Couple banned from adopting because husband used e-cigarette

A couple has been barred from adopting after the would-be father was seen smoking an e-cigarette.
The decision to disqualify the couple came even after they’d passed a series of very rigorous tests set out to qualify them as parents. They had earlier paid for expensive fertility treatment which had failed, so the applied to adopt but were told that they couldn’t adopt because they’d used an e-cigarette in the past 12 months.

Many experts have said that ‘vaping’ poses little or no threat to children in the home, yet social workers barred the couple from adopting a child because the father was seen smoking an e-cigarette. In a statement, the couple said: “When there are so many children desperate for a family and a stable home, to put up such trivial barriers is absolutely ridiculous.” However, the decision by Staffordshire County Council is unlikely to be a one-off.

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At least 13 councils in England currently ban e-cigarette users from fostering or adopting young children, and the likelihood is that there could be more. The couple, who do not want to give their real names, approached the council in December 2013 after several failed IVF attempts costing over £20,000. A social worker visited the following month, but made no mention of restrictions on smokers or e-cigarette users adopting.

The social worker did warn them the council did not allow smokers to adopt young children, but she was unclear about its position with e-cigarette users. There is currently no evidence that vapour from e-cigarettes is harmful if inhaled passively. And Public Health England recently stated that “the health risks of passive exposure to electronic cigarette vapour are likely to be extremely low.” Many councils cite guidance from the BAAF, which recommends users of e-cigarettes be considered smokers until concerns about the devices are cleared up.

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However, other councils cite alternative guidance from the Fostering Network, which says that people should not be prevented from fostering or applying because of e-cigarettes use. Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London, said the policy was badly thought out and would cause significant harm. “There are so many misconceptions about e-cigarettes that policy makers and the public are getting very confused,” he said.

There are about 69,000 looked after children in England, meaning they are in the care of a local authority. But the majority (just over 50,000) are placed with foster parents. And although the number put up for adoption has risen by almost half since 2010, only 3,580 (1 in 20) were placed for adoption in the year ending March last year. Staffordshire County Council now says it does not have a policy of refusing to place children with e-cigarette users who did not smoke tobacco.