As many people with an awareness of Children Law will know, adoption is one of the current ‘hot topics’ with extensive debate taking place around whether or not the Courts in this country are too quick to allow out of family adoption, rather than giving the biological parents sufficient opportunity to change.
Recent decisions in the Supreme Court & Court of Appeal have confirmed that adoption should be a matter of last resort only, and that it is not about giving a child the best parents available to them, but checking that those people that raise them are “good enough.”
Slater and Gordon Family & Children Law Lawyer Hannah Cornish recently acted in the reported case of Borough of Poole V Mrs W and Mr W, which considered whether an Adoption Order remained appropriate in unusual circumstances.
After considering the case, senior Judge, Sir Mark Hedley decided that any other plan would be too risky for the child, and endorsed adoption as the appropriate way forward. The child at the centre of this case, referred to as ‘SR’, was taken into foster care from hospital shortly after she was born by the Local Authority.
The mother’s three older children had been taken into care and SR was also thought to be at risk of harm. The three older children were placed with a new family and settled. The parents tried to appeal the making of the adoption orders for the 3 elder children but they were unsuccessful in obtaining permission to appeal.
Care and Placement Orders were issued for SR, allowing her to be taken into care and placed in foster care. The parents disputed the Orders, and although question marks were raised as to whether the parents had been properly assessed this time to care for SR, the parents were unsuccessful in their appeal.
SR was then placed with her prospective adopters. The Local Authority issued an application on behalf of the prospective adopters to formally adopt SR. The parents sought leave to oppose the Adoption Order; this was refused and an Adoption Order was made.
The parents then successfully appealed the refusal of leave for them to appeal. This appeal was then re-heard by Sir Mark Hedley who granted the parents appeal and decided the case would be re-heard. The question to be determined then was whether the prospective adopters application to adopt SR would be successful or whether SR should ultimately return to her birth parents.
Within the re-hearing Sir Mark Hedley noted the parents had made significant lifestyle changes. The parents situation was very different and much improved in both practical and emotional terms.
There were only 2 outcomes for this case: 1) an Adoption Order which would devastate the birth parents or 2) a Rehabilitation Order that would be devastate the prospective adopters who SR had been living with for some time.
No one could know whether SR would survive the rehabilitation process, this would involve breaking a secure attachment which she had with the prospective adopters.
The key aspects of section 1 of the Adoption & Children Act 2002 are a child’s need for security and stability. Bearing this in mind, consideration had to be given to the risk of emotional harm to SR if she was returned to her birth parents and worst case scenario the placement broke down.
Sir Mark Hedley concluded that in light of his concerns about SR’s ability to survive rehabilitation process, the parents fragility and risk of breakdown, SR’s welfare could only be safeguarded by an adoption so an order was made.
At Slater and Gordon Lawyers we know that each adoption case is different and we are equipped to deal with rare and complex cases. Hannah Cornish successfully represented the prospective adopters in this unusual case.
Hannah Cornish is a Family Law & Adoption Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Milton Keynes.
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