Denise Robertson Daily Mail article - a response from BASW's Vice Chair

We have had a number of complaints about our sharing of a Daily Mail article about a book by Agony Aunt Denise Robertson. The book is highly critical of forced adoption, and features many stories from parents and grandparents and others about this. We regularly post articles about social work, critical and supportive, which we think will be of interest to our members. The Daily Mail is widely read and therefore helps form public opinion about our profession, so there can be no doubt that the article is of great interest.  

The complaints are either that we published the article at all, or that we published it without comment.  There seems to be a belief that as a member led organisation representing social workers, we should automatically reject any criticism and therefore should defend the practice of non-consensual or ‘forced’ adoption. While BASW fully accepts responsibility for defending our members if their practice is challenged, we are also responsible for debating and discussing ethical practice. 

The issue of adoption without parental consent and against their wishes is one that we feel is of professional concern and must be openly and fully debated, not just within social work, but also in the wider world.

We need to hear the challenges and the concerns of social workers and our partners and also from birth parents and families.  The removal of children from siblings and families is now encouraged on the basis of the assessment of likelihood of future harm or risk rather than on any evidence of actual harm or risk.

This and the irreversible nature of an adoption order does make it one of the highest risk decisions and actions that a social worker will ever make in their career.  There are therefore clear grounds for human rights concerns, and concerns about the best interests of these children and their siblings and families.

There is growing public interest and concern, and it is very important that your professional association shows leadership in responding to this. We cannot deny that there are grounds for concern and inquiry and explanation, and neither should we attack the messengers – the birth families and their spokespeople such as Denise Robertson. 

I will always support the open airing of critical comment and believe that we have a responsibility to members to respond to these openly and with an ethical and informed position.

Maggie Mellon

Vice Chair

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

Published : 28th May 2015

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