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Category Archives: adoption

Foster to adopt – two small but significant issues


As Foster to Adopt placements  (where a child is placed with foster carers who are also approved as adopters and might go on to adopt the child if the Court decides to make a Placement Order) become more prevalent, both as a result of the Children and Families Act 2014 and the political drive to have more such placements, this particular case resolves two issues that might be significant in the future.


Or at least, flags up what I’d consider to be the correct answer in law and we await a decision from the High Court or Court of Appeal in the future to definitively confirm it, as this is a case determined by a Circuit Judge and thus not binding on future cases.


[It is very well reasoned though, and I’d be rather surprised if a higher Court were to disagree. ]


Re B (A child :adoption) 2015


Question 1 – when is the child “placed” for adoption?


There are three possible answers generally – when the Match is made (i.e  an Adoption Panel agrees that little Richard Starkey can be adopted by Mr and Mrs Ringo), or, when Richard first meets Mr and Mrs Ringo, or when the child moves into the home of prospective adopters when a Placement Order has been made. The Courts spent quite some time wrangling about that, finally deciding in Coventry City Council v O (Adoption) [2011] 2 FLR 936  that “placed for adoption” began once Richard begins to live with Mr and Mrs Ringo  (in a practical sense, on the first night that he stays with them with no plan for him to be collected by the Local Authority from then on)


But with Foster to Adopt children, the move into the home can come much earlier than the Placement Order.  The child is already living with the prospective adopters.  Why is this relevant? Well, because “placement” with prospective adopters can limit the parents, who cannot for example make an application to revoke a Placement Order once the child is “placed” with prospective adopters, and have to wait until an Adoption Order application is made by the prospective adopters.


The Judge here, His Honour Judge Booth, confirmed that the child is not “placed with adopters” until the child is in a position to be adopted (a Placement Order made) and the match is approved AND the child is living with the adopters. So in a Foster to Adopt placement, the “placed with adopters” begins as soon as the Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker have approved that Mr and Mrs Ringo are to be the adoptive carers of Richard.


  1. The July 2014 statutory guidance for Early Permanence emphasises that the status of Section 22C(9B(c) placements changes when the court has made a placement order and the ADM has approved the adoptive placement:

    “Section 22C(9B)(c) placements are foster placements: the carers must be approved foster carers as well as approved prospective adopters before the child can be placed with them. The carers are entitled to the fostering allowances that the fostering provider would normally pay. When the local authority receives a placement order or parental consent and the ADM has approved the adoptive placement, the section 22C(9B)(c) placement will become an adoptive placement. At that point the carers will become eligible for adoption pay and leave and the fostering allowance ceases”.

  2. The local authority acting in its role as an adoption agency re-approved Mr and Mrs X as Lancashire County Council adopters on 6th May 2015 and they were linked as B’s prospective adopters at an Adoption Panel on 13th May 2015. The ADM approved the decision of the panel on 22nd May 2015. It was on this date, when the third and final stage identified by Thorpe LJ in Re S was accomplished and therefore B was placed for adoption. To employ Lord Wilson’s language in Coventry v O, 22nd May 2015 was the date when the adoption agency formally allowed B “to continue to live with the applicants in their fresh capacity as prospective adopters”.
  3. From the time the placement order was made on 31st March 2015 until B was placed for adoption with Mr and Mrs X there was an opportunity for his parents or anybody else to apply for leave to seek revocation of the placement order. That opportunity ended when B was placed for adoption by the decision of the ADM on 22nd May 2015. Such is the effect of section 24 (5)(b) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The closure of that opportunity is by operation of law rather than any physical movement of the child.


Thus, the window of opportunity for a parent to apply to revoke the Placement Order is limited to the period between the making of the Placement Order and the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) approving the match. In this case, that was between 31st March and 22nd May. About eight weeks. Bearing in mind that the test for granting leave to apply to revoke a Placement Order is that the parent must show a “change in circumstances” since the Placement Order was made, that’s not much time to bring about such a change.


Question 2  – for the purposes of making an application under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, when does the child start to “have his home” with the prospective adopters?


This is significant because the prospective adopters can’t make their application until the child has been in their home for ten weeks. Does that ten weeks start from the time that the child was “placed” as above? Or from when the child was actually physically living with them?  If the latter, then Foster to Adopt carers can technically make their application almost immediately after the match if they so desire.


The Judge  ruled that it is the latter. That ten week period can start to run from the moment that Richard begins to live with Mr and Mrs Ringo, and doesn’t have to wait until he is “placed” there.  So Foster to Adopt carers can lodge their adoption application seconds after the ADM approves the match and “places” the child, if they so wish.


  1. The adoption application
  2. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 sets out a number of adoption gateway requirements in s42 before an adoption order can be made. The relevant section for the purposes of Mr and Mrs X’s application is s.42(2) which states:

    “If —

    (a) the child was placed for adoption with the applicant or applicants by an adoption agency or in pursuance of an order of the High Court, or

    (b) the applicant is a parent of the child

    the condition is that the child must have had his home with the applicant or, in the case of an application by a couple, with one or both of them at all times during the period of ten weeks preceding the application.”

  3. B was ‘placed’ for the purposes of adoption on 22nd May 2015. The wording of the statute appears to deliberately avoid the terminology of a child being ‘placed’ when referring to the period of time that a child is required to live with the applicants prior to an application for an adoption order. Instead, the statute requires that the child “must have had his home” with the applicant(s) for 10 weeks preceding the application.
  4. There is no definition of ‘home’ in the Children Act 1989 or the Adoption and Children Act 2002, however it is clear from the observations of Sheldon J in Re Y (Minors) (Adoption: Jurisdiction) [1985] Fam 136, [1986] 1 FLR 152 at 140 and 157 that it has been considered to be a concept incapable of precise definition and that definition should not be attempted beyond the principal features a home should be expected to embody which, by reference to the OED definition, includes a “dwelling-place, house, abode; fixed residence of a family or household”. The Court in that case considered that the issue of whether something amounted to a home “must be a question of fact in any particular case”.
  5. This was endorsed more recently in the case of ECC v M and Others [2008] EWHC 332 (Fam) where Black J said at para [67]

    “I am entirely in agreement with Sheldon J that it is a question of fact in any particular case whether or not a home has been established here within the meaning of the 2002 Act”.

  6. My conclusion is that the time spent by B with the Mr and Mrs X amounts to him having had his home with them for the duration of the period he has lived with them. He has resided there continuously since 2nd December 2014 and they undertake all of his caring tasks. I am told that they have attached to him as their potential adoptive son and he has been treated as such within the immediate and wider family and that B identifies them as his primary attachment figures. They have acted as his parents since he was a day old and he has had his home with them since that date.
  7. There is no restriction in either statute or case law to the effect that the child cannot have their home with the Applicant prior to a placement order or, indeed, prior to his being ‘placed’ with the applicants for the purposes of adoption. For these purposes the clock began ticking in that respect from the moment B was physically placed with them on 2nd December 2014.
  8. This interpretation is consistent with the spirit of the Act and what it was intended to achieve in relation to adoptive placements prior to adoption orders being applied for. The purpose of the requirements set out in s.42 has been the subject of judicial consideration in Re A (Adoption: Removal) [2009] EWCA Civ 41, [2009] 2 FLR 597 when Moore-Bick LJ said at para 106:

    “The section … is concerned to ensure that the child has spent sufficient time living with the applicant in a home environment to enable the Court to be satisfied they are sufficiently well-matched for the adoption to be likely to be successful”.

  9. This was endorsed by Theis J in Re X (Adoption Application: Gateway Requirements) [2014] 1 FLR 1281 at para [33].
  10. The question of where a child has had his home is a question of fact independent from his legal status within that home.


The very purpose of Foster to Adopt is to ensure that in cases where the Court approve adoption as the plan that there are shorter delays in the adoption order being made, and less moves for the child, so it does make sense that such carers are allowed to take the ten weeks as being the time that the child has been in their care, rather than making them wait for ten weeks after the match is formally approved.


Of course from the other side of the coin, and remembering that a parent needs to show that there has been a Change of Circumstances since the Placement Order was made if they are going to get leave to oppose the adoption order application, realising that there might be a very short window – more likely weeks than months between the Placement Order and adoption order application might make it virtually impossible to effect such change.

Court of Appeal – section 20 abuse


There have been several reported cases about Local Authorities misusing section 20 now, to obtain “voluntary accommodation” of children in foster care where the ‘voluntary’ element doesn’t seem all that voluntary, and therefore it was only a matter of time before the Court of Appeal fell upon such a case and made an example of it.


Here it is:-


Re N (Children: Adoption : Jurisdiction) 2015


As you can see from the title, it is also a case about adoption and the jurisdiction to make adoption orders about children who are born to foreign parents or who live overseas by the time the order is made.  I would really want more time to ponder those parts of the judgment before writing it up.


This particular sentence from Aitkens LJ is probably worthy of a piece on its own – raising the issue of ‘limping adoption orders’


There is one further comment I wish to make. Both the President and Black LJ have emphasised that when an English court is considering making a placement order or adoption order in respect of a foreign national child, it must consider, as part of the “welfare” exercise under section 1(4) of the 2002 Act, the possibility of the result being a “limping” adoption order. By that they mean an adoption order which, although fully effective in this country, might be ineffective in other countries that the child and his adopters may wish or need to visit. There is a danger that natural parent(s) (or perhaps other parties) who oppose the adoption, will attempt to turn this factor into a major forensic battle by engaging foreign lawyers to give opinions on the effectiveness (or lack of it) of an English adoption order in other countries, in particular the state of the nationality of the natural parent(s). Those legal opinions might then be challenged and there is the danger of that issue becoming expensive and time consuming “satellite litigation”. I hope that this can be avoided by a robust application of the Family Procedure Rules relating to expert opinions.


So, focussing just on the section 20 issues  (If you want the background to what section 20 is, what drift is and why it is a problem, I’ll point you towards my most recent piece on it


This is what the Court of Appeal had to say  (and this is one of those judgments that the President has cascaded down – which is a posh way of saying “sent by email to all Courts saying that they must read it and follow it”)


  1. Other matters: section 20 of the 1989 Act
  2. The first relates to the use by the local authority – in my judgment the misuse by the local authority – of the procedure under section 20 of the 1989 Act. As we have seen, the children were placed in accordance with section 20 in May 2013, yet it was not until January 2014, over eight months later, that the local authority eventually issued care proceedings. Section 20 may, in an appropriate case, have a proper role to play as a short-term measure pending the commencement of care proceedings, but the use of section 20 as a prelude to care proceedings for a period as long as here is wholly unacceptable. It is, in my judgment, and I use the phrase advisedly and deliberately, a misuse by the local authority of its statutory powers.
  3. As I said in Re A (A Child), Darlington Borough Council v M [2015] EWFC 11, para 100:

    “There is, I fear, far too much misuse and abuse of section 20 and this can no longer be tolerated.”

