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Has the adoption case law made any difference in your Courts?



I don’t pretend that this is scientific – given that it is on a law geek website, it is only going to get voters who actually know about Re B, Re B-S et al, whereas I know from training that I give around the country that substantial volumes of social workers have been told nothing about it.


But I thought that a poll might help to identify a broad trend. I have my own answer, but I’m sure that my answer must be coloured by my own local experience.

In voting, please vote for what you are actually seeing in your local Courts – it isn’t meant to be a vote about what you think OUGHT to be happening.  It is open to everyone, not just lawyers and social workers.  (It is probably easier for people who were dealing with these cases both now and before Sept 2013, but I’m not excluding anyone)

If you want to disseminate the poll more widely, to other colleagues, or to local solicitors or social workers or Guardians, that’s fine. The more people who respond, the more useful an indicator it might be.



[It is my first try at a poll on the blog, so bear with me if there are teething problems]


About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

11 responses

  1. Difficult for myself to participate :/

  2. Stella aka Toni Macleod

    Personally as a parent i would say no not at all having dealt with 2 adoption applications post Re B and Re B-S

    The first in 2014 and the second in 2015 baring in mind my case involves no physical or sexual abuse no neglect issues i have no mental health diagnosis’ nor personality disorders (yep thats a first for many parents) and my actual care is accredited as ‘excellent’ and ‘without criticism’ my criminal record is clean for 5 years and i have no alcohol or drug issues and its solely ‘life style’ issues and cooperation with the local authority

    To ease the complication Macfarlene LJ summarizes it as …..(public judgement tied to me previously in the houses of commons before sues freaks out lol 🙂 )

    10. Happily, on one basis, this case is not about a mother who is incompetent or unable to provide ordinary, good enough or even good physical and practical care for her children. Unhappily, and frustratingly for all involved, I dare say, particularly the mother and the children, the concern about the mother’s ability to parent is more subtle and harder to pinpoint, but it arises from her personality and the potential for the children to be upset by unpredictable actions or words that she may from time to time exhibit.

    yet Re B and Re B-S have made no difference adoption was still granted despite there being ‘everything else to try’ rather than the required ‘nothing else will do’ available 😦

    so legally yes Re B and Re B-S should have made a huge impact however personally i would say no in the northern circuit i have covered adoption cases in Teesside Combined courts Newcastle and also in Manchester along with one further south and it appears from personal experience that nothing has been altered unless you take it to the RCJ and get a LJ on a good day who grants appeal but again i personally havent come across it yet

    once adoption is on the cards adoption is what you get given

    yet ironically before 2013 i managed to avoid adoption orders and be granted SGO’s for 3 of the kids so it appears on the face of it adoption seems to be the more chosen option now than previously

    stella xx

  3. Ashamed to be British

    I’ve found it to be frustratingly useful … To the detriment of some children and not to others.

    This is definitely one of those ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t’ moments but I’m without doubt seeing less placement orders, I’m just trying to work out if social media is making parents more savvy or whether Re B S is what it says it is, for some it was always going to be too late, if I’m still alive in 16-18 years, I’ll look forward to your blog on the children who are suing the LA for not trying hard enough to keep their families together

  4. Having been working nationwide for the last 2 years, there is a view that courts are not granting orders where they once would. I think the “clarification” has confused because we all knew the myths weren’t myths that needed busting The various judgements have not confused as much.

    I know of cases where children have been placed with a family member social workers originally ruled out, which is really a court directing a social worker (perhaps a different one) being asked to reassess risk. There is a rise in SGOs and in NIAs, they may not correlate but it is of relevance, and I know of one case where a child was harmed having been placed with a family member social workers orignally ruled out. I am of the mind that adoption is right for some children and anecdotally I have formed a view that we are depriving some children of safety, security and stability at the moment. These are children social workers think will return to the care system, more damaged by a failed placement, and too old for adoption (both for them and adopters).

