By: Steve Doughty
A lesbian couple’s adoption of a Muslim child was put on hold yesterday following demonstrations outside a town hall.
The protests and a series of complaints last week persuaded social services to ‘review’ whether the three-year-old girl should join her new parents.
She is at the centre of a public row between the north-west London Somali community of her birth family, who argue that her adoptive parents should share their religious and cultural values, and council chiefs who said the girl ‘isn’t helped if this process drags on’.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is currently pressing for adoptions to be carried out more quickly and for racial or cultural barriers – often used to block the process – to be swept aside.
However, Tony Blair’s 2002 Adoption Act, which opened the system to same-sex couples, has sometimes led to complaints from the biological relatives of adopted children. The birth mother of the Somali girl in Harrow suffers from mental health problems and is considered unfit to raise her.
The girl’s father is believed to be absent from the home and her two older sisters have been taken into state care.
Her mother was told that adoptive parents had been chosen and that she could have a final meeting with the three-year-old last Wednesday.
But the family and Somali community members objected and 50 people staged a demonstration outside Harrow Civic Centre.
Supporters of the mother contacted the Victoria Climbie Foundation, a pressure group set up by the parents of the eight-year-old girl murdered by an aunt and her boyfriend in Haringey in 2000.
Mor Dioum, of the organisation, told the Sunday Times: ‘The family wish that their religious and cultural values are taken into consideration when making such an important decision. They are saying that this is in the best welfare of the child. The family’s issue in this case is not about the sexual orientation of these two individuals.’
He added: ‘The Somali community have for the first time come out because they believe this case has a wider importance. We don’t believe any community is beyond reach.’
A member of the family said that four relatives of the mother were willing to adopt the girl, but that social workers had told the mother that no Muslims had come forward as possible new parents. The adoption was halted after the town hall demonstration and the family have until the end of the week to put forward names of potential adopters among relatives of the girl.
Susan Hall, leader of Harrow’s Tory council, said: ‘Clearly there is always an ideal that a child could be matched with parents from a similar background and heritage. But the reality is the ultimate choice is governed by the kind of adoptive parents who are available.
‘The most important thing is that the child goes to a loving and supportive home and to people we believe … are best suited to look after them.’
Mrs Hall said the need for adoptive parents from different ethnic backgrounds was ‘only going to intensify’, adding: ‘The careful search for the right adoptive parents also has to be matched against the fact that the child isn’t helped if this process drags on.’
In 2012 a couple belonging to Ukip had three foster children taken away.
Rotherham council said they had concerns over the party’s immigration policy as the children were not white British.
Figures show the number of children adopted from care rose to a 20-year high of almost 4,000 last year.
A 28 per cent increase in such adoptions over a two-year period followed the abolition of rules that stated new families must be the same race, religion and culture as the child’s birth parents.