Over the past few years there has a rise in adoption to record levels, with an increase of 63% in just three years, charity Adoption UK has said. This means thousands more children have found permanent and loving homes through a faster adoption system.
However, the last nine months have apparently seen a substantial reduction in the number of Placement Orders, which are made when the court decides that adoption is in a child’s best interests.
Sir Martin Narey, Chair of the National Adoption Leadership Board, has expressed a concern over this fall and published a “myth-buster” about recent key court judgments on adoption.
“After two years of significant progress in finding more adoptive homes for the thousands of children waiting – transforming their lives along the way – we have seen a sudden and significant fall off in the number of children being put forward for adoption,” he explained.
“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,” he added. “So I am pleased to produce this simple myth busting guide – drafted by a Senior Queen’s Counsel - to what those judgements do and do not say.”
Key Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judgments in 2013 – particularly Re B and Re BS – reiterated the need for adoption decisions to be based on robust analysis of all realistic options, and set out that adoption is a measure only to be pursued where it is necessary for the child’s welfare.
However, data collected by the National Adoption Leadership Board, along with intelligence from the sector, suggests there has been an over-reaction to the judgments that is now causing children to miss out on adoption - even when it is considered to be in their interests.
The principal messages from the guide are therefore to re-iterate that:
- The judgements in no way alter the legal test for adoption;
- Courts must be provided with expert, high quality, evidence - based analysis of all realistic options for a child and the arguments for and against each of these. This does not mean every possible option but those which are realistically possible.
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