Social services want my child to be adopted. What can I do? 

From March 2023, the Legal Aid Agency can provide public funding to parents trying to prevent  their children being permanently removed from their care, known as adoption, without it being necessary to assess their financial circumstances.  This is called non-means tested legal aid. The only requirement for Legal Aid is that there has been a ‘change of circumstances’ since the children were permanently removed from their parents’ care. The Court has suggested that the test for change should not be set so high that it discourages parents from making positive changes and improvements to their lives.

Before a child can be adopted, the following orders need to have first been made:

  1. A Care Order which allows Social Services to decide where your child should live.
  2. A Placement Order which gives permission to ‘place’ your child with a person who will care for them.
  3. An Adoption Order. The prospective adoptive carer must apply for this no sooner than 10 weeks after the child is placed in their care. If granted this order confirms that the adoptive carers are the new legal carers for the child. This order if granted will mean that the birth parents no longer have parental responsibility for the child. It is the final order in terms of the child’s adoption.

If as a parent, you were previously involved in care proceedings which concluded with a decision that your child should be permanently removed from your care, and a placement order was made, you may still have an opportunity to challenge an application for your child to be adopted.  If you have worked hard to demonstrate you have made positive changes, and if you feel that the concerns that social services had about you when the care order was made, are no longer as serious an issue, you should not hesitate to contact a MSB who will be able to assist you.

Social Services will have been searching for potential adoptive placements for the child since the care and placement orders were made. Once your child is ‘placed’ with the prospective adopters, after a 10-week settling in period, the prospective adopters can make an application to Court to formally adopt the child. The biological parent should then receive a Court Order confirming this application has been made. Once you receive this, you must notify the Court that you wish to oppose the adoption. It is recommended that you immediately contact a Solicitor and ask for legal advice, as there is now an increased chance of you securing Legal Aid, and therefore legal advice and representation. This will be your last opportunity to provide reasons and evidence to the Court that it is not in your child’s best interest to be adopted.

If it is felt your application to seek permission to oppose the adoption has merit, your solicitor  will apply for legal aid on your behalf and help you notify the court that you intend to oppose the adoption application. A parent must first be granted the Court’s permission to oppose the adoption application, and this is called ‘”leave of the court to  oppose adoption”

Whether leave( permission)  of the Court is granted is based on a two-stage test. The test is as follows:

  1. Has there been a change of circumstances?
  2. If there has been a change of circumstances, should leave to oppose be given. To determine this, the Court will look at a welfare evaluation in respect of the child. The Court must take into account all the negatives and positives of removing the child from the prospective adopter’s care or going ahead with the adoption.

The Court will try to deal with the matter as swiftly as possible as there is a presumption that a delay will have a negative impact upon the child who requires certainty about their future at the earliest opportunity.

At MSB we believe it is very important that all parents are given a fair opportunity to participate in Court hearings involving their children. The fact that legal aid eligibility has recently changed to make legal aid more readily available for parents in adoption cases is a positive move, giving parents the opportunity to demonstrate that they have made positive changes for the benefit of their children.

Even in cases where leave to oppose the adoption application is not granted, parents who engage in this process often feel that they have done all that they could to demonstrate to the children that they have tried their best, and this is likely to be important for the child’s identity moving forward.

If you require any further information,  please contact Amelia Thompson on 0151 281 9040.

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