in

either cash or kind to reduce the need to bring children into care. In

Northern Ireland, the Children and Young Persons Act 1968 replicated

this provision of the 1963 Act as well as re-enacting the 1950 Act. It

4

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 79

failed, however, to anticipate the changes likely in England and

Wales following the "Children in Trouble" (1968) or "The Child, the

Family and Young Offender" (1965) White Papers, which resulted in

the Children and Young Persons Act (1969). In Northern Ireland the

distinction between offender and non-offender was, therefore,

maintained.

The significance of the Children and Young Persons Act 1968 was its

emphasis on prevention and giving due regard to the welfare of the

child. It also continued to provide legislative support for the bias in

favour of foster care.

In January 1976, Sir Harold Black was appointed to chair a review of

the legislation and services relating to the care and treatment of

children and young persons under the Children and Young Persons

Act (NI) 1968, the Adoption Act (NI) 1967 and the Probation Act (NI)

1950 taking into account developments in these fields in Great

Britain. The review group reported in December 1979, "Report of the

Children and Young Persons Review Group", more commonly known

as the Black Report. The implications of the report for the residential

care of children were significant for the following reasons:

• it proposed the removal of the statutory bias in favour of

fostering;

• it recognised the need for a range of small residential homes to

ensure the appropriate placement of children;

• it advocated the establishment of a specialist facility for young

people with severe behavioural problems;

• it recommended that full consideration should be given to the

wishes and feelings of children in care;

• it made proposals to improve the quality of residential care,

particularly through the encouragement of appropriate training

for residential workers;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 80

• it advocated the establishment of an independent visitor for all

children in care; and

• it advised the separation of justice and care provisions for children

and young people.

The thinking and principles contained within the Black Report were

progressive. The Report affirmed that provision of services for

children should be based on an assessment of need and that services

should be tailored to meet the identified needs of each child or

young person. It also established that the form of care provided

"must be considered on its merits and matched to the needs of the

individual child". Residential care was, therefore, perceived as an

integral part of a continuum of services. It should not exist as an

isolated service selected as either an easy first choice or as a last

resort for children.

The inclusion of recommendations relating to the future of the

training schools contained within the Black Report meant that the

full potential of this report was not realised. There was strong

opposition to change in this area and the Prior Agreement of 1986

largely maintained the status quo pending legislative change.

Implementations of many of the Report's recommendations were,

therefore, deferred until new children's legislation was introduced in

Northern Ireland. The Children (NI) Order 1995, which commenced in

November 1996, enacted much of the progressive thinking found 16

years earlier in the Black Report. The statutory bias in favour of

fostering was removed from the statute book and the concept of

placements being selected according to their ability to meet the

assessed needs of individual children was established as the way

forward.

The 1968 Children and Young Persons Act remained the legislative

framework for children's services for 28 years. The bias in favour of

fostering which inevitably led to a perception of residential care as

an option of last resort also found expression in Regional Strategies

(1987-92 and 1992-97). The 1987-92 Strategy stated:

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 81

"Boards should seek to reduce the need for residential care

and, with the development of preventive and foster care

services as alternatives to residential care, to reduce the

stock of residential provision."

The 1992-97 strategy however referred to 4 main areas directly

related to the residential care of children. These were:

• the need for a range of small residential facilities geared to

specialist tasks in order to meet the assessed needs of children;

• the recognition that for some children residential care is a positive

and desirable way of meeting their needs;

• an emphasis on the provision for all children of adequate

preparation for leaving care and access to after-care provision; and

• establishing a target that each Board should, by 1997, have at

least 75 per cent of children in care living in a family placement,

not including those children placed at home on a 'home on trial'

basis.

Children's legislation was comprehensively updated by the

introduction of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 in

November 1996. The Children Order largely replicates the Children

Act 1989, which was enacted in England and Wales in 1991. It brings

together the public and private legislation in respect of children and

introduces a range of court orders to deal with children's cases. The

statutory bias in favour of fostering in Northern Ireland was removed

by the Children Order and its emphasis on assessment of need both

at individual and area levels. This theme is taken forward in the most

recent Regional Strategy (1997-2002), which requires that the need

for service provision should be determined on the assessed needs of

children. Paragraph 8.13 (ii) states that:

"The Department should issue guidance on the means of

assessing needs of children...so that Boards employ

comparable methodologies in the assessment of needs. It

4

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 82

should also issue guidance to Boards on the format and

content of Children's Services Plans ...".

Each HSS Board is, therefore, required to produce a Children's

Services Plan (CSP) under The Children (1995) Order (Amendment)

(Children's Services Planning) Order (Northern Ireland) 1998. These

regulations amend the Children Order by inserting at Paragraph 2 of

Schedule 2, a requirement on HSS Boards to produce a CSP. The plans

are produced on a triennial basis in collaboration with other

statutory and independent providers and are subject to annual

review. Each HSS Board is required to produce a CSP, which provides

for a range of services configured to meet the assessment needs of its

child population. The first CSPs were produced in April 1999.

In a legislative and policy context there has been a shift from blanket

solutions to meeting the assessed needs of children for whom living

with their own parents and families is not an option. Foster care is no

longer perceived as the appropriate placement choice for all children.

The beginnings of this shift in thinking can be traced to the 1992-97

Regional Strategy where recognition is given to the fact that for

some children residential care "is a positive and desirable way of

meeting their needs." The emphasis on assessment and placement

choice is now firmly established by the Children Order and the 1997-

2002 Regional Strategy.

The impact of major events

Residential child care has been the focus of considerable attention

and public inquiry over the past 50 years. The most influential

document is arguably the Report of the Care of Children Committee

(1946), (Cmd. 6922) most commonly referred to as the Curtis Report.

The remit of the Committee was:

"To enquire into existing methods of providing for children

who from loss of parents or from any cause whatever are

deprived of a normal home life with their own parents and

relatives, and to consider what further measures should be

4

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 83

taken to ensure that these children are brought up under

conditions best calculated to compensate them for the lack

of parental care".

Just as the Committee was established, the death of Denis O'Neill at

the hands of his foster carers was receiving extensive media coverage.

Once the trial of the foster carers ended, Walter Monckton was asked

to lead an inquiry into Denis' death. While the Curtis Committee was

asked to take account of Monckton's conclusions, its terms of

reference remained unaltered.

The Curtis Committee was the first inquiry in the United Kingdom

directed specifically to the care of children who were deprived of

normal home life and covered all groups of such children, excluding

those in penal or borstal situations. The Curtis Report laid the

foundation for a modern child care service. It proposed that each

child in care "should each be the personal concern of the new

children's officers and their staff - personally known to them and able

to rely on other known people for stable relationships and

consideration of their needs".

The Curtis Report is widely perceived as having been opposed to

children being in residential care. The report takes, however, a

balanced view of both the relative merits and demerits of residential

and foster care, as the following quote demonstrates:

"We should like to deal briefly with the principle that

(adoption apart) boarding-out should be regarded as the

ideal method of disposing of the children. We think this is

true where the home is in every way satisfactory and suited

to the particular child...But as soon as the foster home falls

below the entirely satisfactory standard, the institution - at

all events the institution based on the small family group -

begins to have advantages. ...Children undergoing several

changes of foster parents are often worse off than if they

had never been boarded-out at all" (P. 461).

In reaching its conclusions the Curtis Committee visited many

children's homes and foster homes. They found many children's

4

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 84

homes had remained "little changed since the nineteenth century,

either in buildings or organisation... Some were more up-to-date and

provided a relatively interesting and varied way of life for the

children". The Committee concluded by recommending that fostering

should be promoted as the next best alternative to adoption as a

means of providing children with the emotional satisfaction of a

family and links with the wider community. The result of Curtis in

practice was:

• to develop boarding-out as a policy;

• to promote the recruitment of foster parents;

• to close larger children's homes; and

• to reduce the amount of residential accommodation available to

children in care.

Other factors, which contributed to the misperception that Curtis was

opposed to residential care, were:

• Dr John Bowlby's work in 1951 on "Maternal Care and Mental

Health", which was often misinterpreted as advocating that any

maternal figure was better than group care; and

• the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Select Committee on

Estimates at the rising cost of residential care, foster care was,

therefore, deemed a more appropriate and a cheaper option than

residential care.