    I drew attention there, and I draw attention again, to the extremely critical comments of the Court of Appeal in Re W (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 1065, as also to the decision of Keehan J in Northamptonshire County Council v AS and Ors [2015] EWHC 199 (Fam). As Keehan J pointed out in the latter case (para 37), the accommodation of a child under a section 20 agreement deprives the child of the benefit of having an independent children’s guardian to represent and safeguard his interests and deprives the court of the ability to control the planning for the child and prevent or reduce unnecessary and avoidable delay. In that case the local authority ended up having to pay substantial damages.

  4. Then there was the decision of Cobb J in Newcastle City Council v WM and ors [2015] EWFC 42. He described the local authority (paras 46, 49) as having acted unlawfully and in dereliction of its duty. We had occasion to return to the problem very recently in Re CB (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 888, para 86, a case involving the London Borough of Merton. Even more recent is the searing judgment of Sir Robert Francis QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge in the Queen’s Bench Division in Williams and anor v London Borough of Hackney [2015] EWHC 2629 (QB), another case in which the local authority had to pay damages.
  5. Moreover, there has in recent months been a litany of judgments in which experienced judges of the Family Court have had occasion to condemn local authorities, often in necessarily strong, on occasions withering, language, for misuse, and in some cases plain abuse, of section 20: see, for example, Re P (A Child: Use of S.20 CA 1989) [2014] EWFC 775, a case involving the London Borough of Redbridge, Re N (Children) [2015] EWFC 37, a case involving South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council, Medway Council v A and ors (Learning Disability: Foster Placement) [2015] EWFC B66, Gloucestershire County Council v M and C [2015] EWFC B147, Gloucestershire County Council v S [2015] EWFC B149, Re AS (Unlawful Removal of a Child) [2015] EWFC B150, a case where damages were awarded against the London Borough of Brent, and Medway Council v M and T (By Her Children’s Guardian) [2015] EWFC B164, another case where substantial damages were awarded against a local authority. I need not yet further lengthen this judgment with an analysis of this melancholy litany but, if I may say so, Directors of Social Services and Local Authority Heads of Legal Services might be well advised to study all these cases, and all the other cases I have mentioned on the point, with a view to considering whether their authority’s current practices and procedures are satisfactory.
  6. The misuse of section 20 in a case, like this, with an international element, is particularly serious. I have already drawn attention (paragraphs 50-51 above) to the consequences of the delay in this case. In Leicester City Council v S & Ors [2014] EWHC 1575 (Fam), a Hungarian child born in this country on 26 March 2013 was accommodated by the local authority under section 20 on 12 April 2013 but the care proceedings were not commenced until 10 October 2013. Moylan J was extremely critical of the local authority. I have already set out (paragraph 115 above) his observations on the wider picture.
  7. What the recent case-law illustrates to an alarming degree are four separate problems, all too often seen in combination.
  8. The first relates to the failure of the local authority to obtain informed consent from the parent(s) at the outset. A local authority cannot use its powers under section 20 if a parent “objects”: see section 20(7). So where, as here, the child’s parent is known and in contact with the local authority, the local authority requires the consent of the parent. We dealt with the point in Re W (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 1065, para 34:

    “as Hedley J put it in Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH [2012] EWHC 2190 (Fam), [2013] 2 FLR 987, para 27, the use of section 20 “must not be compulsion in disguise”. And any such agreement requires genuine consent, not mere “submission in the face of asserted State authority”: R (G) v Nottingham City Council and Nottingham University Hospital [2008] EWHC 400 (Admin), [2008] 1 FLR 1668, para 61, and Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH [2012] EWHC 2190 (Fam), [2013] 2 FLR 987, para 44.”

  9. In this connection local authorities and their employees must heed the guidance set out by Hedley J in Coventry City Council v C, B, CA and CH [2012] EWHC 2190 (Fam), [2013] 2 FLR 987, para 46:

    “(i) Every parent has the right, if capacitous, to exercise their parental responsibility to consent under s 20 to have their child accommodated by the local authority and every local authority has power under s 20(4) so to accommodate provided that it is consistent with the welfare of the child.

    (ii) Every social worker obtaining such a consent is under a personal duty (the outcome of which may not be dictated to them by others) to be satisfied that the person giving the consent does not lack the capacity to do so.

    (iii) In taking any such consent the social worker must actively address the issue of capacity and take into account all the circumstances prevailing at the time and consider the questions raised by s 3 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and in particular the mother’s capacity at that time to use and weigh all the relevant information.

    (iv) If the social worker has doubts about capacity no further attempt should be made to obtain consent on that occasion and advice should be sought from the social work team leader or management.

    (v) If the social worker is satisfied that the person whose consent is sought does not lack capacity, the social worker must be satisfied that the consent is fully informed:

    (a) Does the parent fully understand the consequences of giving such a consent?

    (b) Does the parent fully appreciate the range of choice available and the consequences of refusal as well as giving consent?

    (c) Is the parent in possession of all the facts and issues material to the giving of consent?

    (vi) If not satisfied that the answers to (a)–(c) above are all ‘yes’, no further attempt should be made to obtain consent on that occasion and advice should be sought as above and the social work team should further consider taking legal advice if thought necessary.

    (vii) If the social worker is satisfied that the consent is fully informed then it is necessary to be further satisfied that the giving of such consent and the subsequent removal is both fair and proportionate.

    (viii) In considering that it may be necessary to ask:

    (a) What is the current physical and psychological state of the parent?

    (b) If they have a solicitor, have they been encouraged to seek legal advice and/or advice from family or friends?

    (c) Is it necessary for the safety of the child for her to be removed at this time?

    (d) Would it be fairer in this case for this matter to be the subject of a court order rather than an agreement?

    (ix) If having done all this and, if necessary, having taken further advice (as above and including where necessary legal advice), the social worker then considers that a fully informed consent has been received from a capacitous mother in circumstances where removal is necessary and proportionate, consent may be acted upon.

    (x) In the light of the foregoing, local authorities may want to approach with great care the obtaining of s 20 agreements from mothers in the aftermath of birth, especially where there is no immediate danger to the child and where probably no order would be made.”

  10. I add that in cases where the parent is not fluent in English it is vital to ensure that the parent has a proper understanding of what precisely they are being asked to agree to.
  11. The second problem relates to the form in which the consent of the parent(s) is recorded. There is, in law, no requirement for the agreement to be in or evidenced by writing: R (G) v Nottingham City Council and Nottingham University Hospital [2008] EWHC 400 (Admin), [2008] 1 FLR 1668, para 53. But a prudent local authority will surely always wish to ensure that an alleged parental consent in such a case is properly recorded in writing and evidenced by the parent’s signature.
  12. A feature of recent cases has been the serious deficiencies apparent in the drafting of too many section 20 agreements. In Re W (Children) [2014] EWCA Civ 1065, we expressed some pungent observations about the form of an agreement which in places was barely literate. Tomlinson LJ (para 41) described the agreement as “almost comical in the manner in which it apparently proclaims that it has been entered into under something approaching duress.” In Williams and anor v London Borough of Hackney [2015] EWHC 2629 (QB), the Deputy Judge was exceedingly critical (para 65) both of the terms of the agreement and of the circumstances in which the parents’ ‘consent’ had been obtained. There had, he said, been “compulsion in disguise” and “such agreement or acquiescence as took place was not fairly obtained.”
  13. The third problem relates to the fact that, far too often, the arrangements under section 20 are allowed to continue for far too long. This needs no elaboration.
  14. This is related to the fourth problem, the seeming reluctance of local authorities to return the child to the parent(s) immediately upon a withdrawal of parental consent. It is important for local authorities to recognise that, as section 20(8) of the 1989 Act provides:

    “Any person who has parental responsibility for a child may at any time remove the child from accommodation provided by or on behalf of the local authority under this section.”

    This means what it says. A local authority which fails to permit a parent to remove a child in circumstances within section 20(8) acts unlawfully, exposes itself to proceedings at the suit of the parent and may even be guilty of a criminal offence. A parent in that position could bring a claim against the local authority for judicial review or, indeed, seek an immediate writ of habeas corpus against the local authority. I should add that I am exceedingly sceptical as to whether a parent can lawfully contract out of section 20(8) in advance, as by agreeing with the local authority to give a specified period of notice before exercising their section 20(8) right.

  15. It follows, in my judgment, that for the future good practice requires the following, in addition to proper compliance with the guidance given by Hedley J which I have set out above: i) Wherever possible the agreement of a parent to the accommodation of their child under section 20 should be properly recorded in writing and evidenced by the parent’s signature.

    ii) The written document should be clear and precise as to its terms, drafted in simple and straight-forward language that the particular parent can readily understand.

    iii) The written document should spell out, following the language of section 20(8), that the parent can “remove the child” from the local authority accommodation “at any time”.

    iv) The written document should not seek to impose any fetters on the exercise of the parent’s right under section 20(8).

    v) Where the parent is not fluent in English, the written document should be translated into the parent’s own language and the parent should sign the foreign language text, adding, in the parent’s language, words to the effect that ‘I have read this document and I agree to its terms.’

  16. The misuse and abuse of section 20 in this context is not just a matter of bad practice. It is wrong; it is a denial of the fundamental rights of both the parent and the child; it will no longer be tolerated; and it must stop. Judges will and must be alert to the problem and pro-active in putting an end to it. From now on, local authorities which use section 20 as a prelude to care proceedings for lengthy periods or which fail to follow the good practice I have identified, can expect to be subjected to probing questioning by the court. If the answers are not satisfactory, the local authority can expect stringent criticism and possible exposure to successful claims for damages.


The marker is down then.  Any LA facing a challenge about misuse of section 20 is on notice that damages may follow, and certainly where the misuse begins after today’s judgment one would expect damages to play a part.


The President also tackles here something which has been on my mind for a month. The practice by which agreement is reached that an Interim Care Order is not needed, because the parent agrees (either in a section 20 written agreement) or in a preamble in the Court order that they “agree to section 20 accommodation and agree not to remove without giving seven days notice”   – that is a fairly common compromise which avoids the need for an ICO or to have a fight in Court about the child’s legal status where it is agreed by the parents that the child should stay in foster care whilst assessments are carried out.


