Frequently asked questions on Adoption
The court has made a placement order. Does that mean it's gone too far for my child to come back to me?
Probably, although it may still be possible for you to argue for your child to come back home if they have not been placed with prospective adopters AND if your circumstances have changed since the placement order was made.
This is because the law says:
- If your child is living with the people who want to adopt your child but is not yet adopted, you cannot ask the judge to end the placement order, but
- if your child is not yet living with the people who want to adopt your child (or they were living with them but are now back in foster care), then you can apply to court to end the placement order but you will need the permission (called 'leave') of the judge first. The judge will only give this permission if you can show that there has been a change in circumstances since the placement order was made.
If your child is not living with prospective adopters under a placement order and you feel your circumstances have improved for the better since the original order was made, speak to a solicitor about this immediately.
Your child’s original birth certificate will show that your child has been adopted. You will not be able to have a copy of this new birth certificate. The General Register Office has an Adopted Children Register which records that your child has been adopted. The adopters’ names are shown as your child’s legal parents. This is not open to the public.
Your child’s social worker should tell you what the permanence plan is for your child. A permanence plan is about where your child should live until your child is grown up.It could include any plans being made for your child to return home, or to live with a relative or an unrelated foster carer long term or in some cases, to be adopted. These plans will be written down in your child’s care plan (you should have a copy) which will be discussed at your child’s Looked after child review meetings.
If the social worker thinks that being adopted may be the best thing for your child, they should tell you. This will also be talked about at your child’s Looked after child review meetings. An Independent Reviewing Officer, will be in charge of this meeting and you will be able to say what you think is best for your child. If you agree with the adoption plan, you can say what kind of family you would like to bring up your child. If you do not agree with the adoption plan, you will need to come up with good reasons for opposing it and a realistic alternative, for example that there is someone suitable in your family who is willing and able to care for your child.
If you cannot raise your child, it is important to think whether there is a suitable relative or friend in your family network who could care for them instead. It would be very unusual for a relative or friend to adopt your child, but they may be able to care for them under a different type of order. If the court decides that your friend or relative is the right person to care for your child, the judge may decide that instead of making an adoption order, a different legal order would be better. Most often this is a Special Guardianship Order.
Members of the Adoption Panel have experience of adoption and include professionals, independent people and sometimes family members (adopters, people who have been adopted and sometimes even birth relatives). These people think about whether:
- the people who want to adopt a child should be approved as the right sort of people to provide a child with a family for life; and
- which family may be best to care for your child forever. This is sometimes called ‘matching’.
After your child has been placed for ten weeks or more with the people who want to adopt your child, they can apply to court for an Adoption Order. A judge will listen to their application for an Adoption Order and make the final decision about whether or not your child should be adopted, based on what they consider is in your child's long term best interests.
If you are a parent or someone with parental responsibility for the child and there are Care Proceedings (and the social worker is saying that the plan for your child is adoption), you will not have to pay for a solicitor. You can get legal aid (which will cover your solicitors costs) whatever your income whilst there are still care proceedings underway.
If you are not in care proceedings and the people who want to adopt your child have applied to court for an adoption order, you can apply for legal aid but you will not automatically get it. This will depend on whether you have a good case to argue against the adoption order and how much money you have.
Sometimes adopters will agree to some form of contact, although it is usually not often and usually indirect. You can ask for help with this from the adoption agency. See also FRG advice sheet on Open Adoption.
It is up to your child to decide whether they want to get in touch with you. Your child can trace you by getting a copy of their original birth certificate. If you want to be contacted, you can give your details to the General Register Office who is responsible for birth records, including adoption certificates. Your details will be put on the Adoption Contact Register. If your child is searching for you and contacts the Register, your details are passed to your child. It is then up to your child – who will then be an adult – to decide if they want to go ahead and contact you in some way. The links below give more information about how to do this:
http://www.gov.uk - search for adoption
The order stays in force until either an Adoption Order is made or the judge ends the Placement Order. If your child was already under a care order before the placement order was made, and then the placement order is ended, the care order comes back into effect.
Children’s Services asks an adoption agency (which could be part of Children’s Services, or could be an independent agency) to deal with the adoption process. The adoption agency asks the court to make the order for Children’s Services.
A Placement Order is made when the court has decided that adoption is the best plan for your child.
Your child continues to be looked after by Children's Services. An Independent Reviewing Officer should hold regular reviews of your child’s care plan. But if your child is living with the people who want to adopt your child, you will not be able to go to the review meeting.
If your child is living with the people who want to adopt your child but is not yet adopted, you cannot ask the judge to end the order.
But if your child is not yet living with the people who want to adopt your child or your child was living with them but the placement has broken down, then you can apply to court to end the Placement Order but you will need the permission (called leave) from the judge first. The judge will only give this permission if you can show that there has been a change in circumstances since the Placement Order was made. You will need advice from a solicitor about this.
If contact has been agreed or ordered, your child's social worker should help you to keep in touch with your child. Any plan for keeping in touch with your child will normally have been decided at the placement order hearing.
If you have a court order saying that agreement about a contact arrangement was made at the adoption hearing you should seek advice from a specialist solicitor immediately.
If you have an agreement with the adopters, but no court order about contact or them giving you information about the child, and they change their minds or want to alter the agreement, it may be more difficult to make them keep to the agreement.
However if the agreement about contact was written down at the beginning of the court order (known as the preamble) you can ask the court to ask the adopters why they have not kept to the agreement. It is therefore a good idea for any agreements about contact to be written in the preamble at the beginning of the court order.
It is very difficult to successfully apply for contact after the adoption order is made and it would be best to contact FRG to get advice about what you may be able to do.