15.2 Adoption trends and the development of the law
15.2 (b) The development of the lawThe Children and Families Act 2014 has introduced a new legislative framework for ‘fostering for adoption’ into s 22C of the Children Act 1989 as part of wider adoption reforms aimed at speeding up the adoption system and reducing delay (see 14.7 above). These new provisions are due to come into force in July 2014.
15.7 Challenging an adoption order
15.7 (i) Opposing the making of an adoption orderIn Re G (Adoption: Leave to Oppose)  EWCA Civ 432 MacFarlane LJ held that a person who falls outside the statutory definition of parent or guardian cannot make an application for leave to oppose the making of an adoption order under section 47 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
In Prospective Adopters v. IA & Others  EWHC 331 (Fam) Moor J granted a father permission to oppose the making of an adoption order in respect of his five-year-old daughter on the basis of a change of circumstances caused by the judgments in Re B  UKSC 33 and Re B-S (Children)  EWCA Civ 1146.
In Re J and S (Children)  EWFC Sir James Munby P dismissed an application by Romani parents for leave to oppose the adoption of their two youngest children. The President said the fact that the children had been placed for adoption with a same-sex couple did not constitute a sufficient change in circumstances to justify an objection by the parents under section 47 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
15.10 (b) Post-adoption contactInstead of applying for a section 8 order, a person who wants post-adoption contact with a child can now apply under the new s.51A of the Children Act 1989 which has been introduced by s.9 of the Children and Families Act 2014. The persons who can be named in a new post-adoption contact order are listed in s.51A(3) and include: relatives of the child (by blood, marriage or adoption); any former guardian; any person who had parental responsibility for the child immediately before the adoption order; any person who was entitled to make an application under s 26 for contact with a child placed or to be placed for adoption; and any person whom the child has lived with for at least one year. Any such person (except the child concerned) and the person who applied for the adoption order (or in whose favour the adoption order is made) must first apply for leave (s.51A(4)(c)). The following factors must be taken into account by the court when deciding whether or not to grant leave (s.51A(5)): any risk there might be of the proposed application disrupting the child’s life to such an extent that he or she would be harmed by it (within the meaning of the 1989 Act); the applicant’s connection with the child; and any representations made to the court by the child, or a person who has applied for the adoption order or in whose favour the adoption order is or has been made. Section 51A can also be used to apply for an order prohibiting contact (s.51A(2)(b)).
Further reading and referencesNickols D, ‘Fostering for adoption: progress, an unjustifiable ‘fait accompli’ or something in-between? Part I’  Fam Law 190.
Nickols D, ‘Fostering for adoption: progress, an unjustifiable ‘fait accompli’ or something in-between? Part II’  Fam Law 339.
Sprinz L, ‘Adoption in 2014’  Fam Law 335.
Verdan A, ‘‘Time to call a halt’: recent developments in adoption law’  Fam Law 611.
January 2014 update
15.1 Adoption – Introduction
Adoption statisticsAccording to the Office for National (ONS) the number of children adopted in England and Wales has increased. Figures for 2012 show that there were 5,206 adoptions in 2012, an increase of 9.8 per cent on 2011. These figures include adoptions from care, ‘kinship care’ adoptions by extended family members, and adoptions by step parents. 85 per cent of children who were adopted were born outside marriage, and 63 per cent were aged between one and four, almost twice the 1998 figure of 34 per cent.
Adoptions of children in care3,980 children were adopted from the care system in the year ending March 2013, a 15 per cent increase on the previous year, when 3,470 adoptions took place. According to the Government, the figure is the highest since 1992 when such figures were first collated. However, the number of children in care also increased in the year to March 2012 (see Chapter 14) .Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said: ‘It is hugely encouraging that the number of children adopted from care has risen to the highest level yet – but too many children are still waiting too long for stable, loving homes. More needs to be done to recruit adoptive parents’. The Government has taken some steps to improve the number of adoptions (see below).
Improving adoption ratesThe Government is making ongoing attempts to improve adoption due to concerns that children are waiting too long to find a new home. Latest figures show children in England are left in care for nearly 21 months on average before being adopted; and in some areas, children are forced to wait almost three years before moving in with an adoptive family. Two ways in which the Government is aiming to improve the number of adoptions are by encouraging the use of online maps; and the publication of a new guide for would-be adopters.
New online resources: ‘online maps’In December 2013, Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, urged would-be adopters to use online maps to help match them to some of the 6,000 children in need of a home. These interactive maps include local information such as the ratio of children awaiting adoption and adopter approval rates. He said that, although there had been ‘promising progress’ to improve adoption rates, significantly more needed to be done. These ‘online maps’ can be found on the First4adoption website: www.first4adoption.org.uk. They feature information on the number of children waiting for new homes in different regions, and statistics indicating the speed of the adoption process. The maps allow persons to compare adoption agencies in different areas, instead of being restricted, as formerly, to comparing the different agencies in their region.
A new guide for would-be adoptersIn 2013 a new guide for would-be adopters (The Adoption Passport: A Support Guide for Adopters) was published by the Government amid concerns that hundreds of thousands are turned off by the process. The guide sets out the help that adopters could be eligible for, including paid adoption leave, priority access to social housing, priority admission for school places and support services such as counselling. The guide is available on the First4adoption website: www.first4adoption.org.uk
Reforms of adoption lawReforms to adoption law, including contact and adoption, are contained in Part I of the Children and Families Bill 2013-14 which is currently going through Parliament (see http://services.parliament.uk/bills/).
15.7 Challenging an adoption orderThe following case, which concerned an appeal by a mother against the refusal to grant her leave to oppose the adoption of her children, is an important case on how judges should exercise their discretion to make care and placement for adoption orders. The case considers the law specifically relating to section 47(5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 including Re W (Adoption: Set Aside and Leave to Oppose)  EWCA Civ 1535 and related case-law. The test for leave to appeal against an adoption order remains the two-stage test laid down in Re P (Adoption: Leave Provisions)  EWCA Civ 6169.
The following case was heard before Re B-S (Children)  EWCA Civ 1146 (above). The focus of the appeal was whether the orders had been disproportionate.
Adoption: care order, placement order and special guardianship orderIn the following case McFarlane LJ emphasised the need for trial judges to consider sections 1 and 52 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 before approving a care plan for adoption where an application for a placement order is before the court or is imminent:
15.10(b) Post-adoption contact – the approach of the courts
In MF v. LB of Brent & Ors  EWHC 1838 (Fam) Ryder LJ made a limited contact order in favour of a maternal grandmother and sister when making an order for the adoption of a 7 year-old boy despite the opposition of the proposed adoptive parent. He concluded that such an order was ‘necessary for [the child’s] welfare to be safeguarded throughout his life i.e. in the long term’.
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