The consequences of emphasising fostering on the development of

residential services for children cannot be over stated. As the Castle

Priory Report of 1968 noted:

"it is not surprising that residential work became the

"Cinderella" of the Child Care Service for a time and many

people engaged in it felt discouraged and despondent

about a future in which they appeared to be destined

always to be a second best method of care".

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 85

Practice, however, soon established that fostering was not a panacea

for all children. For older children and those, whose earlier life

experience meant that they were unable to be cared for by foster

carers, residential care began to be recognised as a "positive choice"

rather than a last resort. During the 1960s, the growing interest in

residential social work found expression in the Williams Committee

Report, "Caring for People" (1967). Its recommendations particularly

those concerning training were viewed as controversial and provoked

considerable discussion amongst residential social workers. Following

its publication a small representative group was established to study

the problems of residential work. The group met at Castle Priory

College during March 1968. It established the following over-arching

questions:

• what sort of children are receiving residential care?

• what is the nature of the professional task in residential

social work?

• what sort of training should be provided for residential work

and is the present training appropriate?

• what professional support and consultation are needed?

• what standard of staffing ratio is necessary?

Castle Priory is best remembered for its work on establishing staffing

ratios for residential homes. It was, however, an important milestone

in recognising residential child care as a professional task, which is

different from the traditional concept of substitute parenting.

The public scandals surrounding residential care, which have come to

light in relation to the abuse of children have all had a dramatic

impact on the development of residential services for children. Recent

investigations in Great Britain, include:

• "The Leicestershire Inquiry",1992;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 86

• "The Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Children and Young

People who Sexually Abuse Other Children" (NCH 1992);

• "Choosing with Care: The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into

the Selection, Development and Management of Staff in

Children's Homes" (The Warner Report) (HMSO, 1992);_

• The "Children's Safeguard Review" (SWS Inspectorate for Scotland

1997 (Kent Report);

• "People Like Us: The Report of the Review of the Safeguards for

Children Living Away from Home" (Utting Report), (DoH 1997);

and

• "Lost in Care" (Waterhouse Report), 2000.

All serve to underline the risks inherent in the group care of children

and the measures needed to protect and safeguard them.

Impact of the Kincora Inquiry

In Northern Ireland many of the remedial courses of action suggested

by recent inquiry reports in Great Britain, had been established

following the allegations of malpractice at Kincora Boys' Hostel,

Belfast. In 1980, when evidence of this malpractice came to light a

team from the Department of Health and Social Security in London

was established to provide advice on the supervision and

management of homes and hostels. The team's advice was contained

in the Sheridan Report (1982). The significance of this report stems

from its emphasis on:

• the management, supervision, monitoring and inspection of

children's homes;

• the recognition of the links required within the voluntary child

care sector and between it and the Boards;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 87

• the need for a complaints procedure for children in care and their

parents;

• the need for effective recruitment and selection procedures for

residential workers;

• the examination of residential child care within the context of all

child care services.

The development of a policy on complaints procedure for children in

care, owes much to the Sheridan Report. The Report also made a

highly significant contribution in terms of its impact on the

development of monitoring arrangements for children's homes and

the selection and vetting of residential staff.

Public interest in Kincora continued throughout the early 1980s and

in 1984 a Committee of Inquiry was established under the

Chairmanship of Judge William Hughes. The Committee considered

instances of homosexual offences and misconduct involving children

resident in 9 children's homes. The resultant report "Report of the

Committee of Inquiry into Children's Homes and Hostels" (HMSO

1986) made 56 recommendations. Many of these recommendations

endorsed the thinking of both the Sheridan and Black Reports. More

significantly, however, the Inquiry sought to enhance the standing

and qualification of residential workers by advocating:

• parity of pay between residential staff and fieldwork social

workers, linked to professional qualifications and training

(Recommendation 6);

• that all Officers in Charge should hold a social work qualification

and that a specific timetable should be established for the

professionalisation of the residential child care system

(Recommendation 9).

In 1991 the DHSS made available the resource to implement the

"Hughes 6 Recommendation", with the aim of achieving a fully

qualified residential child care workforce within a 5 year period. The

status and standing of residential social work was also addressed by

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 88

introducing pay parity between residential and field social workers

and by encouraging the development of an enhanced social work

role for suitably qualified residential social workers.

The implementation of the "Hughes 6 Recommendation" has

resulted in Northern Ireland having the highest level of training for

residential workers across the United Kingdom. The goal, however, of

a fully qualified workforce has still not been attained. Progress in

developing the enhanced role of residential social workers has also

been disappointingly slow. As noted in "Children Matter: A review of

residential child care services in Northern Ireland" (DHSS, 1998), the

full potential of Northern Ireland's highly qualified residential

workforce has not been realised. This is in part due to the lack of an

adequate supply of places and the absence of sufficient

differentiation of function within the current stock of homes.

The impact of the Sheridan and Hughes Reports on the development

of internal and external monitoring arrangements for residential

homes for children cannot be over-emphasised. Many of the

subsequent investigations in the rest of Great Britain, referred to

above, have demonstrated that the absence of robust monitoring

arrangements, particularly of an external nature has contributed to

the abuses of children remaining undetected for many years.

In the "Safeguarding Review" undertaken in Northern Ireland,

following the publication of the Utting and Kent Reports covering

the rest of the United Kingdom, listed above, the Chief Inspector,

Social Services Inspector, (SSI) indicated that the monitoring

arrangements in place in Northern Ireland were a significant

safeguard for children. He also underscored that there was the need

for ongoing vigilance and that there was no room for complacency if

children's wellbeing was to be safeguarded whenever they are cared

for away from home.

The scandals and inquiries which have become associated in the

public conscience with residential care have served to emphasise that

adults entrusted with the care of vulnerable children are capable of

physically and sexually abusing them and that children need ways to

have their concerns and complaints heard and heeded. In relation to

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 89

Kincora, as early as 1967, there were written allegations from 2

residents to the Belfast Welfare Authority alleging that they were

being abused by staff. These allegations appear to have been viewed

as malicious and were consequently dismissed. Over the next 13 years

there were repeated allegations and complaints; all were either

disregarded or unsubstantiated. The need for professional input into

the monitoring and management of children's homes is essential if

the culture and practice within them is to safeguard and promote the

well being of children.

The past 50 years have seen major social and professional changes all

of which has had an impact on children's services and residential care.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by

the United Kingdom government in 1991, affords children looked

after by the State "special protection" (Article 20). They also have

rights, which include family contact, provided it is not a risk to the

child, (Article 9), to have their circumstances regularly reviewed

(Article 25) and the right to be consulted (Article 12).

Inspection arrangements and service standards

In addition to establishing monitoring arrangements and a

complaints procedure for children in residential care, work was also

progressed to develop standards for the inspection and monitoring of

children's homes in Northern Ireland. In 1986 the Social Work

Advisory Group, now the Social Services Inspectorate, in collaboration

with the HSS Boards' Assistant Directors of Social Services (Family and

Child Care), agreed a comprehensive set of standards for residential

child care. This was the first time that an explicit statement of

practice and professional criteria had been issued. This paper was

comprehensively redrafted in 1992 "Quality Living: Standards for

Services: Children who live away from home". This standards

framework adopted a children's rights approach to the setting of

standards. An inspection framework document was formulated and

shared with Boards and voluntary children's homes. The standards

established have informed subsequent inspections. They were revised

and reissued in 1996 to take account of the changes associated with

the implementation of the Children Order.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 90

The commencement of the Children Order in November 1996 resulted

in responsibility for the inspection of children's homes transferring

from SSI to the 4 HSS Boards' Registration and Inspection units. The

frequency of inspection was increased as a consequence of the

Children Order to 2 inspections each year one of which is

unannounced.

"Children Matter"

In June 1997 the Chief Inspector, SSI, was asked by the Health and

Social Services Committee of the DHSS to head a review of residential

child care. The background to the review was:

• the rapid retraction of the voluntary residential sector, discussed in

more detail below;

• the emergence of a range of difficulties within the residential

sector which suggested that control had been lost in some homes.

The report which emerged from the comprehensive review of

residential child care services, "Children Matter", included the

following findings:

• there was an insufficient supply of places to enable placement

choice;

• homes were generally configured as "general purpose" homes

and dealt with a range of children's needs which were at times

conflicting;

• there was a need for more specialist facilities to enable children to

be placed in homes capable of meeting their assessed needs;

• the current stock of children's homes were in the main large,

institutional type buildings which had had limited capital

investment in them and needed to be replaced or brought up to a

homely standard of finish; and

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 91

• there were social, economic and practice issues which were likely

to combine to increase the demand for residential child care

places.

