While the focus is elsewhere..

With Prime Minister Tony Blair attempting to quiet the storm around the churches’ objections to the Equality Act, by both supporting the Act as is and promising to announce “a way through this sensitive and difficult decision” next week, in Scotland – where an exemption was seemingly granted to religious adoption agencies – the Catholic Church wants the Scottish Parliament to confirm those previously given commitments. In all of this BBC’s Nick Robinson thinks there will be no blanket exemption but notes that the loudest Cabinet voices are “All are running for deputy leader.” Including a certain Secretary of State for Wales, etc.. It makes it a interesting time for NIO minister Paul Goggins to announce a “radical overhaul” of adoption services in Northern Ireland.. where, of course, the particular provisions of the Equality Act have already been brought into force..Adoption review documentation available via the Department website

And from the NIO statement on adoption services

Consultation on ‘Adopting the Future’ is now complete. This document will pave the way for the most significant overhaul of primary adoption legislation in Northern Ireland for twenty years.

Key elements include:

Replacing patchy and inconsistent support services by placing a clear duty on Trusts, for the first time, to ensure the provision of adoption support services, including financial support;

A new legal order of ‘special guardianship’ which will enable children to have a permanent family life with a carer but maintain a basic link with their birth family;

Ensuring that children have at least one person with parental responsibility for them at all times in the adoption process;

Allowing civil partners and unmarried couples, including same sex couples, to jointly adopt;

Creating a Centre of Excellence in adoption by investing responsibility for many aspects of adoption in one Trust;

Much more consistent arrangements for access to information.

The consultation on the Adopting the Future document is available here [pdf file]