Consular News Embassy 59
Rise in forced adoption of migrant children alarms consuls
Consuls have urged child protection services in England to work with them as concerns grow over increasing numbers of migrant children being taken into foster care.
At a round table discussion hosted by the Slovak Embassy, Central European consuls reported that child protection cases involving their nationals had grown steadily in the decade since EU accession, from under 10 in 2004 to 140 Polish cases.
Calling for more transparency in child protection cases, Latvian Ambassador Andris Teikmanis said an atmosphere of “mutual mistrust” existed between consulates and social workers.
Britain’s adoption laws, which allow for non-consensual adoption, were of particular concern, leading to accusations by families that social workers were “stealing [their] children” and robbing them of their culture.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the Court of Appeal, called on social workers to comply with the Vienna Convention and notify consulates immediately if a child protection case involved a foreign child.
Munby added that judges should apply Article 15 of the Brussels II Regulation and decide at an early stage whether the case could be transferred to a foreign court.
Addressing the seminar, Slovak Ambassador Miroslav Wlachovský remarked that consuls did not want to interfere with the process but “simply wanted to help”.
The Polish and Slovak consulates have set up units that provide legal and psychological support to families and can assist child protection services in locating extended families or finding foster carers from the child’s own culture based in the UK.
Consuls also offered to put social workers in contact with the relevant central authorities in the child’s home country when conducting expert assessments.
However, instances of English social workers conducting independent investigations in other countries without notifying the central authorities had “caused resentment” said Sir Mathew Thorpe, the former Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales. He appealed for a pan-European approach to child protection issues and a better understanding of family justice between EU countries.
Justice Jill Black proposed the creation of an EU-wide information resource and asked consuls to identify issues that crop up repeatedly in cases of cross-border child protection.
Vice President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness said ways needed to be found to promote better linkages between central authorities and look at cross-border care arrangements. “We can work and learn from each other to do things better,” she concluded.