The Department accepted the findings and conclusion of the

"Children Matter" report, its Action Plan and 31 recommendations.

Following publication of "Children Matter" in 1998, the 4 HSS Boards

produced their response, "Implementing Children Matter", which set

out a 5 year programme of specific capital developments designed to

redress the shortfalls and shortcomings evident within the residential

child care sector. Due to concerns regarding the expansion of

residential places, the Minister for HSSPS, established the "Children

Matter" Taskforce, July 2000, with the following terms of reference:

• to confirm the total additional places (new and replacement)

needed in each Board area to meet the "Children Matter" agenda;

• to agree an Action Plan for each Board which identified the

individual schemes needed to provide these places;

• to explore new sources of funding and service provision;

• to construct an overall Regional Plan to meet the requirements of

"Children Matter" targets, including the consequent resource

implications and staffing requirements; and

• to monitor implementation of the Plan.

The contribution and changing role of the voluntary sector

The role of the churches and religious organisations in the provision

of homes for children in Northern Ireland was fully developed before

the State assumed a greater responsibility for the care of children.

The Children and Young Persons Act 1950 and its accompanying

statutory rules provided the context for the growth of statutory child

care facilities. The Welfare Authorities' Homes (No. 130) 1952

Regulations facilitated the growth of children's homes within the

statutory sector. Until then residential care in Northern Ireland was

4

50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 92

largely provided by the voluntary sector, as illustrated at Table 6

above. Since the Children and Young Persons Act 1950 placed a duty

on welfare authorities to receive children into care whose parents

were unable or unfit to care for them the number of children in the

care of voluntary homes has reduced.

Until the Children and Young Persons Act 1950 came into force the

only authority for the inspection of voluntary homes was contained

in Section 25 of the Children Act 1908. Under the Children Act, the

Ministry had no power to require such homes to be registered nor

was there any means by which any Government Department could

intervene in the arrangements for the training, education, or aftercare

of children accommodated within them. In a few homes

effective after care and boarding-out schemes were in operation but

in the majority of homes improved standards of accommodation,

education and training were required. The Children and Young

Persons Act 1950, therefore, gave the Ministry of Home Affairs the

power to require the registration of all voluntary homes and to cause

them to be inspected. The Ministry was also empowered to make

regulations for the conduct of such homes and for securing the

welfare of children living within them. For this purpose, the Children

and Young Persons (Voluntary Homes) Regulations (NI) 1952, were

made. Conditions were also established to set a maximum size on the

number of children to be accommodated in children's homes.

The scale of voluntary provision and its relative position in relation to

statutory services is illustrated by the following statistics in Table 7.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 93

Table 7 - Number of children in care 1947-59

The figure for 1959 shows the substantial proportion of children

cared for by welfare authorities, the scale of new provision in

relation to residential care and the commitment to having children

boarded-out (63 per cent of all children were boarded-out).

In 1960, 2.4 per 1,000 children were in care in Northern Ireland, lower

than for England and Wales (5.2 per 1,000) and Scotland (6.5 per

1,000). In the same year a report entitled, "The Operation of the

Social Services in relation to Child Welfare" (Child Welfare Council,

HMSO 1960), provided details on the considerable progress made in

relation to child care services since the implementation of the

Children and Young Persons Act 1950. It also noted that unlike the

children in statutory homes, children in voluntary homes, apart from

those operated by Dr Barnardos, were rarely boarded-out. Discussing

the future role of the voluntary sector it concluded that the number

of children in their care would continue to decline. It envisaged their

role as being involved in the long-term care of children where special

treatments were required or where boarding-out was inappropriate.

The Report also commented on the uneven development of child care

services across Northern Ireland and on the difference in pattern of

provision between welfare authorities and voluntary homes.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 94

Voluntary organisations Welfare Authorities

Year Number Number

1947 1,000 501 (of whom 189 were in

workhouses or other

institutions, and the

remainder boarded-out)

1959 751 1,148 (of whom there were 728

boarded-out 226 in

welfare homes 158

maintained in voluntary

homes or on behalf of a

welfare authority)

Between 1963 and 1966 all voluntary homes were visited by a

committee, appointed to "consider and report upon the role in the

child care service of organisations providing voluntary homes within

the meaning of Section 98 of the Children and Young Persons Act (NI)

1950 and the principles adopted by such organisations in caring for

children and young people". ("Role of the Voluntary Home in the

Child Care Services" Report by the NI Child Welfare Council, 1966.)

In 1966 there were 20 voluntary homes, which were specifically

children's homes. Twelve of the homes were run by religious orders

of the Roman Catholic church; 3 were closely connected with the 3

main Protestant churches; 4, although not associated with any

particular denomination, had a strong religious background, and one

had a secular origin.

Voluntary organisations were able to make decisions regarding the

admission of children to their homes at the request of a parent. The

1966 Child Welfare Council Report found that such decisions were

not always taken "by someone who as well as knowing the

circumstances, is fully qualified to assess the relative merits of various

solutions". While recognising that the power to admit children

without reference to the statutory authorities was essential to the

ethos of voluntary homes and also ensured parental choice, the

Committee concluded that the practice "is likely to lead in the future

to serious difficulties unless allied with closer co-operation with

welfare authorities". The Committee noted that the 1956 Report

"Children in Care", (HMSO 1956, Paras 110-115) had suggested as a

means of improving co-ordination between voluntary homes and

welfare authorities that the former should seek the help of the latter

before admitting children. The 1966 Child Welfare Council Report

attributed the decline from 82.4 per cent to 71.5 per cent in

voluntary admissions to homes in the period between the two

committee reports as primarily due to the recommendations

contained in the 1956 "Children in Care" Report. The 1966 report,

further recommended that voluntary homes should either use the

services of welfare authorities or themselves employ qualified field

staff for the purpose of adequately assessing the decision to

accommodate a child.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 95

The Child Welfare Council Report concluded that there was "an

increasing acceptance by the statutory bodies of their responsibilities

in the field of child care". This was evident by the increased numbers

of children both in voluntary homes maintained by welfare

authorities and the 1,195 children in the care of welfare authorities.

The report also noted that many more of the children in voluntary

homes than the 238 taken into care by the welfare authorities would

have become the responsibility of the authorities had application

been made to them in the first instance.

The Child Welfare Council Report examined the extent of boardingout

for the 694 children who were wholly the responsibility of

voluntary organisations. On 31 March 1965 only 16 per cent of such

children had been boarded-out, which differed significantly from the

welfare authorities' figures of 54 per cent of children in their care

being boarded-out. Only 5 of the 20 voluntary homes used boardingout

to any considerable extent and 2 of these used it primarily with a

view to adoption. The Committee drew attention to Section 101(2) of

the Children and Young Persons Act 1950, which empowered the

Ministry of Home Affairs to direct that a child in a voluntary home

shall be handed over to a welfare authority with a view to the child

being boarded-out. This power was never used and the Committee

recommended that voluntary homes should be encouraged to boardout

a larger proportion of children in their care.

The Committee in addition to concluding that boarding-out of

children was not promoted also commented on the inadequate

support provided to children after their final discharge from

children's homes. It recommended, therefore, "the appointment of a

qualified field worker to carry out these essential functions or where

this is not possible "full use should be made of welfare authority

services".

The Report noted the value of voluntary homes and the increased

variety of services and their ability to cater for various age groups

and children of different religious backgrounds. It concluded that

provided voluntary homes offer services to a satisfactory level there is

"no reason why this relationship should not flourish". This Report in

many ways is central to the future role of the voluntary sector.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 96

Essentially, it endorsed the increasing emphasis placed on statutory

provision first heralded in the Children and Young Persons Act 1950.

The terminology used in the Report demonstrated a view of the

voluntary sector as a complementary and reducing element within

the wider child care sector. The Report noted that:

"By working in co-operation with welfare authorities ...in

addition to the financial security arising from regular

payments for children in care, voluntary homes can ensure

that they are participating in what should be a

comprehensive service and that they have access on a

regular and informal basis to facilities which they would

otherwise be unable to provide."

It was not until the early 1980s that the Report's prediction of a

reducing role for the voluntary sector was realised.