As the President says here


para 169

 I should add that I am exceedingly sceptical as to whether a parent can lawfully contract out of section 20(8) in advance, as by agreeing with the local authority to give a specified period of notice before exercising their section 20(8) right.


and here

para 170

iv) The written document should not seek to impose any fetters on the exercise of the parent’s right under section 20(8)


I don’t think that this is legally permissable any longer. (The Court of Appeal could, of course, have said explicitly that such a fetter can only be made where the parent agrees after having had independent legal advice, but they didn’t)

That means that Courts up and down the country are going to be faced with arguments as to whether the right thing for a child is to make an Interim Care Order, OR to rely on a section 20 agreement that could be withdrawn at any time  (including the obvious nightmare scenarios of “twenty minutes after we leave Court” or “at five to five on a Friday night” or “at 5pm on Christmas Eve).


The other thrust of the President’s comments on section 20 (8) objections are that as a result, surely even a delay in return of the child to place the matter before the Court for an EPO hearing is going to be a breach unless the parents themselves agree to that course of action.  That in turn raises the spectre of an increase in children being taken into Police Protection, since a forseeable outcome of this case is:-


(A) Parent says at 4.55pm on Friday “I want little Johnny home now, I object to section 20”

(B) LA are in breach of the Act and may be committing a criminal offence if that child is not on his way home by 4.56pm

(C) Courts aren’t likely to be able to hear an EPO application on one minutes notice

(D) The police remove under Police Protection instead


  [I seriously don’t recommend that as an option as a result of the many cases which batter social workers and police officers for misuse of Police Protection, but I do wonder whether the current case law on Police Protection really works after Re N  – those cases making it plain that it should be the Court decision not a police decision only work if there is time to place the matter before the Court.  BUT until one of them is challenged and the law on Police Protection changes, almost any removal under Police Protection can be scrutinised and perhap[s condemned.  And of course the alternative to THAT, is that more and more cases will instead find their way into care proceedings.  I think that the decisions on Police Protection and section 20 are right, but if we have learned nothing else since the Family Justice Review it should be that fixing one problem often has substantial unintended consequences and causes another problem elsewhere]


So, LA lawyers up and down the country, get hold of the current section 20 agreement, and rewrite it to comply with this judgment.

Good grief, Charlie Brown. Can I make sense of adoption statistics?

Lots of news about the adoption statistics – for example


Well actually, adoption numbers are broadly rising, though they might dip a bit in 2015 (it is more that everyone expects them to drop considerably in 2016/2017 because less Placement Orders are being made – or are they?)

Adoption orders made

2011  4709

2012 5260

2013 6078

2014 6750

2015 (half year’s figures 3242, so we can guess that the full year will be about 6,500 ish)


I’m not really going to get into the political debate about whether adoption numbers going up is automatically a “good thing” or whether it represents something of a failure, or indeed whether adoption should be as politicised a topic as it has become.

What I wanted to work out was whether Placement Orders  (which is the order that a Court makes at the end of care proceedings deciding that adoption is going to be the plan for the child) have gone up or down, and whether the landmark case of Re B-S has had any impact on this.


I’ve been holding off on writing about the adoption statistics, because I was searching for a particular answer that would make sense of it.  I’m very grateful to staff in the MoJ statistics department for helping me find it (hello Wincen!)


Right, the Family Court Quarterly stats are here  but what I needed was the raw information from the Family Court tables.

You’d need the Excel spreadsheet programme to look at it, but I’ll do my best to summarise.


The questions that have been in my mind are


“Are less Placement Orders are being made since Re B-S came out? And if so, how many less?”

and if so

“Is that because the applications are being made less often? or because they are being made but turned down? Or both?”



Re B-S came out in Sept 2013, so you’d expect if it was significant to see some sort of dip in 2014, it wouldn’t really affect the 2013 figures.


So, the first question.

Placement Orders made


2011 – 5116

2012 – 6471

2013 – 6242

2014  – 4286

2015 – 2035  (but that is only the figures for Q1 and Q2 – so let’s guess at a yearly figure of twice that, 4070)


Looking at that, then, in the year after Re B-S came out, the number of Placement Orders MADE by the Court dropped by nearly two thousand (1956), or about a THIRD. And that number hasn’t recovered in 2015, it is about the same.

So it would be fair to say that Re B-S has had an impact on the number of Placement Orders being made by the Courts. A decrease of a third is more than a statistical anomaly, there’s something real happening there.


What I haven’t known to this point is whether that is because the Courts have been refusing the applications, or whether the applications were just being made less often. But now I have the raw numbers to share with you all.



Placement Order applications. 

2011 – 5821

2012 – 7085

2013 – 7182   (Re B-S came out in sept 2013, so would affect the fourth quarter only)

2014 – 4942

2015   – 2445  (but that is only the figures for Q1 and Q2 – so lets guess at a yearly figure of twice that 4,890)


So again, we can look at the figures and see that in the year after Re B-S,  the number of applications made dropped by 2,240, just over a third. And they have remained at that level since.

There seems then quite a strong correlation between the Placement order applications decreasing and the number of orders then decreasing.

Let’s imagine that you are a teenager going out Trick or Treating on Halloween. If you kept count of the number of doors you knocked on each year and how much candy you get each year, and in 2014 and 2015 you knocked on a third less doors and got a third less candy, you’d reach a pretty obvious conclusion.


"I got a rock"

“I got a rock”


But does that mean that if you just knocked on a third more doors, you’d get a third more candy?  Or had those houses you din’t knock at put up signes saying “no Trick or Treaters”, so you didn’t botherknock at a door if it was clear you’d be wasting your time?


[I’m reminded of a particular Judge who once said to me “Mr Pack, if you keep knocking at an open door, eventually you’ll fall through and break your neck”. And that certainly stopped me knocking at that particular door]

Or in our case, if the number of applications went back up, would the “problem” of declining Placement Orders, which is going to lead in turn to a “problem” decline in adoption numbers  go away?


IF there had been six thousand Placement Order applications last year, would  the Courts would have made roughly six thousand in line with previous years , or whether they would have made roughly four thousand ? (i.e were there a third less orders only because LA’s lost their nerve, or were LA’s correctly judging that the applications would be refused and presenting alternatives?)

Really hard to say. I guess what might give us some form of clue is looking at the proportion of successful applications. These aren’t exactly like for like, because of course a Placement Order application made in December 2013 might get decided in 2014’s stats, but it probably roughly balances itself out over a year.


So what proportion of Placement Order applications were turned down each year?

Gap between applications and orders

In 2011  – 705  about 12%

In 2012 – 614 about 9%

In 2013 – 940 about 13%

In 2014 – 656  about 13%

In 2015 – 820  about 17%  [the 2015 stats are least reliable, since they don’t have the full year to even out the flow and balance out that 2015’s final decisions include some 2014 applications]


It doesn’t look like the Courts are turning down a higher proportion of applications, so initially, you think that the LA’s have just lost their nerve.

But hold on.

And if  you can’t hold on.

Hold on.


[By the way, isn’t Brandon Flowers the worst person to ask for advice ? Brandon, my problem is that I can’t hold on. Okay, well you should hold on. But Brandon, I can’t hold on. Ah, well you should hold on then. Thanks Brandon]

Remember that the number of applications MADE went down by a third, but the rate of applications that were refused  stayed about the same. Now surely the one third of applications that would have been made that the LA didn’t instead issue are their weakest cases – they should have been winnowing out the weak cases that were likely to be turned down and only presenting the strongest ones.

But even having done the exercise of trying to throw out the weakest cases and only make Placement  Order applications when they felt confident or semi-confident about persuading a Court that “nothing else will do”, the Court was turning down about 13% of the applications – about the same as when the applications were a mixed bag of weak cases, middling cases and strong cases.

That suggests, but I can’t be sure because the numbers only tell you so much , that IF the LA’s had made six thousand applications in 2014 and were going to make six thousand applications in 2015, that the number of Placement Orders wouldn’t necessarily return to 2013 levels – we might well have just had more marked results in the proportion of unsuccessful applications.

We can only really find out if the number of applications go up and we see whether we return to 2013 levels of Placement Orders, or whether the rate of unsuccessful applications go up.  (I seem to have argued myself into supporting Sir Martin Narey’s original suggestion that LA’s should just hold their nerve and go back to making the same level of applications  – which I so fervently disagreed with at the time. I still think that what would happen is that the rate of refused applications would go up, but I really can’t be sure either way)


Or maybe I’m just a blockhead.






Adoption and immigration

I was very surprised to see that Mostyn J’s decision not to award an adoption order to an 18 year old when he felt that the only tangible benefit was British citizenship was appealed. I wrote about his decision here


and I had felt that he had got that absolutely spot on.

Nonetheless, the prospective adopter in that case did appeal, and the Court of Appeal judgment is here


FAS v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Bradford MBC 2015


I was even more suprised that the Court of Appeal decided that Mostyn J had been wrong in law.  You will see from the initial blog and judgment that Mostyn J had decided that the only benefit of making the adoption order for this person was to confer British citizenship on them, and that this was barred as a result of the House of Lords decision in Re B (a minor : Adoption Order :nationality) 1999


“The first is that the purpose of an adoption is, as section 12 of the Act says, to give parental responsibility for a child to the adopters. The court will therefore not make an adoption order when the adopters do not intend to exercise any parental responsibility but merely wish to assist the child to acquire a right of abode. This is what Cross J. in In re A. (An infant) [1963] 1 WLR 231, 236 called an “accommodation” adoption. The second proposition is that the court will rarely make an adoption order when it would confer no benefits upon the child during its childhood but give it a right of abode for the rest of its life. In such a case there are no welfare benefits during childhood to constitute the “first consideration.” The court is in effect being asked to use adoption to confer citizenship prospectively upon an adult. This is a power which Parliament has entrusted to the Home Secretary and the courts are reluctant to trespass upon the area of his authority.”


The appeal here was on the basis that as the 1999 decision of the House of Lords predated the 2002 Adoption and Children Act, AND that the Act moved the test from ‘the welfare of the child’ to ‘the welfare of the child throughout the child’s life’ that in effect Parliament HAD given the power to the Court to take impact of British citizenship into account.

The Secretary of State was an interested party to the proceedings, because obviously if the law is going to move to say that immigration status is a relevant consideration in making an adoption order that opens some doors that the Secretary of State might prefer remained closed.


Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal held that Mostyn J was wrong in law and that those doors ARE open


  1. I should explain why I consider that the judge has erred in his interpretation of section 1(2) of the 2002 Act. In my view, the natural meaning of the language used in section 1(2) requires regard to be had to the welfare interests of the child in question as they may be affected “throughout his life” – that is to say, not merely as they may be affected during his childhood, as was the test under section 6 of the 1976 Act. As a matter of language, there is no limitation as regards the nature of the child’s welfare interests which should be brought into account in this way, and none can be spelled out of the context. Given that it is readily possible to envisage things that might be done in relation to a child which may profoundly affect him for good or ill in the part of his life once he ceases to be a child (e.g. whether and how he is educated), it would be arbitrary to try to read down section 1(2) to limit its effect to purely emotional matters in the way that the judge sought to do. The wide ambit of the matters which may be relevant to assessing what promotes the child’s welfare contemplated by section 1(4), as indicated by its opening words (“… among others …”), also supports an interpretation which gives the words in section 1(2) their natural meaning.
  2. I do not think that section 1(4)(c) supports the judge’s narrow interpretation of the phrase “throughout his life” in section 1(2). If anything, it seems to me to point in the other direction. The phrase obviously bears its natural linguistic meaning in section 1(4)(c), meaning that the factor identified has to be brought into account by reference to the effects over the entirety of the child’s life. It would be very odd to give the same phrase a different, more restricted meaning when it is used in section 1(2). There is nothing in section 1(2) to suggest that the phrase only applies in relation to some (or only one), rather than all of the factors which might be found to be relevant to the welfare of a child.
  3. In my view, the reasoning of Lord Hoffmann in his speech in Re B (with which the other members of the appellate committee agreed) supports an interpretation of section 1(2) of the 2002 Act in accordance with the natural meaning of the words used in that provision. The case concerned an application by grandparents under section 6 of the 1976 Act to adopt their grandchild, T, who had only two years of minority remaining, to allow her to acquire British citizenship and avoid deportation, so that she could continue living with them in the UK and continue to attend school here: see p. 140B-D. The judge at first instance made an adoption order, even though the Home Office argued that this would be contrary to immigration policy, on the basis that he could not ignore these welfare benefits to T merely because they were dependent on the acquisition of a right of abode as a citizen: p. 140F-H. The order was set aside by the Court of Appeal on the grounds that in applying section 6 the court should ignore benefits which would result solely from a change in immigration status: pp. 140H-141C. The House of Lords held that this was contrary to the express terms of section 6 and restored the order made at first instance.
  4. Lord Hoffmann held that on the language used in section 6 the court could not ignore the considerable benefits which would have accrued to T during the remainder of her childhood:

    “Section 6 requires the judge to have regard to ‘all the circumstances’ and to treat the welfare of the child ‘throughout his childhood’ as the first consideration. I do not see how, consistently with this language, the court could simply have ignored the considerable benefits which would have accrued to T during the remainder of her childhood. That the order would enable her to enjoy these benefits was a fact which the court had to take into account. No doubt the views of the Home Office on immigration policy were also a circumstance which the court was entitled to take into account, although it is not easy to see what weight they could be given. Parliament has not provided, as I suppose it might have done, that the adoption of a non–British child should require the consent of the Home Secretary. On the contrary, it has provided that the making of an adoption order automatically takes the child out of the reach of the Home Secretary’s powers of immigration control. The decision whether to make such an order is entirely one for the judge in accordance with the provisions of s 6 . In cases in which it appears to the judge that adoption would confer real benefits upon the child during its childhood, it is very unlikely that general considerations of ‘maintaining an effective and consistent immigration policy’ could justify the refusal of an order. The two kinds of consideration are hardly commensurable so as to be capable of being weighed in the balance against each other” (p. 141C-F)

  5. The effect of this reasoning is that, in respect of the period in which the child’s interests were to be treated as a first consideration (i.e. “throughout his childhood”, according to the terms of section 6), the interests of the child (including material welfare benefits he would derive as a result of being granted British citizenship) would almost invariably have to be given priority as against the state’s interest in maintaining effective immigration controls. Lord Hoffmann contrasted the position in relation to benefits which would accrue after childhood (i.e. after the period in respect of which the child’s interests were to be treated as a first consideration according to section 6) at p. 142D-F, as follows:

    “I think it is wrong to exclude from consideration any circumstances which would follow from the adoption, whether they are matters which will occur during childhood or afterwards. This, as I have said, would be contrary to the terms of s. 6. Such benefits may include a right of abode or a possibility of succession. But benefits which will accrue only after the end of childhood are not welfare benefits during childhood to which first consideration must be given. And if a right of abode will be of benefit only when the child becomes an adult, that benefit will ordinarily have to give way to the public policy of not usurping the Home Secretary’s discretion. It is perhaps a curious feature of this case that if the Home Office had been willing to allow Ms B to remain in this country for the 2 years during which a residence order was in force, the case for an adoption, conferring a right of abode for life, would have been very much weaker. It would not have given Ms B any benefits during her childhood which she would not have been able to enjoy anyway.”

  6. As Lord Hoffmann said at p. 141H-142A, the approach to be adopted under section 6 where the benefits from conferral of citizenship would accrue after the childhood of the adopted person has ended was as follows:

    “… the court will rarely make an adoption order when it would confer no benefits upon the child during its childhood but give it a right of abode for the rest of its life. In such a case there are no welfare benefits during childhood to constitute the ‘first consideration’. The court is in effect being asked to use adoption to confer citizenship prospectively upon an adult. This is a power which Parliament has entrusted to the Home Secretary and the courts are reluctant to trespass upon the area of his authority.”

  7. Thus, in relation to benefits for the child which would only accrue in the period after that in which the child’s interests were to be treated as a first consideration, as a matter of interpretation of section 6 there was far greater scope for the state’s interest in maintaining effective immigration controls to be treated as outweighing those matters, and it would ordinarily do so.
  8. Lord Hoffmann’s reasoning in relation to both periods (i.e. benefits accruing during childhood, on the one hand, and benefits accruing after childhood, on the other) was tied to the language and structure of section 6, which gave paramountcy to the child’s interests in the first period but not in relation to the second. In relation to both periods, on the proper construction of section 6 in accordance with the ordinary meaning of the language used in it, Lord Hoffmann treated the practical benefits which would accrue from becoming a British citizen by operation of the 1981 Act as relevant matters to be brought into account in deciding whether to make an adoption order.
  9. On the present appeal Mr Greatorex, for the Secretary of State, submits that the change between section 6 of the 1976 Act and section 1(2) of the 2002 Act cannot be taken to indicate an intention on the part of Parliament to change the presumption in favour of giving greater weight to the state’s interest in maintaining immigration controls with respect to benefits accruing after childhood which had been identified in Re B in relation to section 6. I cannot accept this submission.
  10. Parliament has made a deliberate change in section 1(2) in specifying the period in relation to which the impacts (both positive and negative) of adoption for a child should be brought into account for the purpose of determining what is for the welfare of the child as being “throughout his life”, by contrast with the more limited period specified in section 6 of the 1976 Act (“throughout his childhood”). Apart from this change, the basic structure of section 1(2) remains the same as for section 6, namely that in relation to assessment by reference to the relevant period the child’s interests are treated as paramount or a first consideration and that all practical benefits and disbenefits for the child (including those which would accrue as a result of any automatic conferral of citizenship under section 1(5) of the 1981 Act) are treated as relevant matters. Like section 6 of the 1976 Act, section 1(2) of the 2002 Act cannot be construed as containing any artificial limitation on what types of benefit are capable of counting as a relevant matter when considering whether an adoption order should be made. Therefore, in my view, the points made by Lord Hoffmann in Re B by reference to the then relevant period under section 6 for bringing benefits into account (during childhood) at p. 141C-F, set out above, apply with similar effect in relation to the new relevant period under section 1(2) (throughout the child’s life).
  11. The result of this is that if, after taking account of the practical benefits of adoption for a child throughout his life, it can be seen that it best promotes the child’s welfare that he be adopted by a British citizen so as automatically to acquire British citizenship under section 1(5) of the 1981 Act, the court should ordinarily make the adoption order which is sought. Just as for the first of the periods considered by Lord Hoffmann in the context of applying section 6 of the 1976 Act in Re B, the state’s interest in maintaining effective immigration controls will have very little significance. It will not be appropriate for a court to refuse to make the order as some sort of indirect means of reinforcing immigration controls.
  12. I can readily see that the Secretary of State for the Home Department might be concerned at this result. But if she wishes the courts to have the ability to give greater weight to considerations of immigration policy in the context of deciding whether an adoption order should be made, she will need to persuade Parliament to change section 1 of the 2002 Act to allow that to happen.



So, having decided that the legal basis for Mostyn J to refuse to make the adoption order was wrong in law, the Court of Appeal surely then make the adoption order?  Well, no, because it turns out that as an 18 year old, simply making the adoption order would NOT confer British citizenship on the young man. And as that was the only tangible benefit identified by Mostyn J, there would be no benefit in making the order, and one can’t make such an order without being satisfied that it is better than making no order.

29…the judge erred in making the assumption he did that if he made an adoption order the effect of section 1(5) of the 1981 Act would be that MW would automatically acquire British citizenship. When the matter was before the judge, MW was already aged 18 and hence was no longer a “minor” as defined for the purposes of the 1981 Act. Therefore, if an adoption order had been made it would not have had the effect of automatically conferring British citizenship on MW. Once this is appreciated, the only benefit in terms of the welfare of MW associated with adoption identified by the judge drops out of the picture. There is no good reason to warrant the making of an adoption order in this case, and it is on this basis – different from the reasoning of the judge – that the appeal must be dismissed.

  1. Mr Rudd, for FAS, sought to argue that even though MW would not automatically become a British citizen if an adoption order were made, nonetheless it would greatly assist him in making an application for leave to remain in reliance on his rights to respect for his private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998 if the court had recognised his family connection with FAS by making the adoption order, and that this should be treated as a factor indicating that the making of such an order would promote his welfare. If MW obtained discretionary leave to remain, and such leave were sustained over some years, he might become a British citizen by that route.
  2. In my judgment this argument is unsustainable. Such family and private life as MW has established in the UK by living with FAS was formed at a time when it was known that he had only a very limited right to remain in the UK as a visitor for a few weeks, and hence was precarious. Any adoption order would be made after MW became an unlawful over-stayer and was known to be such. On the ordinary principles applicable under Article 8, in a case affected by precariousness of this kind it is only in exceptional circumstances that a right to remain could be established on the basis of private or family life (see e.g. R (Agyarko) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2015] EWCA Civ 440 at [28]), and there are none here. MW has no prospect of being granted leave to remain on the basis of Article 8 in exercise of the Secretary of State’s discretionary immigration powers, so this factor cannot justify the making of an adoption order in relation to MW.



The Court of Appeal thus achieving the unusual outcome of sending every single person in the Court room away being deeply unhappy about what was decided. Absolutely nobody would have been happy or even content with this.

Concurrent affairs


The Court of Appeal had to look at what happens or what should happen, when there is a conflict between the Local Authority plan for a child and what the foster carers (who had signed up as concurrent carers, or ‘foster to adopt’ under the new language of the statute) thought the plan should be.


