(Court of Appeal, Maurice Kay, Rafferty, Ryder LJJ, 1 May 2013)
The, now 4-year-old, child had been in local authority accommodation for 3 years after she was taken into police protection when she was found, aged 21 months, at home alone and in a neglected condition. She was found with a very full nappy, her clothes were soaked with urine and there was dried faeces on her body. On examination at hospital she was also found to have contact dermatitis from her soaking condition. The Latvian mother was arrested and cautioned while the child was placed in foster care pursuant to s 20 of the Children Act 1989.
Care proceedings were issued and although the mother's assessment at a family centre was positive the child was found to have significant delays in all aspects of her development. The local authority care plan was for adoption but the mother sought further assessment with a view to the child being rehabilitated to her care or that of her sister.
The local authority care plan was approved and the mother's appeal dismissed. However, permission to appeal was granted on the issue of whether it was legally permissible for the local authority to present the case to the adoption panel and issue an application for a placement for adoption order where the child was not subject to an interim care order but was placed by virtue of s 20 of the Children Act 1989.
Where the local authority provided accommodation for a child and considered that the threshold conditions were met it had to apply to the court for a placement order. There was no suggestion in the statutory scheme that looked after children who were accommodated but not subject to an interim or final care order were to be excluded from the placement order decision-making process. The local authority was obliged to obtain a decision from the adoption agency decision maker and that required a recommendation by the adoption panel. There could be no criticism of the local authority that they asked the panel for a recommendation which led to a decision and application for a placement order.
The appeal was dismissed. The local authority referral to the adoption panel was lawful, the procedural requirements had been complied with and, therefore, the court had jurisdiction to consider the placement applications.