11: Can I stop my children being adopted?

If you have a final care order and a placement order, this means your child is being placed for adoption. A placement order is made at the end of care proceedings alongside a care order, and this gives a Local 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 an appeal must be done very quickly after a final decision is made and must be done 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 there are merits to appealing – 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 there are 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 permission of the court will only be given if both of the following points are agreed:

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

Go through your Judgment and look at the criticisms made against you and work out which changes 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 have been abstinent for 12 months or more. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, then 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 you are willing to do what is required to support your child coming home.

Once a child is with prospective adopters, a birth parent cannot apply to appeal against or revoke the placement order so timing can be critical and means that you must at all times keep on top of where the case is, something we know is hard given the devastation of 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 application but again, this is not always granted, and you might find yourself representing yourself.

Letterbox

Letterbox contact is a form of letter writing once a year once adoption is completed and this will be through your local Adoption Team social worker. Letterbox means that you will be allowed to write once a year to the adopters and that they can write to you once a year about your child’s progress. Some adopters do include picture 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 long wish to write. There is no application that can be made to court that can force the adopted family to continue letterbox writing. 

Letterbox can be stopped at any point by the Adoption Team if you write things in the letters that they deem inappropriate, such as writing and 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 then these letters will stop. We understand how awful this process is  but try not to show your upset  in these letters in the hope of maintaining them for as long as possible.

Post adoption contact

Section 51A of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 specifically make provision for post-adoption contact orders [61]. This means that in theory you can apply to have contact one or two times a year with your child after they have been adopted. 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 the Judgement, accepted the  adoptive family and do not wish to undermine your children’s life with them.  It helps to say that you will not in any way interfere in their lives but that you think it is important for the child/ren to  know where they came from. The Court will reject any application that brings up anything you disagree with in the original Judgement, and you are best to stick with current research and its long-term effects on adoptive children as they grow. Research has shown that contact can be beneficial to adoptive children as they grow, having a sense of where they came from.

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