Re T (a child: Early Permanence Placement) 2015

  1. The facts can be stated quite shortly. T was born on 20 November 2014. T’s parents signed an agreement in accordance with section 20 of the Children Act 1989 the next day, 21 November 2014, and T was placed the same day with a married couple I shall refer to as Mr and Mrs X.
  2. Mr and Mrs X had been approved as adopters by the local authority on 14 November 2014. Shortly before T’s birth, on 17 November 2014, they were invited by the local authority, and agreed, to care for T, on his birth, as foster carers with a view to adopting him if adoption was required: what is known as an early permanence placement. T, as I have said, was placed with them on 21 November 2014. The local authority commenced care proceedings, with a plan for adoption, on 3 December 2014. Mr and Mrs X signed an early permanency placement agreement the same day. On 18 December 2014 an interim care order was made. It remains in place. T remains with Mr and Mrs X.
  3. On 29 January 2015 T’s paternity was established by DNA testing. At an adjourned case management hearing the next day, 30 January 2015, the father indicated that he did not wish to be assessed as a carer for T, but he put his parents forward for assessment. An initial viability assessment of the paternal grandparents was completed on 13 February 2015. It was positive. The full kinship assessment of the paternal grandparents was completed on 1 May 2015. Again, it was positive. Following a professionals’ meeting on 8 May 2015, the local authority told Mr and Mrs X that it had abandoned its plan for adoption in favour of a placement with the paternal grandparents under a special guardianship order. This plan is supported by both the mother and the father, who accept that neither of them is able to care for T. The position of T’s guardian is that the court does not at present have before it the evidence upon which to make a proper evaluation of what the guardian says are the two realistic options: a family placement with the paternal grandparents or adoption by Mr and Mrs X.
  4. On 20 May 2015 Mr and Mrs X issued an application for leave to apply for an adoption order (see sections 42(4) and 44(4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002). The application came before Judge Troy on 22 May 2015. By then the care proceedings had been on foot for a little over 24 weeks. She made two orders. In one she gave Mr and Mrs X leave to apply for an adoption order. In the other she joined them as parties to the care proceedings. In accordance with directions she gave on that occasion, the matter came back before Judge Troy for directions on 1 June 2015. The paternal grandparents indicated their wish to apply for a special guardianship order (their formal application followed on 19 June 2015). Judge Troy joined them as parties to the care proceedings and consolidated the care proceedings and the adoption proceedings. She extended the time limit for the proceedings (see section 32(5) of the 1989 Act) to 34 weeks.
  5. On 22 May 2015 Mr and Mrs X gave the local authority notice in accordance with sections 44(2) and 44(3) of the 2002 Act.


There’s quite a lot in there, so I’ll break it down.

The Children and Families Act 2014 tells Local Authorities that they must actively consider looking for a “foster to adopt” foster placement when they are placing a child. That’s a set of foster carers who are also approved as adopters, with a view to if things pan out that the child can’t be placed within the family, those carers will go on to adopt the child. The idea is that it reduces uncertainty and delay for the child and cuts down the number of moves.

The Local Authority did that in this case (and did nothing wrong in doing so – that’s what the Act tells them to do). The foster carers entered into the arrangement thinking that they would probably go on to adopt the child.

The child’s grandparents put themselves forward as carers, the Local Authority assessed them and considered that they would be able to care for the child.

The Local Authority told the foster carers that the plan was no longer adoption, but was placement within the extended family.

The foster carers disagreed and put in their own private application to adopt.

The Judge gave the foster carers the leave of the Court to make that application.

Then the Local Authority, the father and the grandparents appealed.



The appeal arguments of the LA, father and grandparents were these:-


  1. The grounds of appeal and the parties’ submissions
  2. As I have said, the father, the paternal grandparents and the local authority made common cause. In large measure their submissions were very much to the same effect and made the same points. I shall take them together.
  3. Their submissions can be summarised as follows:i) Judge Troy was wrong to give Mr and Mrs X leave to apply for an adoption order. Their application was premature and should not have been considered until such time as the court had determined that T’s future welfare required his adoption rather than a family placement. That process has not been in any way altered by the implementation of the statutory early permanence placement scheme. Mr Tyler adds that, if the appeal against Mr and Mrs X’s joinder is successful, their application for an adoption order will be left hanging in the air. So, he submits, on that ground also the appeal on this point should succeed.

    ii) Furthermore, Mr and Mrs X had failed to demonstrate that they had a real prospect of success in relation to an application for an adoption order, and that T’s welfare required their being given leave to apply for, such an order.

    iii) Judge Troy was wrong to join Mr and Ms X as parties to the care proceedings and failed to consider the procedural ramifications and consequences of doing so.

    iv) Judge Troy failed to have sufficient regard or attach appropriate weight to the authorities about the primacy of family placements.

    v) Judge Troy failed to have sufficient regard or attach appropriate weight to the fact that Mr and Mrs X were temporary foster carers and that in the early permanency placement agreement dated 3 December 2014 they had expressly agreed that their adoption of T would be contingent on his not being rehabilitated to his family.

    vi) On the contrary Judge Troy gave excessive weight to the facts (a) that Mr and Mrs X were approved adopters and that the placement had been made by way of an early permanence placement, (b) that they had cared for T for 6 months and (c) that there was evidence of attachment between T and them.

    As the argument developed, it became apparent that there was a degree of overlap in these submissions.

  4. By way of elaboration, a number of points were made which it is convenient to take together.
  5. Mr Tyler submitted that it is wrong in principle to allow state-sanctioned carers to acquire the right to set themselves up against a family member as a potential permanent carer for a child simply by virtue of an unexceptional period of time caring for an unexceptional child in an unexceptional case. Particularly is this so, he says, where, as here, the aspiration of the foster carers is the non-consensual adoption of a child outside his birth family. As the father put it in his grounds of appeal, Mr and Mrs X are the product of the care process and should not be part of it. According to Mr Tyler, there is simply no place in the statutory process under Part IV of the 1989 Act for foster carers who are not otherwise entitled to participate by virtue of family status, statutory responsibilities, or relevant social work or other expertise.
  6. Mr Donnelly submitted that the analysis of adoption as an option in care proceedings is limited to consideration of adoption in principle and does not involve an assessment of the individual merits of particular proposed adopters. Least of all, he submitted, should care proceedings become, as would be the consequence of Judge Troy’s order, an arena in which prospective adopters should be enabled to probe alleged deficits in a family placement and compare it unfavourably with what they could offer. It is the children’s guardian whose task it is to scrutinise the local authority’s plan and, if appropriate, criticise it and invite the court to reject it. To like effect Mr Tyler submitted that the proper people to test the local authority’s assertions, assessments and care plans, in order to assist the process of quasi-inquisitorial judicial critical analysis in the care proceedings, are the parents and the child(ren), the latter through the children’s guardian. Miss Anning made much the same point when she submitted that the very idea of a competition between the birth family and prospective adopters at the stage of deciding whether a child should be placed for adoption is to shift the focus away from a true analysis of what is fundamentally in the child’s best interests in favour of the competing views of the adults. And, she suggested, it ran the risk of a simple comparison as to which placement would be better for the child, the very thing that all the jurisprudence demonstrates is not the right question (see, for example, Y v United Kingdom (2012) 55 EHRR 33, [2012] 2 FLR 332, referred to below).
  7. Accordingly, it was submitted, Mr and Mrs X’s joinder to the care proceedings serves no useful purpose; it does not provide a means for the court to consider an option that it otherwise would not. Moreover, there is, they say, no need for Mr and Mrs X to be parties to the care proceedings to demonstrate that they are suitable prospective adopters for T, for they have already been positively assessed. If and to the extent that the court needs to consider adoption as an alternative to a family placement all it needs to know is that T has the best prospects of being adopted given Mr and Mrs X’s wish to adopt him.
  8. As Mr Donnelly put it, the fact that this was an early permanence placement did not give Mr and Mrs X an elevated status, nor did that (or any of the other matters) create a ‘status quo’ requiring the kind of balancing of ‘status quo’ and ‘family’ contemplated in Re M’P-P (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 584 (see below). In reality, as Mr Tyler put it, the asserted ‘status quo’ and attachment in the present case do not differ in any significant way from what exists in a large proportion of similar care cases where a child has been successfully fostered for a short, interim, period.
  9. Mr Tyler conjured up the spectre of social engineering. He suggested that parents in care proceedings will be very much less likely to agree to the potential benefits of a fostering for adoption placement. He pointed to the inevitability of delay given the requirements of sections 42(4) and 44(4) of the 2002 Act



Summarising these very briefly – it is the task of the Court to decide what orders should be made, and Mr and Mrs X (the carwers and would-be adopters) come into the equation IF AND ONLY IF the Court is satisfied that nothing other than adoption would do. To bring Mr and Mrs X into the equation before that point potentially muddies the waters and gets into a social engineering situation where the Court is deciding which family has more to offer the child, Mr and Mrs X or the grandparents.


The arguments against the appeal were made by the adopters and the Children’s Guardian. (I pause here to note that the collective brainpower in the Court room must have been making the air crackle)


  1. Essentially, Miss Scriven and Miss Fottrell submitted that Judge Troy was right to decide as she did and for the reasons she gave. There are, they said, two realistic options before the court and Judge Troy was right in her approach and in recognising that the court, in the light of the statutory framework and the authorities, had to evaluate both the realistic options and to assess each in the context of the other. How, Miss Scriven asked rhetorically, was the court to do this, as she put it, balancing the competing arguments for and against those two options, unless Mr and Mrs X were able to participate in the care proceedings and make representations?
  2. Miss Scriven submitted that the local authority’s approach was far too rigid and absolute, and inappropriately minimising of Mr and Mrs X’s role. As the guardian put it, whatever the strength of the arguments in favour of a family placement, it cannot be said that Mr and Mrs X’s application has no prospect of success. After all, as Miss Scriven pointed out, Mrs X is the only mother T has ever known. What is required is for each case to be looked at in a case-specific way. Reliance was placed on what McFarlane LJ had said in Re M’P-P (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 584, paras 46-50 (see below). Reliance was placed on what was said to be the reality that T and Mr and Mrs X have, as a result of Mr and Mrs X caring for T, an established family life together. Mrs X, it is said, is at the centre of T’s life. Miss Fottrell said that Mr and Mrs X are de facto parents and if T is to be removed from them they need to be heard, particularly if what is being proposed is T’s placement, albeit within his family, with people with whom he has no relationship. T’s welfare requires this reality to be carefully examined, and this requires the participation of Mr and Mrs X, precisely because it is not an argument that will be supported either by the local authority or by the birth family, all of whom will be arguing vigorously against it. As Miss Fottrell put it, it is difficult to see how Mr and Mrs X’s case could be properly heard if they were not joined to the care proceedings.
  3. Furthermore, and relying upon Singh v Entry Clearance Officer, New Delhi [2004] EWCA Civ 1075, [2005] QB 608, [2005] 1 FLR 308, it was said that there exists between Mr and Mrs X and T ‘family life’ within the meaning of Article 8, which in turn, it is said, entitles them to a fair hearing in accordance with Article 6: see Soderback v Sweden (1998) 29 EHRR 95.


