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Dramatic Fall in Numbers Put Forward For Adoption

Dramatic Fall in Numbers Put Forward For Adoption

Figures from the National Adoption Leadership Board (NALB), show the number of children being put forward for adoption has almost halved after judges highlighted concerns about the effect of a drive to speed up adoption. The number of children being put forward has fallen by 47% since Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court Family Division, stated in September last year that councils were misinterpreting new six-month guidelines for adoption.

He said judges were becoming increasingly alarmed at the frequency with which children were being put forward for adoption when less “drastic” measures, such as being cared for by other relations, had not been considered. The number of children in care considered suitable for adoption dropped from 1,830 to 960 between September 1st 2013 and June 30th 2014.

ALB publishes “myth buster”

Sir James’ comments were made in a ruling known as Re B-S, where a mother unsuccessfully appealed against a court’s refusal to allow her to oppose the adoption of her children; he criticised the “recurrent inadequacy” of the evidence presented by social workers, and said that the authorities must provide “proper evidence” that all alternatives to adoption had been considered.

Sir Martin Narey, chairman of the Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) and former chief executive at Barnardo’s, has produced a “myth buster”, written to challenge the misconceptions arising from the ruling. The guidance, drafted for the ALB by senior QC Janet Bazely and supported by Sir James, emphasises that the legal test for adoption remains the same, and that courts must hear expert, informed and evidence-based analysis of all the options available to a child.

“Vulnerable children deserve nothing less”

The document dispels the notion that planning for adoption is a “last resort” which is only to be considered when all other options have been exercised or ruled out. It urges local authorities to plan “at the earliest possible stage” for adoption, in case a child’s reunification with parents or family does not prove to be possible.

It also states that, unlike care orders or supervision orders, placement orders – which allow a child to be placed for adoption – are not subject to the 26-week time limit for completion. It has been issued to staff at all levels in local authorities, Cafcass, and the family justice system.

Sir Martin said “The board and I have published this guide to help everyone working for children understand the law around these complex cases, and be confident in making the right decisions for the child. Adoption is not right for every child but where it is, we owe it to them to pursue this option relentlessly. Our most vulnerable children deserve nothing less”.

Children and families minister Edward Timpson praised the document, commenting that it “will help make clear the law around the correct interpretation of these complex cases and ensure the right decisions are being made each and every time”.

Our specialist child welfare solicitors are trained to deal with all aspects of the Children Act 1989 and Adoption and Children Act 2002, and have extensive experience in representing children either directly or through a Children’s Guardian. We also represent family members in Care and Adoption proceedings, particularly where Social Services or Child Protection Officers are involved.

If a local authority has issued care proceedings in relation to your children you are entitled to free legal advice. If your finances are limited you may also qualify for Legal Aid. Find out more by going to our legal aid solicitors page.

If your family is undergoing a difficult child custody case, or you need representation for Care and Adoption proceedings, we can help. Contact us in confidence on 01895 207857, or email us at childcare@ibblaw.co.uk