When the Report was being prepared, voluntary children's homes

were used to a greater extent for purely voluntary cases than in the

rest of the United Kingdom. The proportion of children maintained

by voluntary organisations in Northern Ireland on 31 March 1965 was

32 per cent of all children deprived of a "normal home". The

comparable position for England and Wales and Scotland was 17 per

cent and 15 per cent respectively. From 1966 on, it is possible to trace

the increasing role of the statutory authorities both for decisions to

admit children to care and for the funding of such placements.

The statutory bias in favour of fostering contained in the Children

and Young Persons Act 1968, further impacted upon the voluntary

residential sector as emphasis was placed on promoting the number

of children looked after in family situations. In policy terms this

legislative preference resulted in the DHSS Regional Strategies for

1987-92 and 1992-97 providing a framework, which resulted in the

further retraction of both the voluntary and statutory sectors'

residential child care provision. The twin emphasis on residential care

as a last resort and providing care in smaller homes placed

considerable pressure on the voluntary sector which traditionally had

provided care in large scale buildings for children with less complex

needs. The level of disturbance in children's behaviour also increased

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 97

within homes as a consequence of the rising threshold for admission

to residential care.

In addition to legislative and policy imperatives there were also the

wider scandals within the residential sector both in Northern Ireland

and the rest of the United Kingdom, which shattered public

confidence in group living and also inhibited providers from

remaining in what was perceived as a difficult and volatile

environment. The Kincora Inquiry, which has been discussed earlier,

was followed by the withdrawal of voluntary residential providers,

largely from the secular and Protestant church sector.

The Hughes Report sought to improve the quality of care provided to

children by raising the status and training of residential workers.

Recommendation 6 of the Report required that residential staff were

employed and qualified on terms and conditions comparable to their

field social work colleagues. The funding of the Hughes 6 staffing

recommendation was met by the DHSS with the aim of producing a

fully qualified residential social work workforce. To achieve this goal,

however, homes had to cope with large numbers of staff being

released for training purposes. In addition, qualified staff had more

job mobility than was previously the case and retention of them has

been a major issue for the sector. The cost of providing staff with

good terms and conditions has also significantly increased the costs of

residential care. The contracting difficulties, which subsequently arose

between voluntary providers and statutory commissioners, have been

cited as a significant reason for the ongoing retraction of the

voluntary sector.

Table 8 below shows the scale of withdrawal of the voluntary sector

during and following the "Kincora scandal" which first came to

public attention in January 1980.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 98

Table 8 - Retraction of the voluntary sector since 1978

The "Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Children's Homes and

Hostels" (Hughes Report) was published in December 1985. Following

that date the main voluntary providers were the homes run by the

Religious Orders of the Roman Catholic church, with the Protestant

church sector only retaining minimal input through the Belfast

Central Mission. The scale of provision made by Barnardos also

substantially reduced during and following this period.

The above table also serves to illustrate the size differential between

voluntary and statutory providers. For example, during 1982 the

average number of children living in a voluntary home was 14

compared with 10 in statutory homes. "Children Matter" sets out in

its report the number of places available in both voluntary and

statutory children's homes at Appendix 1 Table 1. The figures show a

retraction between 1986 and 1997 from 31 to 15 homes in the

statutory sector with the number of places falling from 480 to 176

and in the voluntary sector a reduction from 12 to 6 homes with

capacity reducing from 208 places to 64 (1997). "Children Matter"

projected a further retraction within the voluntary sector in the

following 18 months suggesting that around 22 places would be

available from these providers in 1999-2000. This forecast proved

remarkably accurate, as fewer than 20 places were provided by one

church based voluntary provider, namely the Belfast Central Mission,

by 2000.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 99

Year Voluntary Homes Statutory Homes % voluntary homes

(No. of children) (No. of children) (% children, vol.)

1966 24 (298) 22 (316) 52% (49%)

1970 24 (407) 23 (358) 51% (53%)

1974 24 (447) 29 (335) 45% (57%)

1978 23 (457) 32 (335) 42% (58%)

1982 25 (349) 35 (350) 42% (50%)

1986 12 (144) 31 (333) 30% (30%)

The past 50 years have, therefore, seen a virtual withdrawal of the

voluntary sector from the provision of residential care. Explanations

for this shift are complex and include:

• changes in the legislative context and consequently the increasing

assumption of responsibility for children in need of care by the

statutory authorities;

• the policy imperative in favour of providing for children in small

scale residential settings when historically the voluntary sector

comprised, in the main, large institutional buildings;

• the statutory and policy bias in favour of fostering which resulted

in the retraction of the residential sector as a whole;

• societal changes resulting in fewer applicants for the vocations

which largely removed the workforce from many of the homes

run by religious orders;

• the requirement for a qualified workforce and the increase in

costs of residential care as a consequence of this policy;

• the increasing public concern regarding the standard of care

provided to some children within residential homes and the

withdrawal of voluntary organizations as a result of well

publicised concerns about institutional child abuse; and

• more complex contracting arrangements as a consequence of the

changed role of HSS Boards and Trusts.

The main achievements in residential care for children since 1950

1. Children's residential facilities have moved away from large

impersonal institutions to smaller, more homely settings.

2. There has been a widespread recognition that staff who work

with children in residential settings are performing a skilled and

valued role. This has resulted in a greater emphasis on their

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 100

support, training, status, and the terms and conditions of their

employment. In Northern Ireland post the Hughes Inquiry, this has

resulted in parity with Family and Child Care field social workers.

3. Increasingly residential care is not used to meet the needs of

younger children or as a long-term placement option for older

children who require experiences of family life.

4. There is increased recognition of its value as a service of choice for

some children rather than as a placement of "last resort". It is now

viewed as an integral part of the child welfare system.

5. There has been increasing recognition of children's vulnerability in

residential settings and consequently greater safeguards have been

devised in terms of staff vetting, monitoring arrangements,

standards setting, inspection, and the establishment of complaints

and representations procedures. In addition, a considerable body

of regulations and guidance has been developed under the

Children Order to assist with the operation of high quality

residential units.

6. There is an increased awareness of the diversity of children's

needs and consequently the need for a range of facilities within

the residential care sector to ensure that children's assessed needs

are met.

7. There is increased priority afforded to listening to the views of

children when decisions are being made about them.

The way ahead

"Children Matter" set out the shortfall in the existing stock of

children's homes and the likely consequences for children and the

operation of children's residential services if there is no expansion of

provision. The Report also argues for greater differentiation of

purpose for residential homes to enable children to be placed in

homes capable of meeting their assessed needs. This approach reflects

the changed legislative base for the provision of children's services.

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The devolved administration, the Northern Ireland Legislative

Assembly, has taken an active interest in children's residential

services. The HSSPS Committee, which was established in November

1999, selected for its first Inquiry, children's services, which it

identified as a priority area for scrutiny. The subsequent report of the

HSSPS's, "Inquiry into Residential and Secure Accommodation for

Children in Northern Ireland" was published in December 2000. The

terms of reference of the Inquiry was:

"To investigate the current position with regard to

residential and secure accommodation for children in

Northern Ireland, and to make recommendations for

improvement".

The Report found that "the severe shortage of places and suitable

accommodation contributes to a multitude of problems within the

residential sector and compounds the vulnerability of those children

most disadvantaged in our society". In the Assembly debate on the

Committee's Report all parties endorsed it and the Minister for

HSSPS, in her response congratulated the Committee on the

comprehensive nature of the report and undertook to consider each

of the 36 recommendations. The Minister also concurred with the

approach, which the Committee had taken in viewing residential

services as part of the spectrum of child welfare services rather than

in isolation. The priority afforded to the expansion of the number

and range of children's residential services is clearly evident from the

Northern Ireland Executive, the Minister and the HSSPS Committee.

Carrying forward the commitment into action is the task of the

"Children Matter" Taskforce through establishing Regional Plans to

address both the expansion of places and the creation of more

specialist residential services for children. Already the Phase 1 Report,

published in June 2001, has established targets to increase the

number of residential places by 77 and to replace 70 existing places.

The Taskforce's Phase 2 Report will take forward the development of

specialist residential services for children with a range of complex

needs.

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 102

The availability of a high proportion of qualified residential staff

provides Northern Ireland with a good base from which to expand

provision and to develop more specialist models of service for

children who require residential care. Although it will be a major

challenge to recruit and retain a significant increase in the workforce

to staff the large number of new homes in planning. The current

model of general-purpose homes has not the capacity to utilise staff

resources and skills to the level necessary to sustain morale and retain

staff within this workforce. There is a need to establish models of

service, which enable staff to operate to explicit statements of

purpose and function and to achieve good outcomes for children.

