Court may get more power to dispense with parental consent for adoption
Such legislation could be used as a way to encourage uncooperative parents to step up and fulfil their parental responsibility.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is proposing to amend the Adoption of Children Act to allow the court to dispense with the need, under certain circumstances, for the birth parents' consent to giving their child up for adoption.
In a consultation paper on the review of the Act, it said: "There are some children whose parents are unable to care for them despite their best efforts, even with the support of professionals and the community. In some cases, these children could be placed in a children's home or be in foster care for many years.
"However, the children's parents may object to them being adopted, even in instances where they do not want to continue caring for the children."
So, to overcome these objections and enable the child to be adopted by a "loving family and have a better chance in life", the MSF is proposing that the court need not have consent from birth parents or guardians if certain criteria are met.
These include: The parent has abandoned the child or cannot be found, is in jail for a length of time that makes it highly unlikely for him or her to care for the child or is a chronic drug abuser.
Other circumstances could be that the parent has neglected or ill-treated the child, and not sufficiently resolved, within a specified period of time, the risk factors or conditions that pose harm to the child.
The Straits Times understands that the proposed new laws will be applied to exceptional cases where reunification efforts have failed and the court has assessed, for example, that the biological family will not be able to care for the child safely, and the child has remained in the care of foster parents or in a children's home beyond a specified duration.
Lutheran Community Care Services' executive director Justin Mui welcomed the proposals as he has encountered cases where foster children are "stuck within the system unnecessarily" for years, with the birth parents refusing to say yes to adoption even when foster parents have bonded with the child and are willing to adopt.
"They lose the opportunity to be adopted and being placed in a nurturing family with better education prospects or resources," he said.
Such legislation could be used as a way to encourage uncooperative parents to step up and fulfil their parental responsibility if they do not want their child to be adopted by someone else, he said.
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