Adoption and Children Bill passes in Northern Ireland


The Adoption and Children Bill was passed in the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday with full cross-party support. We warmly welcome the passing of the Adoption and Children Bill which represents a huge step forward for children’s social care, as the first piece of legislation focussed on the fostering system since the 1995 Children Order.   

Once it comes into force, the Bill will place the Northern Ireland post 18 fostering arrangements (Going the Extra Mile or GEM scheme) on a statutory basis, introduce Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) to Northern Ireland and place fostering panels on a statutory basis alongside introducing a new legislative framework for adoption. The Bill will also introduce a duty to promote educational achievement, a framework of Corporate Parenting principles and improved support for care leavers.  

80% of children in care in Northern Ireland are living with foster carers. The Fostering Network has been calling for the introduction of a clear regulatory framework for all aspects of foster care in Northern Ireland for many years to ensure a well-regulated, safe and stable system.  

As a next step The Fostering Network would like to see the introduction of the foster care regulations (currently in draft), the development of foster care standards and the introduction of an inspection regime.  These reforms, alongside the amendments to the Children Order set out in the Bill would begin to provide the framework that foster care needs in Northern Ireland, consistent with England, Wales and Scotland, to ensure children have consistent and high quality care across Northern Ireland  

The Fostering Network members who responded to the Bill consultation overwhelmingly supported the Bill but also stressed the need for reforms to be properly funded and were keen to be involved in discussions about the detail of implementation. 

Kathleen Toner, Director of Northern Ireland for the Fostering Network said: “This was a really important day for children’s social care. I would like to thank all the foster carers and fostering services who supported our response to the consultation and scrutiny process by sharing their experience and views in writing and at consultation events and meetings. We were thanked for our contribution by those who contributed to the debate in the Assembly. I look forward to further engaging with foster carers and kinship foster carers as the regulations arising from the Bill are developed”