Residential care and foster care are not mutually exclusive options

rather they are integral parts of the child welfare system. The

successful functioning of each is linked closely to the health and well

being of the other.

There is a need for concerted effort if residential services are to

develop both to the number and type required and to be informed

by an ethos which views residential care as an essential part of the

child welfare system, accessed according to children's assessed needs,

rather than as a last resort. In 1950, welfare authorities were

encouraged to build and to commission children's homes to enable

the Poor Law provision to be ended for children. Now 50 years later

the Department is again asking the successors of welfare authorities,

HSS Boards and Trusts, to expand their provision. Early indications are

that the progress being made today is not at the pace of those

charged 50 years ago with this duty.

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5

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Chapter

JUVENILE OFFENDING

Development of the juvenile justice system - pre 1950

In order to understand the juvenile justice system as it was in 1950 it

is important to have an understanding of the key factors that

influenced its development. One of the most important of these was

the Lynn Committee, which was appointed in 1935. The Committee

recommended changes in the law regarding the protection and

welfare of the young and the treatment of young offenders. Its terms

of reference were influenced by many features that had been

introduced in England by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.

The underpinning ideas of the 1933 Act, which have influenced the

juvenile justice system in Northern Ireland over a long period of time

were:

• that children coming before the courts should be dealt with

separately from adults;

• that concern for their "welfare" should be a major factor in all

proceedings criminal or civil; and

• an acknowledgement that the distinction between children who

offend and children who come from deprived backgrounds is

often an artificial one.

There was also a widely held view that supported the "treatment"

for young offenders in a residential setting. In practice this resulted in

residential sentences for child offenders for sometimes quite minor

offences which could last up to 3 years. They were seen as providing

the child with help and guidance that the child "needed." It is easy

to underestimate how radical this view of childhood actually was.

Readers of Oscar Wilde's collected letters may recollect how Wilde

wrote to the Times newspaper in support of a prison officer who was

dismissed for giving a young child a "sweet biscuit" because the child

was crying and found prison food too hard to digest. Between Oscar

Wilde's time in Reading jail in the 1890s and the 1933 Act something

radical had happened to the collective conscience of public policy

makers. There was a desire to be progressive and more "scientific" in

approach and a belief that this would be of benefit for the child and

the wider society. Since that time sentencing of child offenders has

been influenced by the movement between two ends of a

continuum, the need for treatment and the need to make sentences

proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed.

The Lynn Committee examined the extent of "juvenile delinquency"

in Northern Ireland. It concluded that although there had been a rise

in indictable offences involving children and young people under 16

during the 1930s that the numbers of such offences committed by

young people in Northern Ireland was still relatively small. The

Committee also felt that there were important factors to be taken

into account in looking at the reasons for juvenile offending. These

included lack of parental responsibility, poor housing, lack of

employment and lack of recreational facilities. They also found that

there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate the effects of cinema

and dance halls on delinquency!

The Lynn Report was certainly as radical as the content of 1933

English legislation . The recommendations that showed advancement

in thinking in relation to juvenile offenders included:

• the use of police "private warnings" (cautions) for child petty

offenders;

• the introduction of special qualifications for magistrates sitting in

juvenile court with a resident magistrate always present as

chairman;

• the belief that the jurisdiction and procedure of the juvenile court

should not be similar to an ordinary adult court and the court

should be "empowered to exercise...the widest powers of

guardianship and protection";

• raising the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 8 years;

• the provision of a special remand home for boys;

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 106

• the view that imprisonment was unsuitable for juveniles even in

the case of very serious acts of delinquency;

• reformatories and industrial schools should be combined into a

system of approved schools; and

• after-care should be regarded as an essential part of the approved

school system.

The Committee gave consideration to whether whipping as a court

sentence should be abolished (the penalty was rarely used in

Northern Ireland) and decided that it should be retained but used

infrequently as they had no doubts that in most cases it had

damaging effects. In coming to this decision they were swayed by the

opinion of Sir Cyril Burt, the psychologist, who felt that in some cases,

involving the most vicious offenders, it could be useful.

The Lynn Committee recognised the value of supervision of young

offenders in the community. At that time there were just 10

probation officers in Northern Ireland, half of whom were based in

Belfast. Of the Belfast probation officers 3 were women. One other

remaining officer was employed as a court missionary and another

was employed by the Catholic Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society. All

the officers were employed on a part time basis and needed another

form of occupation to support themselves. The scales of

remuneration were low even by the standards of the day. Caseloads

were high. A part time senior probation officer had a caseload of 70

and a part time probation officer had a caseload of 37. Pre-war

probation officers had a calling that was often based on religious

conviction, concerned especially with the evil effects of drink. The

cornerstone of their beliefs was that each offender had dignity,

worth and, above all, could be reformed.

The Lynn Report made significant recommendations regarding the

organisation, appointment, numbers, training and improved

remuneration of probation officers. It visualised a secular, public,

professional body that had outgrown its charitable origins and would

have a significant part to play in supervising child offenders. The

Committee had a vision of the future that moved the emphasis of the

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 107

service away from the moral improvement of offenders towards an

approach based on social science, especially psychology.

Developments 1950-onwards

There was no official or immediate Government response to the

recommendations of the Lynn Report but most of the

recommendations were enacted eventually. Developments in child

care had been overtaken by World War 2. After the war, however,

the Children and Young Persons Act (NI) 1950 was enacted.

It provided for:

• the abolition of reformatory and industrial schools, which were

now to be referred to as training schools. Specific reference was

made to classifying such schools according to "the age of the

persons for whom they are intended, the religious persuasion of

such persons, the character of the education and training given

therein, their geographical position, or otherwise as it thinks best

calculated to secure that a person is sent to a school appropriate

to his needs";

• raising the age of criminal responsibility to 8 years; and

• the introduction of statutory rules, orders and regulations for

juvenile courts, the composition and duties of Boards of

Management of training schools and the appointment of suitable

people to undertake after-care duties for children on release.

The Committee's recommendations relating to probation were taken

forward in legislation in 1950. Although there had been a Probation

of Offenders Act dating back to 1907, the probation service did not

become full time until the Probation Act (Northern Ireland) 1950 was

enacted, establishing the legislative basis for the modern probation

service. Staffing was relatively slow to grow with only 14 full-time

officers and one part-time officer in post by 1955.

The 1950 Act enabled the court to make an offender the subject of a

probation order instead of passing sentence on him. This meant that

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 108

the order did not appear as a criminal conviction and as long as the

probationer complied with the conditions of the order he did not

have to return to the court for sentence. The probation order was

made for a period of between one and 3 years, during which time

the probationer had to agree to be supervised by a probation officer

and to receive visits at home. In more recent years the minimum

length of a probation order has been reduced to 6 months. Since the

co-operation of the offender was essential to the likely success of the

order, his or her consent was required before an order could be

made. The law required the probation officer to advise, assist and

befriend the probationer. It was hoped the offender could be

encouraged to desist from further offending.

The statutory basis of the service has expanded since the 1950s:

• community service was introduced for adults in Northern Ireland

under the Treatment of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1976

and made available to 16 year olds under the Treatment of

Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. Community service

involves the offender being required to undertake unpaid work in

the community under the supervision of The Probation Board for

Northern Ireland (PBNI). As with a probation order the offender is

required to give consent to the making of a community service

order (CSO). The length of a CSO must not be for less than 40

hours and not more than 240 hours of unpaid work. The statutory

basis for community service orders is now set down under Articles

13 and 14 of the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996

which repealed the relevant Articles in the Treatment of Offenders

(Northern Ireland) Order 1976;

• additional requirements could be placed upon offenders by the

courts as part of a probation order under the Criminal Justice

(Northern Ireland) Order 1996 if the court considered them

necessary to secure the rehabilitation of the offender, protect the

public from harm or prevent the commission by him of further

offences. These included requirements to reside at a particular

place, to participate in designated activities, to attend a probation

day centre or undertake treatment for a drug or alcohol

dependency. An offender could also be required to undergo

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 109

medical treatment where a qualified medical practitioner

considered this to be necessary; and

• a combination order was introduced as a high tariff community

sentence. It combined a probation order and a community service

order. The order could only be applied to a person over the age of

16. The length of such orders could be between 6 months and 3

years for the probation part combined with between 40 and 100

hours of community service.

The Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 introduced three

other important changes that affect child offenders.

• the name of the juvenile court was changed to the youth court

with an expectation that, at some point in the future, the court

will deal with 17 year old offenders;

• the social enquiry report (SER) that probation officers produce for

the courts to assist sentencers was replaced with the pre-sentence

report (PSR). The PSR is intended to be a more objective document

that focuses on the offence and addressing risks of re-offending

and of harm to the public; and

• the probation order has now become a sentence of the court in its

own right. It is a community punishment, which can only be

passed when the offence for which an offender is being sentenced

is regarded by the court as "serious enough" to justify a

community penalty.

In the new legislation the purpose of the probation order, which in

the 1950 Act was given as being to "advise, assist and befriend", was

redefined as being for "securing the rehabilitation of the offender"

or " protecting the public from harm from him or preventing the

commission by him of further offences". There is an expectation that

lack of adherence by the offender to the conditions attaching to the

order will result in the offender being returned to court, when an

alternative sentence may be imposed.

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Having commenced with a small group of officers with few having

any formal qualifications, the probation service has developed

substantially in the past 50 years to cope with the new legislative

requirements. The Probation Board (Northern Ireland) Order 1982

facilitated the creation of a new arms length management structure,

which has enabled the service to be run by a community based Board

of Management. The Probation Board today has a staff complement

of around 300, of whom, approximately, 200 work directly with

offenders or are service managers. All probation officers are qualified

social workers. The probation service now operates as a professional

service, which has been given a clearer function to provide

programmes for the supervision and assistance of offenders and to

help them prevent re-offending. It also seeks to protect the public

from harm.

A major report in 1979 by the Children and Young Persons Review

Group, chaired by the late Sir Harold Black, which had been

established to review legislation and services relating to the care and

treatment of children and young persons under the Children and

Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 and to consider, in

particular, the future administration of the probation service made

significant proposals for change in the arrangements for

management of juvenile offenders. Many of these have been

implemented over the past 20 years. One of its recommendations,

that training schools should be closed and replaced with a single

custodial establishment for young offenders, was not implemented at

the time. The training schools at Rathgael, St Patrick's, St Joseph's

and Whiteabbey remained in existence although the Rathgael and

Whiteabbey Schools were combined into one school for both girls

and boys on the Rathgael site. Lisnevin Training School was

established at Millisle, after a short period at Newtownards.

Custodial sentences, in the form of training school orders, have been

available to the juvenile courts since 1968 for children who commit

more serious offences or who are persistent in their offending. They

could also be made, until the implementation of the Children (NI)

Order 1995, for children who were found by the courts to be in need

of care, protection and control or children who persistently failed to

attend school. This led to substantial numbers of training school

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50 YEARS OF CHILD CARE IN NORTHERN IRELAND 111

orders being made in the 1970s and 1980s but these do not truly

reflect the number of juvenile offenders. Over recent years efforts

have been made to separate children who were sent to training

schools as being in need of care, protection and control from those

who were adjudicated offenders. This separation was formalised in

1995 when under the provisions of the Children (NI) Order 1995,

training schools were required to provide separate accommodation

for care and offender cases.

The training schools were not seen to be very effective in preventing

re-offending. A research study, Juvenile Offenders and Reconviction

in Northern Ireland, based on an analysis of all juveniles convicted of

an offence in 1991, found that 86 per cent of juveniles sentenced to a

training school order were re-convicted within 2 years of sentence.

Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice (Children) (NI) Order 1998

the training schools were replaced by juvenile justice centres in

February 1999 , using the existing training schools premises and staff.

Unlike the training school order, the new juvenile justice centre order

(JJC Order) is a determinate sentence that, in the majority of cases,

comprises 3 months in the juvenile justice centre followed by 3

months supervision in the community by a probation officer,

although the courts can make a JJC Order of 2 years duration in

serious cases. In such cases the maximum length of time spent in

custody is 12 months followed by 12 months supervision in the

community. Courts considering making a JJC Order must first have

regard to whether the offence meets the seriousness criteria set

down in the Criminal Justice(Northern Ireland) Order 1996. This is a

significant move from the treatment model of working with child

offenders towards a more explicitly criminal justice model. It is, in

part, a recognition that lengthy residential treatment for child

offenders has not worked and, in part, a recognition that the length

of time in custody should bear some relationship to the seriousness of

the offending involved. The emphasis in custodial centres now

focuses more directly on working with the child on his or her

offending behaviour, although other development needs are taken

into account.

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The decline in numbers of young people receiving custodial sentences

has resulted in the closure of some of the existing secure

accommodation. Lisnevin Juvenile Justice Centre, which is located in

premises built on the design of a category C prison, has long been

considered unsuitable for children. Following a public consultation,

the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has recently determined that the

two remaining juvenile justice centres, which were housed in the

former training schools at Bangor and Millisle, are to be replaced by

a single, purpose built, juvenile justice centre. The principle objectives

of the new centre will be to challenge and reduce offending

behaviour through the provision of programmes to address such

behaviour, and to keep juvenile offenders in a safe and secure

environment. It will also be an objective of the new centre to seek to

assist the young people who are sent there to prepare constructively

for their return to the community.

With the introduction of the Children and Young Persons Act

(Northern Ireland) 1968 the age of criminal responsibility was raised

to 10 where it has since remained. The recent review of the criminal

justice system in Northern Ireland which was provided for in the

Belfast Agreement considered whether there should be any change

in the age of criminal responsibility. It concluded that the age of

criminal responsibility should remain at 10 years of age. However, it

also recommended that children aged between 10 - 13 inclusively,

who are found guilty of criminal offences and who require to be held

in custody, should not be sent to juvenile justice centres, but that

their accommodation needs should be provided for by the secure care

system.

Trends in juvenile offending since 1950

It is difficult to establish with any degree of accuracy the amount of

crime committed by juveniles as a significant proportion of all crime

is not reported to the police and not all the crime that is reported is

cleared up. Therefore, official police crime statistics do not give an

accurate picture of the extent of juvenile crime, although they

may give some indication of trends.

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Published figures show that, with the exception of a slight decrease

in the years between 1987 and 1990, there has been a continual

increase in the number of crimes recorded by the police over the past

50 years. It is likely that the numbers of crimes by juvenile offenders

has also increased during this period. Despite this, the number of

juveniles coming before the courts has reduced over the last 25 years

by approximately 65 per cent. It is known that most juvenile

offending is minor in nature and only a relatively small number of

juveniles persist in committing offences. Thus, over the past 25 years

increasing attention has been given to the diversion of child

offenders from the court system and alternative methods being used

to deal with children who offend.

Juvenile offenders coming before the courts now predominantly tend

to be those who are more persistent in their offending or who have

committed more serious offences. However, the SSI, in a recent

unpublished review of the operation of the Criminal Justice

(Children) (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, found that, amongst those

entering juvenile justice centres on remand from the courts or

through short placements under the Police and Criminal Evidence

Act, there is an over representation of children coming from

residential children's homes. These children account for 20 per cent

of such placements.

One change that has had an impact on the number of juvenile

offenders coming before the courts, has been the establishment of

juvenile liaison bureaux to consider the cases of children who have

committed offences. The Black Committee Report recommended that

there should be an extension of police cautioning. The juvenile

liaison scheme has encouraged closer co-operation between agencies

such as probation, social services, education welfare and the police in

decisions about children who offend. The effect has been to divert

many child offenders away from the courts and for their cases to be

dealt with in other ways. In some cases a police caution is

administered; in others children and their families may be referred to

diversion projects or social services for continuing support. Research

data from cautioning schemes in England shows that 80 per cent of

children subject to a first formal caution do not re-offend.

Unfortunately although the juvenile liaison scheme has expanded

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considerably, juvenile liaison bureaux are still not in place in all parts

of Northern Ireland. The best format for inter-agency co-operation

has, however, still to be determined. Over the past two years a

"children's panel" has been piloted in one HSS Trust area and its

progress has been subject to evaluation.

As part of a second caution or a caution for a serious offence children

are now sometimes encouraged to make reparation to their victims

through a process of restorative justice and staff from the core

agencies have been trained in the Thames Valley model of restorative

cautioning although the victims rarely attend. Indications from

England are that restorative schemes are not easy to establish but

they can enable justice to take place more swiftly so that it is more

real and meaningful to the child and can also be of benefit to the

victim.

