Stop Adoption and Fostering Agencies Publicly Advertising Children

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When a child goes through child protection proceedings in the UK, the law requires that their names and other identifying details about them like their physical appearance and location are kept confidential. This is to protect a child’s right to privacy and to prevent them from being identified by people in their local community and the world at large.

But once the courts order that a child can be adopted or fostered, that basic human right to protection is taken away from them.

Adoption and fostering agencies are able to share photos and details about that child’s personality so that they can be marketed online. The names and details of adoption and fostering agencies can also be shared online, all of which inevitably gives the location of that child away.

Most of this advertising is done publicly, and on the World Wide Web. We know that paedophiles target children through the internet. As the UK battles its own child sex trafficking epidemic, the NSPCC has called the internet “a playground for paedophiles”. Last year, 10,000 children in care in the UK went missing, sparking fears that they were being sexually abused and exploited. 

Sharing photos and other details about children online to secure adoptions and fostering placements is clearly not working. A report published in September 2018 by The Children’s Commissioner, found that three quarters of all children in care are being ping ponged around the system. Over a period of three years, nearly 2,500 children experienced five or more placement changes.

So why are children still being advertised online? The foster care industry in the UK is profitable. Valued at £1.7billion, it is one of only a few initiatives inside the child welfare sector that continues to generate income. Adoptions are also financially incentivised, with the UK government rewarding councils for the number of adoptions they make. Being able to place photos of children online and write what are often deeply misleading narratives, the industry sees online advertising as a quick way of pairing children with families, and securing the financial payouts that come with these placements.

The current policy and law allowing agencies and councils to advertise children is clearly not in the best interests of these children. The policy breaches their human right to privacy and places them at risk of sexual exploitation. It also breaches birth parents' rights, as councils routinely fail to ask for their consent to post photos online.  

This petition asks the government to end the practice of allowing councils and agencies to post photos and other identifying details for children in care, online, or in any type of publicly available document.