Again, in a summary – as Mr and Mrs X are the only people the child has ever lived with and they have an article 8 right to family life, their application for adoption is an application they can legitimately make, and a legitimate option before the Court. If they are robbed of the chance to make such an application, how can that argument be properly made before the Court?  And if they don’t get the chance to make their application, their family life is being disrupted without them having a chance to contribute to the arguments.   [Also that as Re B-S requires the Court to consider all of the realistic options, how can the Court fairly proceed without one of them being presented]


Boiling it all down, it seems to be this central dilemma


“Do foster to adopters have a stake within care proceedings and can make their arguments just as any other interested party, or ought they stay out of it and just wait for the Court to decide whether this is an adoption case at all?”



The historical approach of the Court to joining foster carers to the proceedings:-


  1. From the very earliest days of the 1989 Act (which, it will be remembered, came into force in October 1991), the court has set its face against the joinder in care proceedings of foster-parents or prospective adopters. Two decisions of this court explain why.
  2. In Re G (Minors) (Interim Care Order) [1993] 2 FLR 839, the judge had made an order joining foster-parents as parties to care proceedings. This court declined to interfere with his order, describing the case as being “exceptional … with many unusual features.” However, Waite LJ added this (page 846):

    “In ordinary circumstances I would not expect the court to regard it as appropriate to join foster-parents as parties to proceedings of this kind. To do so would in most cases run counter to the clear policy of the Act reflected in ss 9(3) and 10(3). The assistance afforded by foster-parents to the effective functioning of any system of child care is invaluable and should never be discouraged. Theirs is not a role, nevertheless, which would normally make it necessary for them to be joined formally as parties to proceedings in which the future upbringing of the children in their temporary care is in issue. There will generally be ample means for making their views known to the court, either directly as witnesses or indirectly through the inquiries of the guardian ad litem, without the necessity of adding them formally as parties.”

  3. Some fifteen years later, this court said much the same thing again. In Re A; Coventry County Council v CC and A [2007] EWCA Civ 1383, [2008] 1 FLR 959, a foster mother sought leave to apply for an adoption order in accordance with section 42(6) of the 2002 Act after the court, in that case the family proceedings court, had made a placement order. So the forensic context was very different from the one with which we are concerned. However, the judgment of Wilson LJ, as he then was, is of illuminating importance because he had to confront the argument of Mr Stephen Cobb QC, as he then was, appearing on behalf of the local authority. Wilson LJ summarised Mr Cobb’s argument as follows (para 35):

    “In the end Mr Cobb has been constrained somewhat to retreat from the proposition that the court which hears care and placement applications is the appropriate forum for resolution of any issue about the candidacy for adoption of, for example, a foster mother. He still maintains, however, that it is an appropriate forum. Challenged to furnish a reported example of resolution of such an issue in such proceedings, he cites the decision of Hedley J in Re R (Care: Plan for Adoption: Best Interest) [2006] 1 FLR 483.”

  4. Wilson LJ, with whom both Ward LJ and Moore-Bick LJ agreed, was having none of this. He said (para 24):

    “The application for a placement order required the magistrates to consider the principle whether the best interests of A required that she be adopted but not to determine the identity of the optimum adoptive home for her.”

  5. He elaborated this (para 34):

    “I do not agree with the judge that the proper forum for consideration of the identity of the optimum adopter or adopters for a child is the court which makes the care and placement orders. For, in terms of the adoption of the child and in contradistinction to the child’s committal into care, the placement order is not the court’s last word. Its last word is articulated when the adoption order is made; and any court which makes a placement order knows that any issue in relation to the identity of the optimum adopter or adopters of the child can be ventilated in an application for an adoption order, which is precisely what this foster mother aspires to make. In my view the magistrates were rightly unattracted to the suggestion, albeit that it was later endorsed by His Honour Judge Bellamy, that the foster mother might in some way join in the proceedings before them. As a judge of the family justice system for almost 15 years, I have never encountered a case in which an aspiring adopter participated in the hearing of proceedings relating to whether a child should be placed for adoption, or should be freed for adoption under the old law set out in s 18 of the Adoption Act 1976. For the law provides a forum in which issues as to the identity of the optimum adopter can later be ventilated. In my view, therefore, the requirement for close scrutiny of the care plan should in principle not extend to an address of any issue as to the identity of the optimum adopter or adopters for the child.”

    My own experience mirrors that of Wilson LJ.

  6. Referring to Re R (Care: Plan for Adoption: Best Interests) [2006] 1 FLR 483, Wilson LJ said (para 35):

    “I respectfully agree with Hedley J’s observations. But they are of no assistance to Mr Cobb. To say that the credentials of proposed adopters may exceptionally need to be considered in care proceedings in order that the court should better be able to reach the central decision whether the child should be removed from his family and adopted is not to say that care or indeed placement proceedings are an appropriate forum for resolution of an issue between a proposed adopter and the local authority as to the merits of her candidacy.”





In short, foster carers or prospective adopters should not be involved in care proceedings as parties unless there are some exceptional circumstances.

So, in this case, were there any?


  1. In my judgment, there is no reason to depart from this long-established approach and, indeed, every reason to follow it. There is nothing in Article 8 or in the Strasbourg jurisprudence which calls for any different approach. There is nothing in the recent case-law on adoption (In re B (A Child) (Care Proceedings: Threshold Criteria) [2013] UKSC 33, [2013] 1 WLR 1911, [2013] 2 FLR 1075, In re B-S (Children) (Adoption Order: Leave to Oppose) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146, [2014] 1 WLR 563, [2014] 1 FLR 1035, M v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and others [2014] EWCA Civ 1479, [2015] 1 WLR 2441 and In re R (A Child) (Adoption: Judicial Approach) [2014] EWCA Civ 1625, [2015] 1 WLR 3273) which justifies, let alone requires, any change in approach. Nor, in particular, is there anything in the status or function of an early permanence placement foster carer which either justifies or requires any change in approach.
  2. I agree, therefore, with the essential thrust of the submissions by Mr Donnelly, Mr Tyler and Miss Anning as I have summarised them in paragraphs 28-29 above. The care judge is concerned at most with consideration of adoption in principle, not with evaluating the merits of particular proposed adopters. There is no need for the prospective adopters to be joined, for it is the children’s guardian (who will be aware of Mr and Mrs X’s stance and can, if necessary, address their suitability) who has the task, indeed is under the duty, of subjecting the local authority’s care plan to rigorous scrutiny and, where, appropriate, criticism. So, I agree, Mr and Mrs X’s joinder to the care proceedings is inappropriate. Moreover, as was pointed out, and I agree, there is no need for Mr and Mrs X to be parties to the care proceedings to demonstrate that they are suitable prospective adopters for T, for they have already been positively assessed.
  3. The truth is, as Mr Tyler submitted, that, putting on one side Mr and Mrs X’s role as early permanence placement foster carers, and, I emphasise, without in any way wishing to belittle or diminish all that they have done for T, this is a case where there has been an unexceptional period of time caring for an unexceptional child in an unexceptional case. This, in my judgment, is not an exceptional case justifying any departure from the general approach. For the reality is, as Mr Tyler correctly put it, that the ‘status quo’ and attachment on which Miss Scriven and Miss Fottrell placed such emphasis do not differ significantly from what is found in the many similar care cases where a child has been successfully fostered for a short period. Moreover, and to repeat, there is, in my judgment, nothing in the status or function of an early permanence placement foster carer which either justifies or requires any change in the hitherto conventional and long-established approach.
  4. To the extent I have indicated, I therefore agree with the thrust of Mr Tyler’s submissions.
  5. Moreover, there is, as Miss Anning pointed out, a very real risk that if, in a case such as this, the forensic process is allowed to become in effect a dispute between the prospective adopters and the birth family, the court will be diverted into an illegitimate inquiry as to which placement will be better for the child. That, it cannot be emphasised too much, is not the question before the court. I repeat, because the point is so important, what the Strasbourg court said in Y v United Kingdom:

    “family ties may only be severed in very exceptional circumstances … It is not enough to show that a child could be placed in a more beneficial environment for his upbringing.”

    Indeed, there are passages in Judge Troy’s judgment – for example, where she refers to a “comparative analysis of these two options”, without at the same time spelling out that adoption is appropriate only as ‘a last resort’ and if ‘nothing else will do’ – which do make me wonder whether she may not in fact have fallen into precisely that error here.

  6. There is another significant matter which, in my judgment, points in the same direction. The effect of sections 44(2) and (3) of the 2002 Act is to impose a period of three months’ delay in a case such as this. This is an appropriate aspect of the statutory scheme in relation to private law adoptions. But it would sit most uncomfortably if, as suggested in the present case, the statutory scheme under the 2002 Act is to be run in tandem with the quite separate statutory scheme in relation to care proceedings under the 1999 Act, required, by the recently amended section 32(1)(a)(ii) of the 1989 Act, to be concluded within a total period of only 26 weeks.
  7. Before us, Miss Scriven and Miss Fottrell relied, as had Judge Troy, on the recent case-law emphasising that the court must address and analyse all the realistic options. We were taken through the cases (In re B, In re B-S, M v Blackburn and In re R), but with all respect to Judge Troy they are not in point and do not justify the course she took.
  8. What those cases are authority for is the proper approach in cases where (see In re B-S, para 33) the court is being asked by a local authority to approve a care plan for adoption or being asked to make a non-consensual placement order or adoption order. It was in this context that, as we made clear in In re B-S, para 34, “The evidence must address all the options which are realistically possible and must contain an analysis of the arguments for and against each option.” M v Blackburn was a challenge to the making of a non-consensual placement order, and it was to that forensic contest that Ryder LJ was directing his observations (see, for example, para 32, where he said “A court making a placement order decision must conduct a five part exercise.”). The same observation applies to In re R. But the case before us is not such a case. The local authority is not seeking either an adoption order or a placement order, nor is it seeking approval of a care plan for adoption.
  9. It would turn the In re B-S learning on its head to assert that, in a case where the local authority is not seeking any order which brings In re B-S into play, the requirement to consider every realistic option justifies, let alone requires, the joinder of a party to argue for the adoption for which the local authority itself is not applying. In my judgment, the In re B-S learning applies where the local authority is inviting the court either to approve a care plan for adoption or to make a non-consensual placement order or adoption order. It does not apply where, as here, the local authority is seeking none of these things.
  10. Accordingly, in my judgment, Mr and Mrs X ought not to have been joined as parties to the care proceedings, and the father’s appeal must be allowed.
  11. I turn to the local authority’s challenge to the order giving Mr and Mrs X leave to apply for an adoption order.
  12. In my judgment, the application was premature, as was Judge Troy’s decision. There are two reasons for this. First, this was an application which properly fell to be considered after the conclusion of the care proceedings and once the court had concluded, if it did, that T’s welfare required his adoption. This is the approach which, in my judgment, is generally applicable, and nothing in the statutory early permanence placement scheme justifies any different approach.
  13. The other reason is graphically illustrated by the forensic difficulty in which Judge Troy found herself, as she described in three passages in her judgment which I have already quoted in context but which bear repetition:

    “Mr and Mrs X have only very limited information about the care proceedings in respect of T in general or about the paternal grandparents in particular.”