Figures for 1999-2000 show that there were 12,323 cases referred to

the juvenile liaison scheme. Of these, only 5 per cent (643) were

referred to the courts for prosecution. The other cases were dealt

with by advice and warning (60 per cent), or by official caution (11

per cent). The remaining 24 per cent involved no further action.

One of the more common offences for which juveniles appear before

the courts is that of criminal damage. Burglary and robbery offences

by juveniles have reduced substantially since they peaked in the early

1980s. Motoring offences by juveniles brought before the courts have

fallen substantially since the 1970s and sexual and violent offences

have consistently represented a small proportion of offences

committed by juveniles. Some offences reflect changes that have

taken place in society over the past 50 years. Drug offences, which

currently represent a very small number of the total cases coming

before the courts, and joy riding are offences which were virtually

unknown 50 years ago.

Trends in sentencing juvenile offenders

For most of the 20th century children who offend were given a

special status under the criminal law. Since the Children Act 1908,

magistrates courts dealing with children under 16 were required to

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deal with them separately from adult offenders by sitting at a

separate place or at a different time. The juvenile court dealt both

with those children who were in need of care and protection and

those who had committed criminal offences. The 1968 Act in

Northern Ireland raised the age for separation of children from adults

in criminal proceedings to include 16 year olds.

In recent years there has been an interest in developing new

community based approaches to dealing with youth offenders. Apart

from the new community sentences referred to earlier, courts were

empowered to make attendance centre orders under the provisions

of the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968. The

first attendance centre was established in Belfast in 1970. An

attendance centre order requires a child to attend a centre for a

period of between 12 and 14 hours, spread over a number of weeks.

There is provision for the duration to be less than 12 hours in certain

circumstances for children under 14. The attendance centre order in

Northern Ireland is taken as an opportunity to carry out a piece of

focused work with the child in order to address his or her offending

behaviour. This involves the use of an accredited centre with trained

staff. There was, however, only one attendance centre in Northern

Ireland for 30 years, which limited the availability of the sentence to

those within the greater Belfast area and consequently attendance

centre orders have only ever represented a small percentage of the

overall sentences for juveniles in Northern Ireland. More recently

efforts have been made to extend the provision to other parts of the

Province.

The main sentencing trends until 1998 were as follows:

• the use of fines for juvenile crime which has declined over the

years, in part, because the fine often had to be paid by parents,

particularly in the case of younger children. The use of the fine for

juvenile offenders has now reduced substantially from 35 per cent

of all disposals in 1970 to approximately 10 per cent in 1998;

• absolute discharge which is used only in a very small percentage of

cases. Courts have also made use of conditional discharges for a

substantial proportion of juvenile offenders. Over the past 30

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years the percentage of cases given a conditional discharge has

varied between 22 and 28 per cent. Although, as the children who

appear before courts nowadays tend to be more serious or

persistent offenders it can be anticipated that the use by the courts

of absolute and conditional discharge will diminish in future;

• probation orders have consistently represented between a quarter

and a third of the outcomes for juvenile offenders over recent

years;

• since 1990 more use has been made of the community service

order for juveniles but overall it represents only about 3 per cent

of all disposals for juvenile offenders;

• the number of training school orders had been falling over the

past 20 years. Numbers of training school orders fell from 267 in

1986 to 140 in 1997. With the separation of juvenile offenders

from those young people requiring care, the population of the

training schools declined considerably. In 1997 there were 69

training school orders made. This fell to 52 the following year.

During this time the average number of children in residence was

88. Since the commencement of the new shorter juvenile justice

order the number of direct committals was 73 (1999) and 76 (2000)

with an average number of children in residence of 29; and

• the JJC Order is intended for only the most serious and persistent

juvenile offenders. The number of children who have been made

subject to JJC Orders, which have been available to the courts since

February 1999, has been relatively small. Fifty-one JJC Orders were

made over the first 9 months since the introduction of the new

order. The court can also make a young offender centre order in

respect of a 17 year old where it considers a custodial sentence to

be necessary. Between 20 and 50 such orders are made annually,

representing 3-6 per cent of all juvenile/youth court disposals for

juveniles in Northern Ireland. Young Offenders Centres are part of

the prison system. It is anticipated that when the new purpose

built juvenile justice centre is built there will be no need for

children under 17 years of age to enter the prison system.

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Under the provisions of Part IV of the Children (NI) Order 1995 there

is now a general duty placed on each HSS Trust to safeguard and

promote the welfare of children within its area, who are in need.

Each authority is required to take reasonable steps designed to

reduce the need to bring criminal proceedings against such children,

to encourage children within its area not to commit criminal offences

and to avoid the need for children within its area to be placed in

secure accommodation.

These requirements are broad in scope and have led to variation in

the emphasis placed on work with child offenders across Board and

Trust areas and in the resources devoted to it. Agreed targets and

standards for the use of diversionary strategies by agencies concerned

with juvenile justice are a necessity to move this area of work further

forward. A clearer framework is needed to ensure that, working in

close co-operation with others, social services can make a real

contribution to the prevention of delinquency by children.

The emphasis in the past on early and prolonged residential

treatment of juvenile offenders has not been particularly successful.

In the past five years there has been greater emphasis on providing a

wider range of alternatives for dealing with children who offend

with custodial sentences used as a last alternative for only the most

serious offences. There are examples of good practice in preventive

work being undertaken by agencies such as Extern, Northern Ireland

Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) and

Whitefield in close collaboration with social services. Whitefield is

managed by the Juvenile Justice Board, and has 16 projects largely in

the Eastern areas of the country.

The main achievements in juvenile justice since 1950

1. There is widespread recognition that juvenile offending should be

considered within the context of the social circumstances of the

young person concerned.

2. The age of criminal responsibility has increased from 7 to 10.

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3. Working with young offenders requires the involvement and cooperation

of a number of agencies - statutory and voluntary.

Multi-agency working has developed especially over the past 10

years.

4. Although the emphasis for most of the last 50 years has been on a

welfare/treatment approach, this has recently changed towards an

approach where the length of custodial intervention is in

proportion to the seriousness of the crime.

5. There has been a considerable interest in alternatives to custodial

care. Community based initiatives have been successfully

implemented.

6. The introduction of restorative justice schemes is seen as an

important development in helping not just the young offender

but also the victim.

The way ahead

Northern Ireland has so far been spared the moral panic that has

occurred in England and Wales, which has led to a rapid increase in

legislation. While there is no room for complacency, especially with

regard to the use of drugs and violent assaults among young people,

sentencing statistics show a falling number of young people coming

before the courts since the 1970s and the most common crimes

committed by young people are linked to property.

A strength of juvenile justice services in Northern Ireland during this

period has been a willingness to innovate and experiment and this is

continuing with the development of diversionary services, mentoring

schemes and restorative justice projects.

In terms of lessons that can be learnt the undernoted are recorded:

• the former training school system was expensive, it incarcerated

children for long periods of time often for relatively petty offences

and was ineffective in reducing re-offending;

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• there is a need to develop an inclusive form of training for

residential and field child care staff and juvenile justice workers so

that the juvenile justice centre is not isolated from the

mainstream. Well-qualified staff can be attracted and retained and

there is movement between the field and the centre;

• the provision of services for child offenders across Northern

Ireland has been inconsistent. Examples of this include the

inconsistent coverage of juvenile liaison bureaux and a lack of

cohesion in children's services planning for children in conflict with

the law. This demonstrates the need for Government to take more

of a leadership and co-ordinating role. It is likely that this will

happen through the forthcoming juvenile justice agency;

• work with child offenders has been insufficiently evidence led.

There has been a lack of research and practice based knowledge

on working effectively with child offenders has not sufficiently

developed. The NIO's paper, Juvenile Offenders and Reconviction

in Northern Ireland, showed reconviction rates for community

service of 71 per cent, for probation orders of 80 per cent and for

attendance centres of 89 per cent;

• there is need to ensure that there is total commitment to interagency

co-operation from the commencement of a JJC Order for

each young person. This should cover the assessment of need and

of risk and include the planning for and delivery of programmes

that tackle offending behaviour;

• there has been insufficient emphasis on engaging directly with the

family of the child offender at an early stage, and subsequently, in

order to help the family develop skills to deal with their child's

offending behaviour;

• the establishment of a bail support scheme would further reduce

the number entering juvenile justice centres on remand.

