The UK's top family judge has intervened in the case of a mentally-ill mother whose baby was delivered by caesarean section by court order.
The Prime Minister has tried to bring some festive cheer to couples and children caught up in the adoption system in England.
David Cameron is to announce plans to radically speed up the amount of time it takes to place children with potential adopters.
A lawyer for an Italian woman who reportedly had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers has he has "never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
Brendan Fleming told the Sunday Telegraph:
I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.
A pregnant woman had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
The social services reportedly obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcible sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council is thought to have said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
According to the newspaper, the baby, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
A spokesman for the local authority concerned would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.
Jim Clifford, chairman of It's All About Me (IAAM) adoption and head of not-for-profit advisory at Baker Tilly, is himself adopted and has adopted nine children with his wife. He said:
Adopting older children is not always easy, as many carry with them the legacy of neglect and trauma in their early years.
However, with the right training and support, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience for both the parent and the child, and I would encourage anyone with an interest to find out more.
We have had a fantastic response to the IAAM scheme from local authorities so far, many of whom recognise the benefit of working closely with the voluntary adoption sector.
Would-be adoptive parents are to be given more help in looking after children who are considered harder to place with families because of their age or circumstances.
Leading voluntary adoption agencies are spearheading a scheme that will give two years of support to those choosing to adopt children in care who are sometimes overlooked.
They hope the new service, called It's All About Me (IAAM), will encourage more people to adopt those children.
It will include training in therapeutic parenting offered to families, with 24-hour assistance available in the first two years to reduce the risk of the placement failing.
The scheme has been developed by the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) and professional services firm Baker Tilly, with 18 voluntary adoption agencies helping them to set it up.
Adoptions in England and Wales last year were up 9.8% on the previous year, the Office for National Statistics said.
The extra £16 million of government funding that will be given to adoption agencies, will see:
- £15 million over the next two years in expansion grants for new and existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies to increase the recruitment of adopters and create innovative ways of working.
- New business support for adoption agencies, providing advice, coaching, and guidance to expand their organisations.
Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, who has two adopted brothers himself, says thousands of children in the UK are waiting for permanent and loving homes.
He said: "There are still over 4,000 children waiting to be adopted nationally, and we cannot stand by whilst children's futures hang in the balance. This is why we are taking a closer look at how we are recruiting new parents by giving voluntary adoption agencies a bigger role.
"We know more than 650,000 people would consider adopting right now, yet more than 700 additional adopters are needed each year to keep up with the growing number of children waiting to be adopted.
"What is important is that children who are in need of a permanent, loving home are found one as soon as possible - not who delivers the service."
Adoption agencies are to be given an additional £16 million in funding in a bid to tackle the shortfall in adopters, the Government has announced.
The money - available from later this year until 2016 - will help new and existing Voluntary Adoption Agencies (VAAs) develop new and creative ways to recruit more adopters.
The Government says the cash boost could see the VAA sector recruit as many as 2,000 prospective adopters a year by March 2016.
There could be up to 4.6 million people in England who say they would consider adopting at some point in the future, research has shown.
A study commissioned by the Government found that many people are being held back from adoption or fostering due to concerns about the process of being approved.
Under new plans to overhaul the adoption and fostering system:
- There will be a two-stage approval process for adopters, which the Government insists will make the system swifter and mean the majority of adopters are approved to within six months
- A "fast-track" system for previously approved foster carers and adopters
- Legal obligations on adoption agencies to refer would-be adopters to the Adoption Register within three months of approval
- The plans will aim to make sure that the information on children waiting to be adopted is kept up to date
A new "adoption passport" will set out the help that adopters could be eligible for, including paid adoption leave, priority access and social housing.
The guide will be available on the First4adoption website.
– Edward Timpson, Children's Minister
For too long children have been left waiting - in many cases over two years - for the stable, loving homes whilst prospective adopters have been dissuaded from offering those children the security they need.
So we're overhauling the system to encourage more people to adopt, and making it swifter, more effective and robust.