    “The local authority has not sought to place before me any information about the paternal grandparents. I have no information about what they may be able to offer to T, about the benefits or any detriments for T in placing him in the care of his paternal grandparents.”

    “The position taken by local authority … means … that I must determine this application without being in a position to consider the relative merits of the two proposed placements for T.”

  14. None of this, in my judgment, is any matter for criticism of the local authority, let alone of Mr and Mrs X. It simply reflects the forensic reality given the stage the care proceedings had reached – as Judge Troy noted, the children’s guardian had not yet filed a report or even reached a concluded view –, a forensic reality which simply goes to demonstrate that the task which Judge Troy attempted to embark upon was premature. Moreover, her lack of knowledge, shared it may be noted by Mr and Mrs X, meant that, try as she might, Judge Troy did not have the materials which she needed to have if she was properly to determine their application in accordance with sections 42(4) and 44(4) of the 2002 Act.
  15. Accordingly, in my judgment, Mr and Mrs X ought not to have been given leave to apply for an adoption order, and the local authority’s appeal must be allowed.


There might come a case where the circumstances are sufficiently exceptional to allow a foster carer to make these applications, but it is rather hard to think of one.  I don’t think, tracking it through, that the Court of Appeal actually determined whether the foster carers had acquired any article 8 rights or whether as a result they had article 6 rights to a fair hearing, but the thrust of the case is that there were not the sort of exceptional circumstances that would have warranted granting their applications for leave to be joined as a party and to make their application for a private adoption.


As the Court of Appeal say at the end of the case :-


  1. Before parting from this case there is one final matter I need to refer to. These proceedings have inevitably imposed an enormous strain on Mr and Mrs X. Anxiety and anguish was etched on their faces as they sat before us. The outcome will come as a terrible blow. They have suggested that the local authority was unduly dismissive in November 2014 of the risk that they would not be able to adopt T and, after the paternal grandparents had emerged as contenders for T’s care, unduly dismissive of the possibility that the paternal grandparents would receive the positive assessment which, in the event, they did.
  2. We are in no position to evaluate those concerns which do not, in any event, ultimately bear upon the issues which we have to decide. Without, I emphasise, expressing any view as to what was actually going on, I merely note what I would hope is obvious: that in every case of an early permanence placement there must, from the outset and at every stage thereafter, be complete frankness coupled with a robust appraisal of the realities.

And I’m all outta bubblegum



It is always enjoyable for me to receive a judgment from His Honour Judge Wildblood QC.  I expect that there may be a slightly different qualitative experience between reading one at a safe geographical distance and being physically present to receive it on a case you’re involved in.


My mental image of His Honour Judge Wildblood QC is that of a kindly man who nonetheless would be able to come into his Court room and open with the Rowdy Roddy Piper (God Rest his soul) line


“I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all outta bubblegum”


[Incidentally, the fight scene in this movie, They Live, which is between two characters, one of whom wants the other to put on a pair of sunglasses and the other who is reluctant to don said sunglasses, is so epic that my dad came and got me out of bed to come and watch it at about three am, when he was watching this film on TV. And I was glad that he did. It is marvellous.  In case you are in any doubt – when I compare HH J Wildblood QC with Rowdy Roddy Piper it is intended as high praise]

This case does not disappoint on that level. There was clearly a deficiency of gum that day, but no deficiency of kicking ass.


Gloucestershire CC and M 2015

I am publishing the judgment in this case because it is an example of the following:

i) The unnecessarily protected use of accommodation of a child under section 20 of The Children Act 1989. This child was accommodated with short term foster carers for 12 months before these inevitable proceedings were issued and has now been with them for about 16 months.

ii) The delayed identification of the need for therapeutic intervention for this mother. 19 months after the Local Authority intervened in a family where the mother had obvious difficulties it was identified that the mother needed therapy. It was then said that, by then, the benefit of therapy was ‘outwith the timescales of the child’. If psychological evidence was to be obtained with the invariable recommendation of therapy (and I have never known a psychologist not recommend therapy in a report) I cannot understand why it was not obtained much earlier.

iii) Failure to identify realistic options leading to the adjournment of this final hearing and a consequent inability to meet the timetabling demands of section 32 of The Children Act 1989, as amended.


Section 20 drift has been something of a theme of the Courts and hence this blog, for some time now.

As a quick rule of thumb for a social worker thinking about a case in their cabinet/caseload where there’s a section 20 agreement, ask yourself this question


If the mother or father rang you this afternoon and said “I want the child back” would you be ?


(a) Perfectly fine about that and make the arrangements

(b) Okay about it, but suggest that the move take place over the next 2 days to make the preparations

(c) Concerned and thinking that the child would not be safe at the moment, if they went home

(d) In a blind panic, and wanting to do anything to stop that happening


If your answer is (c) or (d), then it isn’t really a proper use of section 20 any more. The section 20 here is a very short holding position until you can either have a Meeting Before Action at which the parents will have lawyers, or care proceedings at which the parents will have lawyers.



  1. C grew up in the primary care of his mother until 28th May 2014 when, at the age of 5, he was removed from the mother under police powers of protection and then accommodated by the Local Authority with foster carers. The mother does not accept that the threshold criteria in s31 (2) of The Children Act 1989 are fulfilled and has also issued a claim for damages under The Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to the circumstances in which C was removed from her care and the manner in which the Local Authority has conducted itself in relation to C. On the same day in May 2014 A went to live with Mr D.
  2. For no valid reason it took the Local Authority a year, that is until 15th May 2015, to issue these proceedings. In its application the Local Authority said at B9: ‘C was the subject of a child protection plan from August 2013 until 19th May 2014 as a consequence of neglectful parenting. The concerns related to the dirty and unhygienic home conditions and the mother’s mental health and its impact upon her parenting and capacity to meet her child’s needs. A week after de-registration a further child protection referral was received. C was accommodated on 29th May 2014 following police powers of protection being used on 28th May 2014. The police removed C as a consequence of a person known to be a risk to children continuing to have contact with him (against professional advice) and because of the unsuitable home conditions. On 29th September 2014 the mother was evicted from her flat which had been significantly damaged. The mother was sofa surfing. Roger Hutchinson, psychologist, completed a report on the mother on 9th March 2015. This concluded that the mother experiences social anxiety and schizoid and paranoid traits with poorly developed social, functional and adaptive skills. Therapy is indicated over a nine month period’.
  3. C has therefore been with his current foster carers for 16 months of his life, has settled with them and is integrated into life with them. His mother has been having contact with him twice a week for sessions lasting one hour and although there have been inevitable niggles about that contact, a condensed analysis of that contact could not express it as falling below the grasp of the adjective ‘reasonable’ on my current reading of the papers and submissions that were made at the IRH. C’s educational and social connections, at an important time of his life when he is settling into school, have all been made from the base of his current foster home. The foster carers have done an excellent job in caring for him and, in his letter to the judge, C says ‘my family is [the foster father, the foster mother and their cat]‘ and draws the foster father with a big smile on his face. The guardian reports that C is making ‘greatly improved progress at school and his health has improved’ since living with them [A14].



These three paragraphs of background raise the three obvious questions


  1. What the hell took the LA so long to issue?
  2. Is it fair for the LA to have delayed so long in finding out that mum needed 9 months of therapy – because if they’d found out earlier, she’d have had it by now
  3. IF the child can’t go and live with mother, surely this child is going to stay with the current carers if humanly possible


However, the LA in this case had delayed for so long, were saying that the child couldn’t wait for mum to have therapy, and had ruled out the current foster carer as an option.


Taking these in turn

i) Having been involved with this mother since August 2013 and having accommodated this child in May 2014 it is inexplicable that it took a year for the Local Authority to issue these proceedings. That has absolutely nothing to do with limited resources. It is simply bad practice.


On the issue of therapy :-


ii) The Local Authority knew the mother’s level of functioning but still took until 9th March 2015 to identify that this mother needed therapy. Knowing the mother’s level of functioning why did it take 19 months (from August 2013) to do that? How can it be regarded as satisfactory for the Local Authority now to say that the mother needs therapy which is outwith the timescales of the child? For instance, if a psychologist’s report had been obtained within three months of C being accommodated (i.e. in August 2014) there could have been 13 months of therapy by now at far less expense than the cost of these proceedings leading to the possibility that the consequences of this mother’s unfortunate background could have been mitigated with the child receiving an upbringing with her


[I have a bit of sympathy with the LA here –  I’m not sure whether anyone actually argued that as a result of House of Lords authority Kent County Council v G, it is not within the Court’s powers to compel the provision of therapy, that therapy thus has to be resourced through the NHS and the NHS aren’t going to provide therapy without a clear diagnosis and recommendation, at least not without a huge waiting list. So tempting as it is to just start the therapy whilst waiting for the expert report, that isn’t how the real world works.  It is fair enough to say that the real world in this regard sucks and it needs to change.   There is possibly a big argument to come as to whether the House of Lords settled position that “there is no article 8 right to be made a better parent at public expense” is compatible with what Baroness Hale says in Re B about the State needing to provide the resources to do just that, but that’s a debate that can only be resolved by the Supreme Court. ]


On the last issue, why the current foster carers had been rejected in favour of adoption by the LA.


  1. At the IRH, on 8th September 2015, I was told that the current foster carers were not offering C a long term home. The guardian says in her position statement: ‘since the IRH on 8th September 2015 the guardian has spoken to C’s current foster carers. They have confirmed they have never said they would not keep C long term as foster carers. They would not wish to consider special guardianship or adoption because they see themselves as foster carers and may well wish to foster another child and would wish both children to be placed with them on the same basis. The foster carer has also informed the guardian that Mr D has on a number of occasions said that he would be prepared to care for C if there were no other options’.
  2. It is right that, on 27th August 2015 there was a discussion between the adoption social worker, TG, and the foster carers. I have the case note in relation to that. This conversation therefore took place six days after the placement application had been filed by the Local Authority (so the Local Authority had already ruled out long term fostering then). The foster carers were saying at the time of that note that they did not feel able to adopt C. They are not recorded as saying that they would not foster C. It took one conversation between the guardian and the foster carers to clarify matters. When asked directly by the social worker on an unspecified date (but after the IRH) ‘the foster father confirmed that he and the foster mother would have C for as along as is needed in long term foster care with a care order if they were supported by the Local Authority’. The clear impression that I have, having read the papers, heard the IRH and listened to submissions today, is that the Local Authority did not consider the possibility of long term fostering with the foster carers and, once it regarded the mother as ruled out, its linear analysis took it to adoption.


