Staffordshire County Council have prevented a couple adopting a child because the potential father was seen using an electronic cigarette. The couple, ‘Abigail’ and ‘Brian’ who did not use their real names in their interview with the Daily Mail, approached the council with the aim of adopting a child of their own in December 2013 after they were unfortunately unable to conceive after several IVF attempts.
The couple passed a series of tests and background checks to ensure they qualified as fit parents and all seemed to be on track, however once their social worker had seen Brian with his electronic cigarette, everything changed.
At least 13 councils in England ban e-cigarette users from fostering or adopting young children, The Mail on Sunday has found – and there could be more.
After an initial visit from a social worker where according to the couple ‘no mention’ of restrictions on e-cigarette users or smokers adopting were highlighted, they underwent the process to adopt. At the time Brian was a light smoker of normal cigarettes. However, after passing all financial and background checks seemingly on the road to adopting a child of their own, the bad news was given when they were visited by another social worker after completing the requisite checks.
Brian, 45, said: ‘By then I’d stopped smoking completely and hadn’t had a real cigarette in months. I was using e-cigarettes as a cessation aid, to ease the nicotine cravings.’
During this visit the social worked warned the couple that Staffordshire County Council does not allow ‘smokers’ to adopt, although she was less sure about the current rules on potential parents using electronic cigarettes. But the following day in an email sent to the couple she wrote that ‘that the council would not place a child with anyone who had used e-cigarettes in the previous 12 months either.’ Continuing, ‘Should you both become non smokers/e-smokers over a 12-month period, then you could of course reapply.’
Abigail, 43, said: ‘It made us feel judged and worthless, that you are a lesser person if you smoke e-cigarettes. They seem to be seeking adopters who are perfect. But we are like lots of ordinary families.’
Abigal and her husband were left very disappointed by the response of their local council arguing that they have been victim of ‘over-zealous, politically correct’ social workers.
Most local councils in the UK do not have a specific rule regarding adoption and the use of e-cigarettes; however thirteen do according to the Daily Mail. These are: Bury, Kirklees, North Tyneside, Durham, Warrington, West Sussex, Poole, Cornwall, Camden, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall and Dudley councils. These councils are following guidance given by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), which asserts that ‘users of e-cigarettes be considered smokers’ until concerns about the devices are cleared up.
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 added.
Contrastingly to the approach taken by Staffordshire County Council, a larger amount of councils across the country follow the guidance of the Fostering Network, which argues that potential parents ‘should not be prevented from fostering or applying because of e-cigarettes use’.
The Staffordshire County Council has now had a welcome change of heart on the matter as Councillor Mike Lawrence explained: ‘Applications from people who use e-cigarettes are considered as long as they have not smoked tobacco for over a year.’
He also apologised to the couple, saying that ‘they were given the wrong information’ and pledged to make the situation clearer to other applicants.
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