"Striking the balance" – The impact of the Children and Families Bill on care proceedings


Children in careThe Children and Families Bill seeks to reform legislation relating to adoption and children in care; aspects of the Family Justice System; children and young people with special educational needs; the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England; statutory right to leave and pay for parent and adopters; time off work for ante-natal care and the right to request flexible working.

Clare Linden, Child Care Lawyer at Simpson Millar, considers the provisions relating to care proceedings and the impact that these provisions may have on children who are taken into care.

Last month it was reported that a third of children taken into care by Social Workers will never be placed in stable, loving homes and that only a fifth of children taken into care are likely to be adopted. The new Bill includes the following provisions, which will directly impact upon care proceedings:

  • The Bill will introduce a 26 week time limit to proceedings for Care and Supervision Orders, with provision for extensions in certain circumstances
  • The Bill will introduce a duty on Local Authorities to consider a "Fostering for Adoption" placement for Looked After children for whom they are considering adoption
  • The Bill will remove the explicit legal wording requiring adoption agencies to give due consideration to religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background when matching children with prospective adopters

Over the past 10 years, just two thirds of children removed from their parent’s care were either returned to their parent’s, relatives, friends or were adopted.

Clare Linden comments, "What is often forgotten is that when care proceedings end and a decision is made that a child cannot be returned to their parents care, that this is when the search for an adoptive family begins. Sadly this is a process that can take months and even years to complete".

"It is clearly in a child’s best interests that care proceedings be concluded in a timely manner, but each case must turn on its own individual facts. Adoption is a draconian step, which ultimately severs the legal ties between the children in question and their birth parents. Such a decision cannot be taken lightly. It is important that all other avenues to adoption are explored properly and thoroughly and we cannot under estimate the importance of a child being brought up within their birth family if this is possible".

"At Simpson Millar we recognise that every parent has a fundamental role to play in their child's life. Parents can often feel unheard within the Court process – we ensure that every parent is given a voice" concludes Claire.

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