    On the other hand my current oft repeated phrase is that pre B-S there did appear to be a perfect storm of the political ideology + the PLO + Adoption Reforms + managerialism + cuts + austerity = it all beginning to look a bit like eugenics rather than social justice. But, as social workers and legal, I think maybe we should have left it to the courts so that the conflict between the legislature and the judiciary became a transparent debate about non consensual adoption. This is with the benefit of hindsight.

    • Yes, although even without hindsight, it was pretty obvious that social workers were going to be utterly battered in the witness box, and that even if a Judge was persuaded to allow a borderline Placement Order through, the Court of Appeal weren’t going to back those Judges. Things have calmed down a bit now in the Court of Appeal, but from summer 2013 to spring 2014 they were basically over-turning any Placement Order that had been made and sending them back for re-hearing. And that message absolutely got through to everyone on the ground.

      In retrospect, I think the argument now would be much less muddled if social workers had delivered the ‘better evidence’ element of Re B-S, but hadn’t altered the sorts of cases they were presenting. It would now be much clearer that huge numbers of Placement Order applications had been rejected by the Courts; whereas now there’s an argument about whether that really would have happened or whether people just guessed wrongly that it would.

      [The increase in SGOs is the real unknown at the moment. There were definitely family placements being sanctioned by the Courts that social workers were very unsure about. If they work, then great. But we already know from the research that the breakdown rate of SGOS where everyone involved was really confident about them was 25%, so are these more ‘finely balanced’ ones going to work out? And what happens to the children if they don’t? Oh, and of course under the pre 26 week model, these placements were tested for 3 months within proceedings, whereas now the orders are made without the placement being tested]

      • “In retrospect, I think the argument now would be much less muddled if social workers had delivered the ‘better evidence’ element of Re B-S, but hadn’t altered the sorts of cases they were presenting. It would now be much clearer that huge numbers of Placement Order applications had been rejected by the Courts; whereas now there’s an argument about whether that really would have happened or whether people just guessed wrongly that it would.”

        I agree. Moving towards the better evidence element was a juggernaut doing a 100 point turn which is a shame because most SW have the evidence and analysis to present, it was more that the ‘if not then’ arguments had become by received wisdom what was required by the courts. There was generally little direction about what an alternative would look like pre Re B-S, which is welcome.

  5. These very senior judges put it rather well ! Trouble is after an initial flurry most lower court judges now ignore all three of them and we are back to square one !

    1:-Note the observation of Supreme Court Judge Baroness Hale of Richmond JSC (para 143):“We are all frail human beings, with our fair share of unattractive character traits, which sometimes manifest themselves in bad behaviours which may be copied by our children. But the State does not and cannot take away the children of all the people who commit crimes, who abuse alcohol or drugs, who suffer from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities, or who espouse antisocial political or religious beliefs

    .2:-Orders contemplating non-consensual adoption – care orders with a plan for adoption, placement orders and adoption orders – are “a very extreme thing, a last resort”, only to be made where “nothing else will do”, where “no other course is possible in [the child’s] interests”, they are “the most extreme option”, a “last resort – when all else fails” – Munby LJ(now President of the family courts) in Re B

    3:-MR JUSTICE MOSTYN said”PARA 35. The proposition of the merits of adoption is advanced almost as a truism but if it is a truism it is interesting to speculate why only three out of 28 European Union countries allow forced or non-consensual adoption. One might ask: why are we so out of step with the rest of Europe? One might have thought if it was obvious that forced adoption was the gold standard the rest of Europe would have hastened to have adopted it. The relevance of this aspect of the case is surely obvious.”
    ii.Link –

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  7. Obviously you have to allow for the time lag in interpreting these numbers. In my authority there were 26 children adopted from care in municipal year 2012/13; 34 in 2013/14; 17 in 2014/15; in the first 3 months of 2015/16 – 3.

    • Yes, the time lag means that the actual numbers of adoption orders being made is probably going to be markedly lower in the next set of statistics, and the lower numbers of placement orders sought lets us deduce that. It took a short time for Re B-S to translate into less Placement Orders being sought, but will probably take about 18 months-2 years to affect the number of adoption orders being made. Which ought to be the next set of statistics.

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