Published Saturday, 27 October 2012
Stephen Agnew was speaking at the Green Party conference. (© UTV)
He made the comments at the Green Party conference in Belfast which focused on the issue of early education and intervention.
"We currently have over 2,500 looked after children in Northern Ireland," Mr Agnew said.
"The outcomes for children growing up in care in Northern Ireland are poor in terms of health, educational achievement, risk of offending and risk of suicide.
"However, our Health Minister seeks to deny those children the opportunity of growing up in a loving family home because some of those families may not reflect the values of the Minister.
"The Minister's decision to challenge the court ruling that unmarried couples and those in civil partnerships should be allowed to adopt is a disgrace."
The Health Minister has said he will appeal a High Court ruling that banning same sex couples from adopting is unlawful discrimination. He said he was not convinced the ruling was "ultimately in the best interests of some of the most vulnerable children in Northern Ireland."
The silo mentality at the heart of Northern Ireland's governance means that our limited resources are not being spent wisely and ultimately children are losing out.
One of the main issues the North Down MLA highlighted was that the need for the interests of young people to be placed at the heart of government policy in Northern Ireland.
"The failure of the Executive parties to come up with an Early Ears Strategy is but one example of how they are failing children. The draft Early Years strategy was so severely criticised that it has been scrapped altogether," he said.
Mr Agnew is currently working on a Private Member's Bill on a statutory duty to cooperate on children's services, which if passed will make it a duty for government departments to plan, commission and deliver children's services more efficiently.
"If you are an NGO that works with children, providing services for children, you are maybe going to have to apply to five or six places for funding. That's five sets of administration at the other end, the money being spend on that administration would be better spent directly on children," he explained.
Motions adopted by the Green Party at the conference included an opposition to fluoridation of the public water supply, the introduction of a flexible licensing system, powers for local authorities to take possession of abandoned and long term vacant property and the reduction of urban speed limits to be reduced from 30mph to 20mph.