View all news

NALB publish 'myth-buster' about recent court judgements on adoption

26 November 2014

The National Adoption Leadership Board has today published a 'myth-buster' about recent key court judgments on adoption.

Professor Julie Selwyn, of the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies, is a member of the National Adoption Leadership Board and commenting on the publications today from the board states:

Our research has shown how important an adoptive family is for children who have been abused and neglected: children who are adopted can make tremendous gains in all areas of their development. The children who are placed for adoption from care are some of the country's most vulnerable children and deserve every chance to succeed in life. The National Adoption Leadership Board board monitors data on adoptions and it has been striking to see a 50 per cent decrease in the number of placement orders in the last nine months. We hope the guide published today on working with complex adoption issues in the context of recent court judgments will be helpful to all those making difficult decisions.

The past few years have seen a rise in adoption to record levels, with an increase of 63 per cent in just three years. This means thousands more children have found permanent and loving homes through a faster adoption system. But the last nine months has seen a substantial reduction in Placement Orders (the Court decision that adoption is in the child’s best interests).

Sir Martin Narey, Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board, said:

“After two years of significant progress in finding more adoptive homes for the thousands of children waiting – transforming their lives along the way - we have seen a sudden and significant fall off in the number of children being put forward for adoption.

It is clear from my discussions with social workers and managers in local authorities and in voluntary adoption agencies, that there is a belief that the law has been fundamentally changed by a number of court judgements. So I am pleased to produce this simple myth busting guide – drafted by a Senior Queen’s Counsel - to what those judgements do and do not say. I am extremely grateful to Sir James Munby. President of the Family Division, for his advice. He has seen the document and is supportive of its aim of dispelling the myths that have arisen. Key Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judgments in 2013 – particularly Re B and Re BS – reiterated the need for adoption decisions to be based on robust analysis of all realistic options, and set out that adoption is a measure only to be pursued where it is necessary for the child’s welfare.

However, data collected by the national Adoption Leadership Board, along with intelligence from the sector, suggests there has been an over-reaction to the judgments that is now causing children to miss out on adoption - even when it is the considered to be in their interests.”

Between 1 September 2013 and 30 June 2014:

  • local authority decisions that children should be adopted fell by 47 per cent, from 1,830 to 960;
  • applications for placement orders (the court order that allows a child to be placed for adoption) by local authorities have fallen by 34 per cent, from 1,340 to 880;
  • placement orders granted by the courts have decreased by 54 per cent, from 1,650 to 750.

Sir Martin Narey was supported in developing the guide by an experienced Queen’s Counsel to clarify the meaning of the key court judgements. The principal messages from the guide are to re-iterate that:

  • The judgements in no way alter the legal test for adoption.
  • Courts must be provided with expert, high quality, evidence-based analysis of all realistic options for a child and the arguments for and against each of these. This does not mean every possible option but those which are realistically possible.

Sir Martin Narey concluded that:

“The Board and I have published this guide to help everyone working for children understand the law around these complex cases, and be confident in making the right decisions for the child.

Where the right analysis has been carried out and a child’s social worker is satisfied that adoption is the option needed to meet the best interests of the child, the local authority can be confident in presenting the Court with a care plan for adoption.

Adoption is not right for every child but where it is, we owe it to them to pursue this option relentlessly. Our most vulnerable children deserve nothing less.”

Further information

5,050 looked after children were adopted during the year ending 31 March 2014, an increase of 26 per cent from 4,010 in 2013, and of 63 per cent since 2011. This is the highest number since the start of the current data collection in 1992.

Edit this page