By Nikita Austin
‘The Story of Tracy Beaker’ written by Jacqueline Wilson follows the life of Tracy Beaker who is ten years old and is one of many children in care – She lives in a children’s care home which she calls’ the dumping ground. Tracy is always in trouble and is always arguing with the other children in the home, especially Justine Littlewood!
Tracy is waiting for a family to foster her. She’s had two foster families before but, sadly, they haven’t worked out so Tracy was returned to the children’s home. Tracy misses her real mum and believes she is rich and famous, and hopes that she will come to collect her one day. Whilst Tracy is in the children’s home, she meets Cam who is a writer. Tracy wants Cam to adopt her. The law in Wales protects children in many situations similar to Tracy’s, so we thought we could look at how the law applies to Tracy and how it could apply to you.
What happens if someone who looks after you hits you
One of Tracy’s foster families kept hitting her when she lived with them. If this is happening to you or someone you know, you might like to know what the legal position in Wales is and how it protects children.
Your rights in Wales
The Government in Wales has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights at the Child (UNCRC). This gives children rights. One of your rights is protection from abuse. This can be found in Article 19 of the UNCRC. In the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011, the Welsh Government agreed to have ‘due regard’ to UNCRC rights when making any new laws. They are using this to change the law that allows parents or carers to hit their children.
It is against the law to hit anyone. But parents or carers can use the defence of ‘reasonable force’ and argue that they were hitting their child as a punishment for something the child did. The Welsh Government are trying to stop this by debating the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. If Welsh Ministers agree, the Bill will become law in 2020 so parents won’t be able to physically punish children.
What happens if you were to be adopted
Tracy wants to be adopted by Cam but doesn’t know if this will happen. If Cam did adopt Tracy, the law in Wales and the rights given to children by the UNCRC are designed to protect children like Tracy and to make sure children are happy with their adoptive parents.
If your own parents can’t look after you, social workers should make sure that you have somewhere else you can live where you will be safe and happy. This could include living with other relatives or close friends or your parents. It might mean you go to live with foster parents who aren’t connected with your family. If none of these options are appropriate, adoption might be considered if it is in your best interests. Adoption is used as a ‘last resort’ because legally, it means that you stop belonging to your birth family and belong to your adoptive family instead. Adoption is more likely to be an option for younger children. If adoption is in your best interests, Article 21 of the UNCRC will apply.
Article 21 of the UNCRC says children should have a safe, lawful adoption which is in the best interests of the child. To start an adoption in Wales, a child will be placed on the Welsh Adoption Register as part of the National Adoption Service. This brings together all Welsh local authorities and Adoption agencies and lets adults know you’d like to be adopted. The person – or people – who want to adopt you will be checked by the local authorities to see if they will be a good match for you and will be able to look after you properly. You will then meet each other and get to know each other before you are adopted. A social worker will then agree on an adoption placement plan which will be finalised by the court. This plan makes sure that you will be happy and supported in your new adoptive family.
The adoption process is very similar in Wales and England. But Wales has extra ways of making sure you are happy. The Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2016 gives Welsh Ministers power to help local authorities so that adoption is safe and happens quicker. Once you are adopted, you will become part of your adoptive family.
Protecting your rights in Wales
You have now seen that the law in Wales is designed to protect children in many situations. This is to help children to live happy lives and help solve any issues that might be happening at home, in school or in other places. As for Tracy, you’ll have to read the book to find out if she got her happy ending with Cam!
Look out for more blogs in the ‘Reading my Rights’ series.
I’m Nikita, I’m originally from Somerset and I am currently a student at Swansea University studying law. After university, I hope to be a successful practising solicitor.