Judge attacks social worker over international adoption scandal

By Matthew Beard

The lid was lifted on the "evil and exploitative" business of international adoption yesterday when a High Court judge attacked a British freelance social worker for allowing a blacklisted family to buy a baby from a couple in the United States.

The lid was lifted on the "evil and exploitative" business of international adoption yesterday when a High Court judge attacked a British freelance social worker for allowing a blacklisted family to buy a baby from a couple in the United States.

Barely a week after the girl was born in Houston, Texas, in January 2000 she was sold by a notorious adoption agency for £18,500 and taken to start a new life in Britain.

But before her first birthday she was placed at the mercy of the courts after her "new" parents, who were barred from adoption in Britain by conventional means, split and her adoptive mother committed suicide.

Yesterday the High Court in London heard that an assessment carried out by independent adoption and surrogacy worker, Jay Carter, was "deeply flawed and grossly inadequate" as it failed to reveal the "obvious and worrying" unsuitability of the adoptive parents.

Sitting in the High Court's Family Division, Mr Justice Munby said he hoped that taking the unusual step of lifting reporting restrictions on the case would help highlight the need for a review of "evil and exploitative" overseas adoption.

Mr Justice Munby criticised previous misleading home reports compiled by Mrs Carter, who works for Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy, which helped the unsuccessful attempt by Alan and Judith Kilshaw to adopt twins via the internet from America in 2001.

The baby girl, identified for legal reasons only as "M", was sold through the now defunct Blessed Trinity Adoptions agency and a Texan judge gave his approval in January 2000. The adoptive parents, both in their forties, paid a reported £18,500 fee although the baby's birth parents received only around £700.

The British mother had been divorced four times and had six children. Mrs Carter made no checks on local authority reports which would have revealed the mother was investigated by social services departments for many years over concerns for two of her children. One was placed on the child protection register in 1984 following injuries caused by the mother's former boyfriend.

Mr Justice Munby said that two reports failed to mention her illness and hospital admissions resulting from overdoses and alcoholism. They also gave "wholly misleading" explanations for the couple's inability to adopt through more conventional methods.

The custody of the child, who is now three years old, became an issue for the High Court to decide after the unnamed local authority applied for a "freeing order" for adoption. The judge said he could not return her to her natural parents, both in their twenties, because it would cause the child "emotional and physical harm".

Mr Justice Munby said: "It is high time that this evil and exploitative trade was stamped out. It is a trade because, however it is dressed up, it involves the buying and selling of babies by intermediaries who pocket most of the large sums which change hands during the course of the transaction."

He said he would be sending copies of his ruling to the Health Secretary and the Home Secretary so they can consider abuses of the adoption laws and the adequacy of penalties.

A copy will also go to the Director of Public Prosecutions "with a view to him considering whether any criminal proceedings should be instituted against Jay Carter".

The Attorney General will also be asked to consider whether injunctions should be taken out against Mrs Carter to restrain her from "committing further breaches of the criminal law".

However, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering said Mrs Carter may avoid prosecution because the adoption was carried out days before the law was tightened under the Adoption (Inter Country Aspects) Act 1999.

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