Frequently asked questions for fathers
Fathers and adoption
I have just found out that the local authority plan to place my children for adoption. I do not have parental responsibility. What can I do?
It is very important that you get involved as quickly as possible. You need to write to the local authority setting out what you think should happen to your children. You should be clear whether or not your children could live with you, and state what kind of contact you would have like to have with them in the future. Keep a copy of the letter.
Because you don't have parental responsibility the local authority can place your children for adoption without your agreement. However, they should be in touch with you to find out you views on what should happen and see if anyone in your wider family could care for them instead. Sometimes adoptions do go ahead without them doing this. So you should also apply for parental responsibility as a matter of urgency. The quickest way to do this is to make an application for a parental responsibility under s.4 Children Act. To do this you either need to see a specialist childcare solicitor as soon as possible or you need to contact the court office and ask them for the relevant form to complete.
I have just found out that a Placement Order has been made and the local authority plan to place my children with adopters soon. What can I do?
You can only apply to revoke (cancel) the Placement Order BEFORE your children are placed with the people who want to adopt them. This means you may need to act urgently to work out if you have a case and apply. You can apply whether or not you have parental responsibility, but you will need to ask the court for permission to apply. This permission can only be given it if your children have not yet been placed for adoption and you prove there has been a change in circumstances since the Placement Order was made.
You should take urgent legal advice if you are in this situation. You should also ask your adviser or solicitor to help you telling Children’s Services or the adoption agency about your application so as to avoid any risk of this suddenly triggering the social worker to place your children for adoption.
I have just found out that the local authority has already placed my children for adoption and no-one told me. What can I do? Can I stop the adoption?
If your child has already been placed for adoption it will be very difficult to get them back, and the adoption may go ahead without your agreement or you being involved. This can happen even if you have parental responsibility.
However, you still need to try to get parental responsibility urgently if you want to be sure you know of any adoption order application and have a chance of being involved in the adoption order hearing. The quickest way to do this is to make an application for a parental responsibility order under s4. Children Act. To do this you either need to see a specialist childcare solicitor as soon as possible or you need to contact the court office and ask them for the relevant form to complete.
I have just got parental responsibility. Can I remove my children from the prospective adopters where they have been placed?
No. What you should do next depends on whether or not your children's mother agreed for the children to be placed for adoption:
- If the mother agreed to your children being placed for adoption and the local authority did not go to court, then once you have parental responsibility, you can ask the adoption agency to arrange for your children to be returned. If they do not think this is in your children's best interests then they can apply to the court for a placement order which will give them the right not to return your children to you. You would therefore not be able to remove them.
- If the mother did not agree to your children being placed for adoption but the court made a placement order giving the local authority permission to place your children with prospective adopters without either of your agreement, your children cannot be returned unless the court revokes the placement order. But you can only apply for this to be revoked if your children have not yet been placed for adoption. Whether or not the court agrees to revoke the placement order will depend on what the court considers to be in your children's best interest.
Will I be involved in the adoption proceedings?
If you get parental responsibility you will be party to (involved in) any adoption application that is issued by the court. However, you will not be able to oppose the adoption unless the court gives you permission to do so and you will need to show a change in circumstances to be granted this permission. You could argue the fact that you have just acquired parental responsibility is a change in circumstances. However, even if you are given permission to oppose the adoption and you put forward good arguments against it, the court still has the power to make the adoption order even without your agreement if it considers this to be in your children's best interests.
My daughter is going to be adopted. Can I still see her?
It may be possible for some kind of contact to be maintained between you and your daughter. However, any such arrangement will probably be in the form of indirect contact i.e. exchange of letters/photos. It is rare though not unheard of for children to still see their birth parents once they live with adopters.
Whenever the court makes an order authorising a child to be placed for adoption or an adoption order it must consider what contact arrangements have been made for the child to see members of his/her family where this is in her/his best interests.
However, although it must consider contact, it does not have to order it and case law says the court should not make a contact order unless the adopters agree to it.
It is therefore important to try to build and maintain good quality regular contact with your daughter, including at the end of care proceedings. You should also consider asking the court to make a contact order at the end of care proceedings, even if contact is agreed. It contact is included in your daughter's care plan, as being in her best interests, it will help social workers remember to seek adopters who are willing to agree to you seeing her.
If you want to arrange to see your daughter after the adoption or placement for adoption, the best place to start is to ask the social worker if you can have some contact with your daughter. S/he can then consider agreement to get in touch with the adopters and ask them what they think. It is important to reassure the adopters that by asking for contact you do not want to disrupt your daughter's home with them, but rather that you want to establish links, so she knows she can get in touch with you, if she wants, when she is older. You can ask the social worker to pass on this message to them or you could write to them saying this.
A key factor which can influence whether or not contact arrangements take place after a placement order or adoption order is made, is whether you can accept in time that she has gone to live with a new family permanently and you can conduct yourself in such a way this is not going to disrupt the placement. This means, for example, not writing things in the letter which might undermine her life with the adopters.
Are contact agreements reached outside court legally binding?
Although the court has the power to make a contact order setting out what these arrangements are to be, frequently arrangements are reached outside court. Although these are not legally binding (if the adopters later changed their minds) it is helpful if the agreement has been noted in the ‘preamble’ (introduction) to the adoption order. Everyone can then refer back to this for clarity about what arrangements should take place if they have broken down.
Can the court order contact if the adopters don't agree to it?
If you cannot reach agreement about contact, it is technically possible for you to make an application to court for a contact order before the adoption order has been made. If your daughter has already been adopted you can only make this application if the court gives you permission ('leave') and you can show your daughter will not be disrupted by the application being made.
However, in either situation the court will not make a contact order unless:
- there are compelling reasons as to why this will benefit your child; and
- the adopters agree to it.
For further information on open adoption, read here.