(Court of Appeal, Laws, McFarlane, Gloster LJJ, 13 December 2013)
During care proceedings in relation to five children the parents accepted that care orders needed to be made and accepted the care plan for the older three children to be placed in long-term foster placements. The court, therefore, had to determine the best outcome for the younger two children.
The judge held that adoption would be in the best interests of the children if prospective adopters could be found who agreed to sibling contact at least twice a year. However, if such adopters could not be found then adoption would not be in the interests of the children. Care and placement orders were granted with a list of attributes required for prospective adopters including as well as willingness to promote sibling contact, that they be energetic, with no children of their own, no attachment issues and fully appraised of the children's background.
The local authority appealed the imposition of conditions upon any adoption while the mother cross-appealed on the basis that if the local authority was successful the placement orders would be set aside.
The judge's approach was child focused and could not be faulted. However, the addition of the specific conditions fell well beyond the boundary separating the role of the court and that of the local authority.
Based upon the findings of the judge the test in s 52(1) of the 2002 Act had not been met and therefore, the judge did not have jurisdiction to make placement for adoption orders. The cross appeal of the mother was allowed. The two younger children would still remain subject to final care orders but the placement orders would be set aside. A contact order would be put in place in the same terms as that proposed by the local authority in the event of adoption.