Towards the end of care proceedings, a local authority may form the view that the child cannot be returned to the care of his or her parents and his or her welfare demands adoption.
If this is the case, the local authority will make an application to the court for a Placement Order. This is a court order that says the child should be placed elsewhere. If the local authority is seeking adoption, the placement will be with prospective adopters.
If either parent does not provide their consent to adoption, the local authority will ask the court to dispense with the need for parental consent to adoption. There may then be a final contested hearing. During this hearing, the social worker may give oral evidence in the witness box where he or she tells the court why adoption is necessary. Both parents and the Children’s Guardian will also give evidence in the witness box for their views. It is possible that other witnesses will be invited to give evidence, such as health visitors, doctors, psychologists, police officers and other experts.
All witnesses giving oral evidence will be cross-examined by the advocates representing the other parties.
After hearing all the evidence and having read all of the court papers, a Judge will make a decision as to whether he or she will grant the local authority’s application for a placement order. The Judge must be satisfied that nothing besides adoption ‘will do’ for the child. In other words, adoption must be the absolute last resort.
What Happens After a Placement Order Is Made?
If a Placement Order has been granted by the court, the local authority should start to find a suitable adopter. Once this has happened, the child will be gradually introduced to its new proposed adoptive family.
Once the child has lived with the proposed adopters under a Placement Order for a continuous period, which is at least 10 weeks, the adopter(s) can apply for an Adoption Order to be made. This is to secure the placement.
If a Placement Order is already in place, a parent cannot seek to oppose the making of an Adoption Order without permission of the court.
The Effect of an Adoption Order
If the court makes an Adoption Order, all ties between a child and its birth parents are severed. The biological parents are no longer considered as the legal parents of the child and so lose their parental responsibility. In law, the adoptive parents will now be treated as if they were the biological parents.
An Adoption Order is a permanent order. The biological parents are not ordinarily afforded direct contact with the child again. Decisions about contact will entirely be in the hands of the adoptive parents, although local authorities will usually require letterbox contact of once per year to be offered to the biological parents.
How We Can Help
Our team have vast experience in dealing with applications to the court for Placement Orders and Adoption Orders. Whether that be representing a parent who opposes adoption or representing a proposed adopter who is applying for adoption.
If you have any questions or concerns about a child in relation to adoption, please give one of our experts in children law a call.