Section 11: Can I stop my children being adopted?

If you have a final care order and a placement order, your child will be placed for adoption. A placement order is made at the end of care proceedings alongside a care order, and this gives a ocal authority permission to place a child with prospective adopters. For some children that process is quick, especially if the child is a baby, but for others the process can take much longer. Your child will stay in foster care while waiting to be placed with prospective adopters (unless that has already happened during the proceedings).

You have the right to appeal the judge’s decision. But you must appeal very quickly after the court’s made its final decision, and you must do it on the basis that the judge got something wrong, such as: they got the law wrong, they didn’t balance the evidence correctly, or they made a decision that other judges wouldn’t agree with. You first must request permission to appeal and be able to show you have justified arguments.

To get legal aid for an appeal, your lawyer must agree that your appeal has merits – if they don’t agree you can’t get legal aid. All of this must be done within 21 days of your final hearing. If your lawyer does not agree your appeal has merits, you may still file your request for permission to appeal but you do need to find legal arguments not just that you do not agree with the judge. Only if permission to appeal is granted will you be allowed a hearing to appeal your case.

Parents can also apply for leave to revoke a placement order under Section 24 of the Adoption and Children’s Act 2002[36] To revoke a placement order you must have the permission of the court and this will only be given if both of the following points are agreed:

  • Your child has not yet been placed for adoption.
  • You can show a ‘change of circumstances’ since the placement order was made.

Go through the judgment carefully looking at the criticisms made against you, work out which changes of circumstances have happened which you have evidence for, and collect your evidence together.

For example: If an expert recommended a certain period of therapy, you must have completed that. If you were found to be addicted to drugs or alcohol, you must show that you have been abstinent for 12 months or more. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, complete the Freedom Programme or other similar courses. If your “basic parenting” skills were judged to be lacking, show that you have completed parenting courses. Don’t wait to be offered these courses, go and actively look for them yourself so that you can show the judge that you are willing to do what is required to support your child coming home. This doesn’t always work as some judges are biased in favour of adoption and not interested in returning children to their mothers. But others do want to keep children with their mother so give it all you’ve got.

Once a child is with prospective adopters, a birth parent cannot apply to appeal against or revoke the placement order so timing is critical. You must at all times keep on top of where the case is –we know this is very hard given the devastation of a forced adoption.

After a child has been with prospective adopters for some time, they will apply for an adoption order. When this application is made, both birth parents will be informed. At this point you have an opportunity to ask the court to consider that you have made sufficient changes to prevent the adoption order being made. You do not have an automatic right to oppose an adoption order and you have to ask permission to do so from the judge under Section 47 (7) of the Adoption and Children’s Act 2002 (ADD ENDNOTE). That permission is rarely granted because the judge has to first consider what changes have occurred. If permission is given to appeal, then you can apply for means and merit legal aid but again, this is not always granted, and you might find yourself representing yourself.

Letterbox contact

Once the adoption is completed, you will be allowed to write to your child’s adopters once a year through your local Adoption Team social worker, and that they can write to you once a year about your child’s progress. This is called “letterbox contact”. Some adopters do include pictures but with the rise in social media this is happening less so that children cannot be traced by photos. Sadly, these letters rarely continue after the first few years and there is nothing you can do if the family no longer wish to write. There is no application that can be made to the court to force the adopted family to continue letterbox writing. 

Letterbox can be stopped at any point by the Adoption Team if you write anything in the letters that they deem inappropriate, such as saying that everything is a lie or that the child has been stolen and you will get them home. Remember that the children rarely see these letters till they are in their teens and if you write things that the adopters feel unhappy about they have the power to stop the letterbox contact. This process is terribly painful but many mothers and grandmothers try to keep in touch in this way in the hope of getting some news of how their child is doing and that once the child becomes an adult they will see each other again.

Post adoption contact

Section 51A of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 specifically make provision for post-adoption contact orders.[61] In theory you can apply to have contact with your child one or two times a year after they have been adopted. But while this provision is clearly stated in law, we do know that it is very difficult to succeed in getting post adoption contact.

If you are considering applying for post adoption contact, it is important to show the court that you have accepted their judgement and the adoptive family, and that you do not wish to undermine your children’s life with them. It helps to say that you will not interfere in the children’s lives but that you think it is important for them to know where they came from. The court will reject any application that brings up anything you disagree with in the original judgement, so you are best to stick with current research that shows the long-term effects of adoption on children. Such research has shown that contact with the birth family which helps adoptive children understand their roots can be beneficial to them as they grow.

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