Adoption ‘scandal’: 151 children ‘handed back to authorities’ in two years

It’s an embarrassment over which the minister in charge refuses to comment. In the space of two and a half years, 151 children released to adoptive parents in Portugal were returned to the authorities – the adoption ‘cancelled’ – and the children taken back into care.

Bloco de Esquerda MP Sandra Cunha has been on this case for the last eight months.

She started pressing the Ministry of Work and Social Security in September 2016, but only received the damning figures this week, says tabloid Correio da Manhã.

The data refers to the period January 2014 to August 2016.

During that time 72 children whose adoption had been ‘fully completed’ and authorised by the courts were returned to care, while the remaining 79 were all children whose adoption was still in the ‘first six months’ stage, and so deemed “pre-adoption”.

As Algarve children’s home boss Luís Villas-Boas explains, it is perfectly within the law to return children during the ‘pre-adoption’ phase, but a “crime” to do so once the process has been completed.

In Villas-Boas’ case, the last 30 years of child care work in the Algarve has seen his pink-painted Refúgio Aboim Asenção experience only three failed adoptions, he told CM, out of at least 600.

Thus the figures released to MP Cunha relate to other parts of the country.

Cunha admitted numbers are “very high”, but suggests they are an indication that the system itself is desperately underfunded.

“Social workers cannot perform miracles. They are integrated into very small teams and they simply cannot address all the issues”, she said.

In the case of pre-adoptions, for example, she claims social workers only manage two or three visits during the six-month trial period, which is not enough to help families going through difficulties in relating to their new children.

In the final analysis, she told CM, we are talking about abandoned children who are abandoned a second time.

BE is thus pressing the government for answers, which for now minister José Vieira da Silva is not giving – on the basis that he has not yet studied the relevant data.

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