Blog Surrounding Adoption Orders
- AuthorGary Noble
Milton Keynes Family Law has recently been involved in a case where a Local Authority placed two children with two separate adoptive families. The unusual feature of the case was that the children involved were twins and at the conclusion of the care proceedings in 2015, the Court had ratified a Care Plan for the twins to be placed together.
Gary Noble, Solicitor Advocate at Milton Keynes Family Law, representing one of the prospective adopters considers the following questions as part of this blog.
- What happens to children under Care and Placement Orders once the proceedings have concluded?
- Do we assume that once Care and Placement Orders are made that the children will find permanent homes and that will be the end of the matter?
- What account is taken of the children’s individual needs?
- To what extent should a Local Authority follow the Court approved Care Plan?
- What responsibilities does a Local Authority have to place children together or apart in an adoptive placement?
In this case, the firm’s client had one of the twins placed in her care by the Local Authority under the terms of a Placement Order made at the conclusion of the previous care proceedings. Prior to the issue of the recent adoption proceedings, the child (GT) had been living with her for a period of one year. GT had experienced a very difficult start to her life and had suffered harm whilst in the care of her parents. The care proceedings, had concluded in March 2015, by the making of care and placement orders in respect of GT and her twin.
An application for an adoption order was then issued and as far as our client was concerned, the case should have run smoothly and concluded with the court making an adoption order on an unopposed basis.
What followed, however, was nine months of protracted proceedings, an extensive assessment undertaken by the Anna Freud Centre and a multi-day final hearing, which exposed the Local Authority’s failure to meet GT’s needs. Both this case and the application for an adoption order in respect of GT’s twin brother were heard by Mr Justice Keehan sitting in the High Court in London.
The evidence that was produced before the Court highlighted the Local Authority’s wholly unsatisfactory decision to separate the twins and place them with separate families. During the final hearing the Court had to consider whether the continued separation of the children was in their best interests and whether Adoption Orders should be made or whether another Order, short of an Adoption Order, would be sufficient to meet the twins’ needs whilst preserving their legal relationship as brother and sister.
Under Section.1(4) Adoption and Children Act 2002, the Court had to consider the impact upon the children throughout both their minorities and their adult life, of not only an Adoption Order being made, but also whether they should remain separated.
The outcome of the hearing concluded that the security and permanence that an Adoption Order would provide, made such an Order the only realistic option. The alternative option of a Special Guardianship Order was also considered. When deciding whether to make an Adoption Order or a Special Guardianship Order, the determinative factor was that upon reaching the age of 18, the Special Guardianship Order would end. The consequence of this would be that the Special Guardian would legally cease to have a role in GT’s life, with GT’s parents being recognised in law as her next of kin.
What was clear from the evidence provided in Court was that GT required security and permanence throughout her entire life and only an Adoption Order would therefore suffice.
Evidence of systemic failings within the Local Authority and the role of the Independent Reviewing Officer were identified which included the failure to adequately review the care of the children and to make appropriate plans for their future.
As part of the final Order made by the High Court, damages were awarded to both the children and adopters under the Human Rights Act 1998.
An extensive adoption support plan was also negotiated between the parties to ensure that the children and both sets of adopters will now receive the ongoing support necessary to secure the children’s placements for the remainder of their lives.
This case serves as a reminder that even after care proceedings have concluded, there is still potential for children to suffer harm whilst in the care of the Local Authority. It is therefore important that parents are advised to continue to attend Looked After Children Meetings (which must be held every six months) and seek legal advice where appropriate.
A copy of the judgment can be found here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2018/76.html