So the child’s current foster carer, who everyone involved would agree had done a marvellous job, was willing to be a permanent carer for the child, just that he didn’t want to adopt the child. The LA had approached this on the basis of “our plan is adoption, you don’t want to adopt, therefore you are out”, rather than looking at whether the child could remain with the carer on a different basis THUS avoiding the need for adoption.


The case simply could not be concluded, as there were too many unknowns.

Following a heavy IRH on 8th September 2015 the case is listed before me for final hearing for the rest of this week. That final hearing cannot proceed because there are realistic options in relation to the future care of C that have not been assessed by the Local Authority. That means that large amounts of public money and time have been wasted in a Local Authority involvement that has spanned 16 months. All parties now say that the case has to be adjourned. Eventually, I have had to give up my attempt at keeping this case on the rails of this final hearing and have had to accede to adjournment. To adjourn a case where there has been lengthy Local Authority involvement with a family in a straightforward case is absurd but now unavoidable.



and in conclusion

  1. What are the options that need to be considered? They are these:

    i) That C should be rehabilitated to his mother. Of course, nature, law and common sense require that it be recognised that the best place for a child to live is with his natural parent unless proven and proportionate necessity otherwise demands. As matters stand the professional evidence is all stacked up against this mother but her case will require very careful consideration at a final hearing.

    ii) That C should continue to be a child fostered by Mr and Mrs B. If the Local Authority will not support this the only way in which C could live with the foster carers would be through private law orders. If special guardianship orders were to be proposed there would need to be a report under s14A(8) of The Children Act 1989. Therefore I need to flush out what the Local Authority is saying. If it will not agree that C should remain with the foster carers (should the court so recommend on the making of a care order and a rejection of the placement application), I will have to give directions for a special guardianship application to proceed (a written application is not necessary if I so determine – s14A(6)(b) of the 1989 Act). The possibility of C remaining with the foster carers is unassessed by the Local Authority and there has not been sufficient discussion with them.

    iii) That C should live with Mr D and A. This is also unassessed. There is no blood relationship between Mr D and C but there is a blood relationship between A and C. They have a clear fraternal attachment (in which C is A’s big brother). That possibility remains unassessed also.

    iv) That C should be placed for adoption. That is an option upon which I have already commented. I am not suggesting that there are difficulties about that option on the basis of age alone. I say that there are difficulties about it because of the particular circumstances of this child.

  2. Therefore today I have had to give directions for the future of these proceedings. By the time that the case comes back the new baby will have been born, and I wish the mother well with the birth. However, the advent of the new baby will mean that there are additional complications that will arise in ensuring that the best solution is found for C.
  3. I have given this judgment in writing so that there is a formal record of what has gone wrong in this case and how matters must now be put right. The Local Authority must consider the realistic options that arise and must put its case into order.
  4. Proper plans must be put in place for the birth of the baby and where the inevitable assessment of the mother and the baby will take place. That should have been done already. The mother is in and out of hospital at the moment and it is manifestly unfair that, as well as dealing with the physical demands of impending birth and repeated hospital appointments, she is also having to deal with the uncertainties of these proceedings and a lack of knowledge about what will happen when she does give birth – where will she be living and what is planned for the baby?
  5. The Local Authority must therefore look at the options that arise and file proper evidence in relation to them. The case will have to come back before me later this week when I will have to give further directions as to how that will be achieved. It is deeply frustrating that a case such as this has to exceed the timescales provided by section 32 of The Children Act 1989 and that should be recorded as having been caused by systemic failure by the Local Authority



There is also some pending litigation in this case as to whether when the child was originally removed from the parents by police protection, whether that was in breach of the families human rights – it being really settled law that where removal of a child is being contemplated it should be a decision of the Court unless there are exceptional and compelling reasons why the removal cannot wait for a Court hearing.



Parents consenting to adoption within care proceedings


This is a case decided by a Circuit Judge, so not binding precedent, but it is both sad and unusual .


Re C (A child) 2015


In this case, care proceedings were taking place and the mother was with the baby in a foster placement. A major issue was whether the father presented a risk to the mother and to the baby as a result of serious allegations (and convictions) of sexual harm perpetrated by him to adults.  There had been assessments during the proceedings and the Local Authority felt that mother was moving forward and was willing to make changes and asked the Court for more time to assess her further before a final decision was made  (to give her time to make those changes). They actually asked for longer time than the Court was willing to give, but more time was given.


  1. The Local Authority were due to file their final evidence and care plan by the 22nd July. However in the light of the report from the independent Social Worker and from their own observations from the good parenting that this mother could offer to her child the Local Authority came to the issues resolution hearing on the 31st July with a plan of further work to be undertaken with the mother as recommended by the independent social worker.

    They asked for an adjournment for several further months ( into 2016) to enable that work to be successfully undertaken. The Guardian was against that work being undertaken at all as she considered it to be outside the timescales for the baby and her own assessment was that the mother would not be able to parent this child.

    However the Court considered, having regard to the positive changes that the mother appeared to have made which included that she had separated from the father and now wished to be a sole carer for her son that it was appropriate for there to be a further period of time given to enable the mother to evidence change and a real understanding of the risks that not only the father posed but that would protect her from manipulation or control from other like minded men in the future.

  2. Accordingly the Court approved a package of work to be provided to the mother. This included a requirement for the mother not to communicate with the father and to obviously undertake the work recommended and to attend all of the appointments. In order for the Local Authority to be satisfied that the mother was not contacting or had not contacted the father and that she was truely separated from him she readily agreed for her telephone records from her mobile number and her Facebook pages to be made available to the Local Authority.
  3. It was also positive that despite the conclusions of the psychological report on the father that he had taken the report to his GP who had recommended that he should first undertake a course with BARST and that once he had concluded that work then there would be a referral back to his GP to consider work to address his issues.
  4. It therefore seemed to the Court on that occasion that the father was for the first time taking a real step to understand that his sexual behaviour was inappropriate and that it needed to be addressed and that coupled with the separation of the parents and the mother’s positive parenting that it did in the Court’s view mean that there could be a really positive outcome to this case and the child could remain being successfully brought up by the mother in the long-term. The court did not approve the timescale proposed by the authority , and required them to come to a final decision as to their care plan for this child ( informed by the engagement and progress the mother made in the intervening period) by the 2 nd October.


Just days afterwards though , the mother sent the following email to the Local Authority lawyer (or the lawyer’s assistant)

“Hi ( legal assistant ) I know I shouldn’t be emailing you but I need to tell the truth. The Local Authority want me to do a course with (therapist) but I will never admit that (father) is a risk so saying that I’d wish to be taken home and (son )to go up for adoption. As much as I love my little boy I don’t want to waste the LA’s time I want (son) to be settled I don’t want this to be delayed any longer. They all want me to be honest and I am being honest, I have spoken to (foster carer) and have spoken to a lot of people who think I’m stupid but this is my decision and I wish to go.”


The case was taken back to Court and both the mother and father, having had long discussions with their lawyers, confirmed that this was their position, that the child should be adopted and that they would consent to the making of a Care Order and Placement Order.


The Local Authority having not been considering a plan of adoption for this child were taken aback, and the case had not gone to their Agency Decision Maker (who is the person who has to approve any request for the making of a Placement Order)

Therefore, as a matter of law, the parents were consenting to an order where the LA were not actually able to apply for that order, and the case couldn’t be finished on that date as the parents had hoped. There was a short delay to allow that to be done.


In this case, the paternal grandfather was very actively campaigning about family justice and injustices in this case

The assessments were being undertaken by the Local Authority against the backdrop of an abusive and cowardly campaign by the paternal grandfather on Facebook which has persisted throughout the course of these proceedings. He has made wild unproven claims against the particular Social Workers and the Local Authority generally and against this Court. It was clear from the hearing on the 14th August that the father shares his fathers views.

The campaign has included continued allegations of perjury and that the perjury in the Secret Family Court is to traffic children for money.

All of the Social Workers who have been involved in either child’s case have been named in Facebook pages and described as: “pathological paid liar”, “lying entrapment scumbag”, “paid liar assessor”, “paid liar”. All are described in this list as “baby/child traffickers who are operating in Southampton”. Facebook entries state they were trying to steal his granddaughter and worked ‘for a child trafficking organisation called the Local Authority’. The grandfather has also recommended that facebook users check out the social workers ‘friends list and you will see the child trafficking social workers on there, talk about conspiracies, the evil baby stealing bastards’.


It is worth noting that the grandfather had not actually applied to Court to be a party or to play any role in the proceedings or to put himself forward as a carer.


The Judge said this, in conclusion


  1. In this case both parents not only do not oppose the making of the Care and Placement Orders, they positively consent to them. That in itself is a highly unusual state of affairs. It is highly unusual for parents to actively consent to the making of such orders rather than simply not opposing them.
  2. There therefore is a concluded position between the Local Authority, the Guardian, and both parents that this child should be made subject to a Care Order and should be placed for adoption.
  3. It is a sad outcome for this child. The social workers in this case have gone the extra mile to support this mother in caring for her child. They have done that against the backdrop of persistent allegations and abuse from the paternal family, They have however remained professional throughout and have remained focused on trying to support this mother in caring for her child. It is important that is recorded. It was not their decision to separate this child from her baby, it was the mothers choice, supported by the father.
  4. This was an outcome that was predicted by the risk assessment that was undertaken by the psychologist. But it is still in my judgment right that that opportunity was given to this mother to care for her child. Sadly in this case the mother has chosen her relationship with the father above her relationship with her child.
  5. She has chosen to disregard everything that has been written about the father and the sexual risk that he poses to her and has chosen to remain in that relationship. This case could have had a very different outcome had the mother been able to understand that.Neither parent, nor any member of either the paternal or maternal family have given to this court any other options as to who could care for this child, realistic or otherwise to consider.

    No one from either family has applied during these proceedings to be assessed as a carer or to be joined as a party. Given the campaign being pursued by the paternal family that is surprising to say the least.

  6. In the circumstances for the reasons given there are no other orders that this Court can make other than the orders that all parties invite the Court to make and that is the making of the Care and Placement Orders and therefore with the consent of all parties those are the orders that I make. There is nothing else that I can do.



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