Placement Orders

Placement orders separate children from their parents. It can often be devastating for parents who do not have custody or contact with their children. What can be more difficult is losing your child to adoption. Our family lawyers consider placement orders and a recent case in which a baby born in uncertain circumstances was to be adopted and removed from her mother’s care.

Article Contents

What are placement orders?

Placement orders are orders which allow the child to be placed with a suitable family following care proceedings. By such orders a child is placed for adoption. A placement order is made by the court under Section 21 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The courts will consider whether adoption is in the child’s best interest. For placement orders to be granted the courts must be satisfied that the child is at risk of significant harm. Once the court has been satisfied it can then consider and grant a section 21 placement order.

What must the local authority prove for placement orders?

The local authority must prove that an order is needed due to the child being unable to remain safe at home. The local authority must provide documentation to the court to support their application. This documentation must confirm why the local authority are worried about the child.

When can a court make a placement order under section 21?

A court can make a placement order under section 21 if the child is subject to a care order, the child has no parent or guardian, or the court is satisfied that conditions in section 31(2) of the children Act 1989 are met.

The conditions under section 31(2) are:

  • The child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, and
  • The harm or likelihood if the harm is attributable to;
  • The care given to the child, or likely to be given if the placement order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give; or
  • The child being beyond parental control.

How long do placement orders last?

Placement orders last until the order is revoked, the child is adopted or the child reaches the age of 18. It is important to note that a placement order can be revoked by any person. However it is only the local authority or the child which can apply for revocation with the leave of the court. Placement orders can only be revoked where the child has not been placed for adoption. The local authorities usually revoke a placement order if the child has not been adopted within 9 months of the order.

What are care proceedings?

Care proceedings is the term used when the local authority issues court proceedings in respect of a child. If children’s services believe a child is at risk of significant harm, they are able to make an application to the court to protect the child.

Local authorities can make an application for a care order which gives them parental responsibility over the child. The local authorities will share this with the other parental responsibility holders such as the parents. The local authority has the power to exercise their parental responsibility above the other parental responsibility holders insofar as necessary to safeguard the welfare of a child.

What are adoption orders?

An adoption order is an order transferring the rights of a child to an adoptive parents. This means the child is not legally the child of the birth parents. Adoption orders permanently servers the ties between the child and the birth parent.

Is a parent’s consent required for a section 21 care order?

A parent’s consent is not always required when a placement order is made under section 21. The court can decide to proceed with the matter without the parents consent if it is satisfied that making of a placement order is in the best interests of the child.

Our family specialists consider a recent case in which a child born to a mother was to be placed for adoption.

Exceptional case in which a baby born to an isolated mother is to be adopted

The case of A local authority vs the mother and child is truly “an exceptional case in exceptional circumstances” as described by the high court judge.

A lady presented herself at a hospital, describing symptoms and asking for help. She turned out in fact to be about twenty-nine weeks pregnant. The lady is a member of an ethnic minority community and to a social worker at the hospital stated that her boyfriend was not the father of her unborn child and that she had become pregnant from a one-night stand after clubbing and that she had never seen the man concerned again.

Coincidentally, the baby was born very prematurely about a week later. On the date of the birth itself the mother signed a form, consenting to the baby being voluntarily placed with the local authority pursuant to section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and to being placed for adoption. In the form the mother stated she did not want to have any contact with her baby, and she did not have any contact details for the baby’s father.

Mother changes story surrounding the identity of the father

A few weeks later the mother informed a social worker that the father of the baby was her fiancé, whom she would be marrying a few weeks later. So, already differing accounts had emerged as to the circumstances in which the mother became pregnant and as to the identity or whereabouts of the father. The mother expressed that she cannot look after the child herself and that she wishes the child to be adopted and have no further involvement at all.

The mother said she cannot have anything to do with her baby and does not want the father, whoever he may be, or any of their family to even to know that she has given birth to a child as she fears there would be grave consequences for her from her family and in the community within which she lives. The mother sent an email to the social worker which says:

“I really love [the baby] and it really hurts me not to be [the baby’s] mother because I can’t look after [the baby]. If my family find out, they are going to kill me. I wish [the baby] could find the family that she deserves. That’s why I want [the baby] to be adopted.”

So, this mother has consistently repeated to social workers this very great fear that she might, at worst, be killed if even the fact of her pregnancy and, therefore, that she had sexual intercourse outside marriage was learned by anyone within her community.

Both parents must be made aware of the circumstances

The judge noted that even in the most exceptional circumstances, the statute and rules and practice all require that before consideration is given to the adoption of a child, both genetic parents if known, must be identified. It also necessary to consider the rights of the father, whoever he may be, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The judge also stated “I am satisfied on the facts and in the circumstances, that this is, indeed, one of those very rare and exceptional cases. There must be consideration of the best interests of the child concerned. In the light of those facts and circumstances, it is really impossible to conceive how it could be of any benefit to this child to seek to identify the child’s genetic father so that he can be given notice”.

The judge concluded there will be a freestanding order or declaration to the effect that neither the local authority nor the guardian need take any further steps to seek to identify or locate the father of the child. The judge also stated the local authority need not give any notice of these or any future adoption proceedings to any member of the maternal or paternal family.

Given the mothers stance on not having anything to do with the family the judge ordered for a placement order and for the child to be adopted without any further notice to the maternal or paternal family.

Consult with our family law specialist today

If you would like more information on child adoption, placement orders or any child law matter then contact our family lawyers on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back to arrange an initial consultation. With family lawyers in Oxford as well as Newcastle, York, Manchester, Northampton and London we are proud to have a national reach to service client’s locally.

We have assisted many parents in dealing with placement orders against their child and can assist you to. Speak to one of our specialists today to find out more.