Many Adoption Orders are made after the intervention of a Local Authority but not every adoption is a result of this.
A biological parent can give their consent for the child to be adopted, however, there are a number of safeguarding practices that will ensure the parent is giving this consent in an informed and considered way.
Our family lawyers regularly deal with straightforward matters, such as stepparents adopting their stepchildren through to the most complicated and contentious cases.
There are two types of Adoption proceedings where a guardian can be appointed;
1: Where the child was placed for adoption by an Adoption Agency – normally a Local Authority.
2: Non-Agency adoptions such as partner adoptions, adoptions by relatives or foster carers and others where the child was not placed for adoption by an Agency.
Before an order can be made, the Court must be satisfied that each parent or guardian consents to the adoption or that their consent should be disregarded.
They must be happy that the child or young person is free for adoption or satisfied that they have been placed for adoption by a Local Authority with the prospective Adopters either with the consent of each parent or guardian when the child was at least 6 weeks old or a Placement Order has been made no parent or guardian has been given leave to oppose an Adoption Order.
The Court can only make an order where it considers that doing so is better for the child than not doing so.
Consent in Local Authority Adoptions
If a Placement Order has been made parents and Guardians will only be able to oppose the making of an Adoption Order if the Court allows them to. Permission will only be granted if the Court is satisfied that there has been a change in circumstances and that giving permission is in the interests of the child.
Dispensing with Consent
In a case where relevant permission has been given by the Court but the parents do not consent, the prospective Adopters must ask the Court to dispense with parental consent on one of the following grounds
- the parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent or
- the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with
It is for the Applicant to establish that the grounds for dispensing with consent have been established.
Where the Adoption is contested the Children’s Guardian’s advice to the Court as to whether the welfare of the child demands that parental consent be dispensed with is a crucial issue and safeguard for the child.
A Special Guardianship Order (“SGO”) is an Order appointing one or more individuals to be a child’s Special Guardian.
In general terms, it is intended for those children who cannot live with their birth parents but are considered to be in need of a legally secure placement.
Special Guardianship is more secure than a Residence Order because a parent cannot apply to discharge it without permission of the Court but less secure than Adoption because it does not end the legal relationship between a child and the birth parents.
Who can be a Special Guardian?
You cannot be a Special Guardian of your own child but anyone who is over 18 years of age and meets the following criteria can be
- any Guardian of the child
- any individual who has a Residence Order or any person where a Residence Order is in force and who has the consent of the person in whose favour the Residence Order was made
- anyone with whom the child has lived for at least 3 out of the last 5 years
- anyone with the consent of the Local Authority if the child is in Care
- a Local Authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for at least 1 year prior to the Application
- anyone who has the consent of those with parental responsibility
- anyone who has permission from the Court
Adoption and Special Guardianship are complex issues that arise at a time that is often emotionally fraught for all those involved.
If you need advice on this or any other aspect of the law relating to caring for children, we have a dedicated team specialising in all areas of Children Law at our offices in Liverpool and Southport.