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Impact of Court Judgments on Adoption. What the judgments do and do not say.

1. Over recent years we have seen more children finding permanent and loving homes through a more timely adoption system.

2. But in the last 12 months we have witnessed a significant reduction in the number of placement orders made and in the number of decisions made by local authorities to pursue care plans for adoption. These changes risk reversing the substantial progress made.

3. The national Adoption Leadership Board, Family Justice Board, and the Department for Education have heard regularly that these changes are a response to a number of high profile court judgments on care and adoption order cases, notably Re B and Re B-S1. Some of this feedback suggests a degree of misinterpretation of these judgments. This appears to have resulted in inaccurate assumptions being made about the judgments which, in reality, do not alter the legal basis for the making of care and placement orders.

4. In response, the Adoption Leadership Board has developed this short guide with support from an experienced Queen’s Counsel to clarify the meaning of the key court judgments.

5. The principal messages from the guide are:

The judgments do not 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 options. This does not mean every possible option. The judgment in Re B-S clearly states that the “evidence must address all the options which are realistically possible”.
Where such analysis has been carried out and the local authority is satisfied that adoption is the option required in order to meet the best interests of the child, it should be confident in presenting the case to court with a care plan for adoption. Read more here

1 A summary of the key cases is provided in the Annex.

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