Keywords: Contested adoption – policy – Re B – Re B-S – Court of Appeal
Adoption without the consent of birth parents is a controversial area of law and policy. It is argued in this article that the law on dispensing with parental consent, in England and Wales, has been cast into doubt by a series of contradictory government policies and court judgments since 2013. The development of the law since the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 is examined, to show how the position has become incoherent through unintended consequences and mis-communications. A policy guide issued to practitioners was dubbed ‘the mythbuster’, on the premise that myths had formed about adoption law. Judges have said that the cases have been misunderstood. If myths and misunderstandings have flourished, this is the result of poor communication and mixed messages from the courts and policy makers. There is public disagreement about whether or not the law has changed, and whether adoption in England and Wales is markedly different to that in other European jurisdictions. It is concluded that families and practitioners need clarity on when adoption is to be encouraged or discouraged. Priority should then be given to supporting processes from the outset and to long-term stability in adoption and for all suitable types of alternative placements for children in care.