- Can I adopt a child in England and Wales?
- How is adopting a child made legal?
- What is an adoption order?
- Can a mother give up a baby for adoption without the father's consent?
- What happens when an adoption order is granted?
- How long do adoption orders take?
- Do birth parents have any rights after an adoption order is granted?
- Can birth parents change their mind after an adoption order is made?
- Can you appeal adoption orders?
- Can adoptive parents close an open adoption?
- Impact of landmark cases on adoption in the UK
- The cases of Re B and Re B-S did not change the law on adoption
- Adoption Orders are now stable following the slump in number of adoptions
- There is a shortage in the number of prospective adopters in the UK
Adoption orders is a way of providing the security, permanency and the love of a new family when it is not possible for a child to be raised by their birth parents or within the birth family. Adoption is covered by the Adoption and Children Act 2002. Quite often parents who are unable to have any children of their own may look to adopt a child. This again allows prospective parents to complete their family whilst provide a home and a family life to a child.
Can I adopt a child in England and Wales?
You may be able to adopt a child if you are aged 21 or over. Child adoption in England and Wales is open to any one above aged 21 or above regardless of whether they are single, married, in a civil partnership, unmarried couple or partner of the child’s parent. The child who is adopted must be under the age of 18 when an adoption application is made and must not have been married or in a civil partnership.
How is adopting a child made legal?
In order for an adoption to be made legal the adoptive parents need to apply for an adoption order through the family court. The child must have lived with you for at least 10 weeks before an application for an adoption order can be made. The adoptive parents need to complete an application form A58 to make the adoption legal and submit this to the court. If an application for an adoption order is successful, the General Register Office will create an adoption certificate which will replace the original birth certificate of the adopted child.
What is an adoption order?
An adoption order is an order made by the family court which grants full parental responsibility of a child to the approved adopters. Following an adoption order the legal ties between the birth parent and the child.
Can a mother give up a baby for adoption without the father’s consent?
The consent of a father when placing a child for adoption depends on whether the biological mother and father are married or whether the father is named on the birth certificate of the child. If the father is not married to the biological mother of the child and is not named on the birth certificate, then the formal consent of the father is not required. In such a situation the social workers may want to contact a father to obtain information on the father and his family mental/medical health so the adopters of the child can be aware.
If the biological parents of the adoptive child are married or the father is named on the birth certificate, then the fathers consent for the adoption is necessary. If the biological father is not consenting to the adoption, then the biological mother may have to obtain a decision for the court regarding the adoption of their child. The court will then make a decision on the adoption taking into account the best interests and welfare of the child.
What happens when an adoption order is granted?
Following the granting of an adoption order, an adoption certificate is issued for the child with their new name. This replaces the existing birth certificate of the adopted child. The child who has been adopted also receives the same rights they would have received if they were the birth child of the adoptive parents. These rights extend to inheritance and the estate of the adoptive parents.
How long do adoption orders take?
The length of time taken to obtain an adoption order varies and depends on the individual circumstances. If the adoption is voluntary where adoptive parents have reached an agreement with the biological parents, then the process can be quite simple and relatively quick. However, delays may occur where the child who is due to be adopted is taken away from their biological parents following family court proceedings which relate to the safety and welfare of the child. Contact our family specialists who can provide you with a free initial consultation to discuss your circumstances and provide you further advice on adoption process.
It is important to note that once an adoption order is granted the court will send the adoption order to the General Register Office as well as the adoptive parents. If all details are accurate the General Register office will send a letter confirming the entry of the child has been made in the Adopted Children Register. The adoptive parent will then receive a new birth certificate with the new details which could take 4 weeks from the time the adoption order is received.
Do birth parents have any rights after an adoption order is granted?
Adoption is permanent. The birth parents will always remain the child’s biological parents however they lose their status as the legal parents once an adoption order is made.
Following the granting of an adoption order, birth parents lose all legal rights to their child. The biological mother and father will have no right to make important decisions on behalf of their child or seek any custody or contact with their child. Once an adoption order has been granted the biological parents are terminating all parental rights which allows the adoptive parents to become the child’s legal parents of the child.
Can birth parents change their mind after an adoption order is made?
Under the law of England and Wales a child’s birth parents can change their mind and withdraw their consent to their child’s placement at any time until the prospective adopting parents apply for an adoption order. Therefore, birth parents can change their mind before an adoption order is granted.
Can you appeal adoption orders?
Quite often biological parents place their child for adoption voluntarily as they may be able to look after child. In some circumstances the local authority or social workers may seek an adoption order for a child who is likely to suffer from harm should they remain with their parents. Once an adoption order is made by the family court it is normally permanent and irreversible.
