Monday, November 08, 2010

Aberdeen City Council to Smokers: We Will Not Allow You to Adopt or Foster Children

According to an article on the STV web site, the Aberdeen City Council is poised to prohibit smokers from fostering or adopting children, regardless of whether they smoke in the home or promise not to smoke in the home once they adopt.

In fact, under the proposal, prospective foster or adoptive parents would have to prove that they have quit smoking for at least one full year before being eligible to have children placed in their care.

Furthermore, according to the article, "no child born in a non-smoking family would be placed in the care of a smoker." Although I'm not clear on the interpretation, it appears this means that if the biological parents were nonsmokers, a child would not be placed even with a former smoker.

According to the article: "Stephanie Stone, assistant director of Barnardo's Scotland, said: "If Aberdeen City Council adopt the recommendations they will be falling in with the majority of agencies and councils in Scotland. "There are a number of agencies who will of course have existing carers who smoke. In this situation we would do our best to encourage them to cease smoking and offer them support in doing so. "Local authorities are looking at the impact of smoking on young children. Unless we take proactive steps to stop smoking, local authorities, in theory, in the best interest of the child or young person, could withdraw the placement of the young person. We have to make carers aware that this is a live possibility."

The Rest of the Story

I have to question the priorities of the Aberdeen City Council. Is it more important that a child’s parents do not smoke or is more important that a child has parents? There are many children without parents who will be denied a loving family because of this policy, or who will at least experience a delay in the provision of a loving family. There is a widespread shortage of foster and adoptive parents and the demand, unfortunately, generally outpaces the supply. So this policy is tantamount to saying that the City Council would rather children remain parentless than that they enter a loving family if the prospective parents are smokers.

Health has nothing to do with this policy because the adoption ban is not restricted to smokers who fail to promise not to smoke in the presence of the children. The very fact that a parent is a smoker is apparently the problem, rather than exposure to secondhand smoke. This is reinforced by the fact that the policy requires a smoker to have quit smoking for a full year prior to adopting or fostering a child. If the issue were merely protecting children from secondhand smoke, then ex-smokers should be welcomed to adopt children as soon as they quit. And even current smokers should be welcomed to adopt children as long as they agree to smoke outside or outside the presence of the child.

While promoting not smoking or cessation of smoking is a laudable goal, there is no excuse for pursuing this goal at the expense of the welfare and well-being of children. We must always act in the best interests of these children. Their needs and interests should not be sacrificed or compromised because the Aberdeen City Council wants to make a statement about the evils of smoking.

The policy is clearly based not on the interest of protecting the children from secondhand smoke, but on protecting the children from having a parent who smokes. Why, then, is the Aberdeen City Council not also prohibiting overweight or obese individuals from being adoptive or foster parents? Why is the Council not prohibiting people who don’t exercise sufficiently from becoming adoptive or foster parents? What about parents who don’t regularly use seat belts?

The selective inclusion of smoking as the only unhealthy behavior which automatically disqualifies you from being an adoptive parent suggests that the real intent of the policy is to punish smokers and deny them the joy and fulfillment of parenthood. That is despicable enough, but that the policy punishes children to carry out this intent is unconscionable and unacceptable.

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