Identifying alternative residential care and fostering for those who

cannot remain at home while awaiting a court hearing would also

help to keep out of custody children who do not need to be

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remanded or placed in a secure unit under the provisions of the

Police and Criminal Evidence Act; and

• children who are offenders have too often been excluded from

mainstream services in education and training and, while there are

exceptions to this, the quality of services that they have been

given have not been of adequate standard to help the child

reintegrate. There has been insufficient focus on the issue of

school exclusion. A scheme of school based conferencing has

recently been introduced on a pilot basis by Barnardos, working in

partnership with the Southern Education and Library Board, aimed

at intervening before the suspension of a pupil takes place.

The report of the Criminal Justice Review offers an opportunity to set

in place good multi-agency standards for police, probation, social

services, the juvenile justice centre and other agencies so that they

can work together in a joined up and effective way. To be effective

this will require publicly published standards, key performance

measures and engagement with sentencers. The review group also

considered that restorative justice might be particularly useful in

dealing with juvenile offenders without a long history of criminality

but whose offending was a matter of real concern to local

communities. Restorative justice is an approach to dealing with harms

created by crime which views such problems as a breakdown in

relationships and seeks to repair those relationships. It tries to

balance the rights and interests of offenders, victims and the

community. Rather than by dealing with them as a violation of the

law where the offender must be punished, restorative justice focuses

on the harm that the crime does to the victim, to the community and

also to the offender. The aim is to repair the damaged relationship

which may be at the root of criminal behaviour and which will have

been further damaged by that behaviour.

The review group has recommended the development of restorative

justice approaches for juvenile offenders and that a restorative justice

approach should be integrated into the juvenile justice system in

Northern Ireland. While the review group recommended that a court

based youth conferencing scheme should operate on the basis of

court referrals it has also acknowledged that pre-court conferences

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could also be developed as part of a diversionary strategy. The

emphasis on restorative justice offers an opportunity for a new and

additional approach to dealing with juveniles who offend as we

enter the 21st century.

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DISABLED CHILDREN

Introduction

Described on occasions as 'the forgotten children', it is only in

relatively recent times that the social care spotlight has begun to

focus on children who have a disability. Baldwin and Carlisle (1994)

point out that the need to develop publicly funded care for disabled

children living with their families was not recognised by statutory

authorities until the early 1970s - indeed 'children with disabilities

have been excluded from mainstream child care policy for most of

this century'.

Yet the numbers of disabled children are significant. A prevalence

study carried out in 1992 by the Government's Policy Planning and

Research Unit estimated that 14,600 children in Northern Ireland

were disabled (PPRU, 1992). This represents a rate of 35 per thousand

children. The number of children estimated to have disabilities in the

highest severity category was 2,600, the equivalent of 6 per thousand

children in the population. The lowest severity category was

estimated to include some 3,300 children, representing a rate of 8 per

thousand children. Some form of disability therefore affects many

children in Northern Ireland.

It would be difficult to trace the development of social care services

for disabled children in isolation from advancements in education

and the health services. Their histories are intertwined. Long stay

hospitals and special residential schools in the past provided a form

of institutional care for disabled children. Indeed, most of the

residential homes for the disabled established by voluntary bodies in

the early years of the Victorian era and well into the 1970s provided

an element of medical treatment and education. As educational and

medical services became community based and more severely

disabled children were able to be cared for at home, statutory

welfare services faced the challenge of developing effective

community support services and this remains the challenge for today.

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Chapter

Services for disabled children prior to 1950

In the pre-war period many physically and sensory disabled children

were in the care of charitable institutions. Children in these

institutions were taught trades, particularly shoe making, shoe

mending and tailoring. On reaching school leaving age they often

went into sheltered employment. Evason et al (1976) note that prior

to the inception of the welfare state, the education authorities had

done little for disabled children. This was generally true of all the

statutory authorities. There is a complex pre-war history associated

with the contribution of voluntary organisations to the health, social

care and education of disabled children. Most of this history still

remains in the archive records of pre-Victorian institutions and

charitable bodies. A few examples are noted here:

• the 'Cripples Institute' (now the Northern Ireland Institute for the

Disabled) founded in 1878 had by 1904 established 2 residential

homes with schools, each catering for 50 disabled children. At one

stage, orthopaedic surgery was carried out on site. One of the

homes, originally 'The Mrs Stuart Memorial Home' in Bangor, was

formally recognised as an educational establishment in 1957 and

continued as a residential school until 1983, when it was closed

due to diminishing needs for disabled children to receive

education away from home;

• in 1836, a committee of interested individuals formed the Ulster

Society for Promoting the Education of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb

and opened a small school for deaf children with 'a small dwelling

house' for children from outside the city. This work was the

forerunner to the establishment of the Ulster Institution for the

Deaf and Dumb and the Blind which by 1843 had 100 boarding

pupils. There were rigorous regimes in the school and only one

month's 'vacation' period was allowed when pupils could return

to their own homes (Hailes, 1989).

In the early 1940s there was no institution to cater specifically for the

needs of adults or children who were 'mentally handicapped.' In

practice, 'most mentally defective children went to ordinary schools

or stayed in their own homes.' (Caul and Herron, 1992).

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In the absence of a full and readily accessible historical record of the

residential and other support services offered by voluntary

organisations, it is impossible to map the general provision that

existed for disabled children prior to the inception of the welfare

state. Statutory welfare provision developed within legislation that

brought children and adults together in the use of the term,

'disabled persons.' Even by the early 1950s post war period in

Northern Ireland, however, statutory welfare services aimed

specifically at disabled children were almost non-existent.

Welfare policy and legislation

It was health legislation, rather than welfare law that first enabled

the provision of help at home for families with a disabled child. The

Health Services Act (NI) 1948 provided for a health authority to make

arrangements for domestic help where 'such help was required

owing to the presence of any person who is ill, lying in, an expectant

mother, mentally defective child, or a child not over compulsory

school age.' The 1949 Welfare Services Act (NI) which followed was

the first important welfare legislation to address the needs of people

with disabilities. The introduction to the Act stated that it was an Act

to:

'substitute for the existing Poor Law relating to workhouse

accommodation and relief, requiring welfare authorities to

provide residential and other accommodation for certain

persons in need thereof ... to provide for the disposal of

workhouse property; to make further provision for the

welfare of handicapped and aged persons'.

'Handicapped' groups were defined as persons who were ' blind, deaf

or dumb and other persons who are substantially handicapped by

illness, injury or other congenital deformity or other such disabilities

as may be prescribed and whose handicap is of a permanent and

lasting nature'. Examples of the assistance that could be given were:

• informing those eligible of services available to them;

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• giving instruction at home and elsewhere in methods of

overcoming disability;

• providing recreational facilities and the compilation and

maintenance of Registers of Handicapped Persons; and

• domestic help, but only for the handicapped.

The 1948 Act further provided that authorities could assist voluntary

bodies in the provision of services covered by the Act and voluntary

organisations that were providing meals or recreation for the aged

and handicapped.

The powers of health authorities to provide domestic help were

repealed by the 1954 Welfare Services Act (NI) and transferred to

local welfare authorities who assumed full responsibility for the

'home help' service as it came to be known. The 1954 Act brought

within the scope of welfare authorities the authority to provide

domestic help for any household for which help was needed by

reason of, inter alia, the presence of persons who essentially fell

within the definition of the 'handicapped' groups identified above.

No further changes were made until the Welfare Services

(Amendment) Act (NI) 1961 added the provision of meals to the

services that welfare authorities could offer directly to the

handicapped.

In 1971, the Welfare Services Act (NI) created a duty on each welfare

authority to 'ascertain the number of persons who in its area stand in

need ... of the several services which it is the function of the welfare

authority to provide' and gave welfare authorities general powers to

promote the welfare of the disabled, including the mentally

disordered, but little changed in the examples of services that could

be provided.

The above welfare enactments were repealed in the 1972 Health and

Personal Social Services Order for Northern Ireland. This imposed a

general duty on the Ministry (subsequently the DHSS now the

DHSSPS) to provide or secure the provision of personal social services

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in Northern Ireland designed to promote the welfare of the people

of Northern Ireland. There is no specific mention of disability in the

Order.

The next legislation to address the needs of disabled people was the

Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (NI) Act 1978 which made it a

mandatory function of HSS Boards to ensure that they were

adequately informed of the numbers and needs of handicapped

persons in their area. The Act required Boards to publish information,

make arrangements for social services to meet the needs of disabled