Adoption row: 'To threaten the grandparents is despicable'

Evening News CommentTHERE is an expectation that social workers make the right decisions when the welfare of children is at stake.

Edinburgh City Council was rightly pilloried in 1991 when it failed to take action to remove Caleb Ness from the custody of his drug-addicted mother and deranged father, who subsequently shook him to death. More recently, social workers at Haringey Council in London were understandably condemned when they failed to intervene to save the life of Baby P, who died a violent death at the hands of his parents. Why neither council acted as they should have is beyond understanding. Had they done so both children might still be alive today.

But the decision by social workers to remove a brother and sister from their loving grandparents in Edinburgh to have them adopted by a gay couple is equally beyond comprehension.

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The little boy and girl's mum was clearly not a fit person to look after them. She is a recovering heroin addict with a long string of criminal convictions but was happy for her parents to take over.

Aged 59 and 46 – although they have manageable health problems – the grandparents are hardly geriatrics. Although they requested support they were willing not only to raise the children but restrict their daughter's access to them. But social workers decided they were too old and began the lengthy legal process of removing the children from them, first placing them in foster care and when the couple ran out of money to fight them, putting them up for adoption. To threaten them with never seeing the children again if they did not play along is despicable.

Although they stand accused of homophobia, the grandparents have the right to object to them being placed in a home without a mother. The fact that social workers say they "best meet the needs of the children" remains open to debate. When MSPs approved adoption by same-sex couples in 2006 it was against a background of public disapproval, with a survey showing 90 per cent opposition.

But whether the adoptive parents are same-sex or not is not the real issue here. It is the question of whether social workers have the right to interfere in family life to such a extent when there is no evidence that the children were in any immediate danger. There are an estimated 3000 drug addicts in Edinburgh caring for children deemed to be at risk of abuse or neglect, yet they seem content to continue to expose them to risk. So where do their priorities lie?

In seeking to avoid the issue, the council wants to hide behind the cloak of being unable to comment on individual cases. But that is not good enough. There is a pressing need for them to explain why they appear determined to remove these children from what seems to be a stable and loving environment, cutting them off from their grandparents in the process.