Adoption - The "last resort" in care proceedings
The Court of Appeal has issued new guidance indicating that adoption should only be considered in exceptional circumstances
, as a last resort, when all other options are untenable.
The Court of Appeal criticised the "sloppy practice" of poor quality reports
with a lack of analysis being put before the courts by Local Authorities and Children's Guardians. It calls for ensuring the following are available whenever adoption is being considered by the Court:
- Proper evidence put forward by the Local Authority and Children's Guardian exploring all the possible options. They suggest using a balance sheet method to weigh up the pros and cons of each option before coming to a clear recommendation.
- The judge undergoing a full evaluation of all the options and evidence in each judgment.
When looking at the legal test for placing a child for adoption, the paramount consideration for the court is the child's interests. It is however, the child's interests "throughout their life" which need to be looked at. These have to include being brought up by their birth family
unless their welfare means this is not possible.
The clear lesson from the Court of Appeal is that the Local Authority cannot form care plans
motivated by financial factors. Therefore, they cannot put forward a proposal of adoption due to the unwillingness to provide resources for the support or assistance which would make returning the child home possible.
Adoption is only to be considered where all other options have been exhausted
and simply "nothing else will do".
Helen Doolan, child care solicitor with Simpson Millar LLP observes, "These cases have already had a big impact on the family courts up and down the country, but given the revised Public Law Outline will impose a strict 26 week time frame on the conclusion of care proceedings
it will be interesting to see how the courts will continue to balance these two objectives if faced with poor quality reports and analysis by professionals".