However parents can appeal an adoption order within the time limits of the appeal. In order to appeal a parent will need to show that the decision to grant an adoption order was wrong or unjust based on a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings. If you are a concerned parent who is considering appealing an adoption order then you must seek urgent legal advice to ensure your appeal is not delayed. Contact our specialists at Kabir Family Law urgently to see how we can assist you in your child matter.
Can adoptive parents close an open adoption?
Open adoption is quite rare in the UK. Open adoption is when contact remains between the birth family and the adoptive family. In open adoption there are three types of contact:
- Direct Contact – this could be face to face to telephone contact between the birth family and the adoptive family
- Indirect Contact – this is usually where there is an exchange of letters, cards and gifts between the adoptive and birth family
- Links – these covers situations where information by the adoptive or birth family is passed on through the adoption agency.
Open adoption mainly occurs when the children who are adopted already know their birth parents and it is felt that some form of ongoing contact with the birth parents is in the best interests of the child.
Quite often adoptive parents may not want an open adoption to continue for the child. Adoptive parents can close an open adoption if there is no adoption contract. However, where there is an open adoption contract an adoptive parent may not be able to close an adoption so easily. An important factor to note is that open adoption contracts are difficult to enforce, so even a contracted open adoption may be closed by adoptive parents.
If you would like more information on child adoption and adoption orders then contact our family specialists today who can provide you with a FREE initial consultation. Our family specialists below consider recent case law on adoption orders.
Impact of landmark cases on adoption in the UK
Following the rulings of the cases of Re B and Re B-S in 2013 adoption has been on decline.
In the earlier case of Re B the judge stated: “care orders with a plan for adoption, placement orders and adoption orders are “the most extreme option”, a “last resort where all else fails” to be made “only in exceptional circumstances and where motivated by overriding requirements pertaining to the child’s welfare, in short, where nothing else will do”. The judge also indicated that all options must be considered before coming to a decision on adoption.
In the case of Re B-S the judge stated with regards to adoption: “This sloppy practice must stop” and emphasised the need for a “global, holistic and multi-faceted evaluation of the child’s welfare which takes into account all the negatives and the positives, all the pros and cons, of each option”.
Prior to these cases the UK had seen an increase in the number of adoption orders. According to the Independent there had been a record 5000 adoptions in the UK. However the ruling of the cases in November 2013 meant that the number of adoptions fell to 4690 in 2016 which was reported by the Adoption Leadership Board Reports.
The cases of Re B and Re B-S did not change the law on adoption
The Adoption Leadership board developed a guidance to social workers and local authorities who have been discouraged to make applications in respect to adoption orders. The guidance stated: It is clear from my discussions with social workers and managers in local authorities and in voluntary adoption agencies, that there is a belief that the law has been fundamentally changed by a number of court judgements”.
The guidance confirms that the law on adoption orders has not been changed. In fact the guidance concluded that “Adoption is not right for every child but where it is, we owe it to them to pursue this option relentlessly.”
In a subsequent case of Re R (A child) the courts clarified its position on adoption orders. The judge in this case stated: “in cases where adoption is in a child’s best interests, local authorities must not shy away from seeking care orders with a plan for adoption and courts should not be wary of making such orders”. Furthermore, it is essential that a child’s safety and wellbeing is not put at risk by the insistence that they stay with their birth parents.
Adoption Orders are now stable following the slump in number of adoptions
Adoption orders have been relatively stable since 2014. Since the initial slump approximately 4000 placement orders were being granted a year. The Adoption Leadership Board Report confirmed that in 2016-2017 4370 adoption orders were made. These numbers confirm that the use of adoption still remains comparatively higher than it has been in the last two decades.
Data from the Adoption Leadership Board published by the Department for Education shows that the number of approved adopters has declined. The new report revealed that the number of adopter approvals has dropped to around 700 each quarter, as opposed to over 1,000 in 2014-15 Meanwhile, the number of Adoption Placement Orders have remained relatively stable with approximately 1,000 orders being granted each quarter which amounts to around 4,000 a year. This reinforces the importance of increasing adopter recruitment and support, especially for harder to place children.
There is a shortage in the number of prospective adopters in the UK
Interestingly a recent article from the BBC has also confirmed that more than twice as many children in England are waiting to be adopted as there are families willing to adopt. There are 4,140 children who have been recommended for adoption. By comparison, there are about 1,700 families approved to adopt and waiting to be matched with children.
The government says it is focusing on finding adopters from all communities. Many adoption agencies are looking to recruit adopters from all background to provide children with the stable family life they need and deserve. Amongst many of these agencies is Coram who have urged prospective adopters to come forward by providing free adoption information events for prospective adopters to find out more on the Big Adoption day on 5th June 2019.
It is important to note that the welfare and wellbeing of children is the most important factor for courts to consider and where they consider adoption is the best option then they will grant adoption orders. Despite a slump in adoption orders these are now stable however the records have illustrated the need for prospective adopters to support the number of children who require adoption and a stable family life.
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