(Family Division, Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, 6 March 2017)
Public law children – Adoption – Appeals from care and placement orders – Permission to oppose – Whether a child arrangements or an adoption order should be made
The President made an adoption order.
Care proceedings in relation to the child, born in 2012, were initiated and culminated in care and placement orders being made in 2013. She was placed with prospective adopters while her three half siblings remained with their father under a supervision order.
The father’s applications to appeal out of time and oppose the making of an adoption order were initially rejected but his second appeal from the refusal to permit him to oppose the adoption order was allowed and a re-hearing took place in 2014. Subsequently the father’s appeal from the care and placement orders was allowed on the basis of the inadequacy of the judge’s analysis and reasoning. The matter was to be reheard.
During the rehearing in 2015 the local authority altered its position insofar as it was no longer seeking public law orders. The court was left to decide between an adoption order or a child arrangements order in favour of the father. The judge determined that the child should be reunited with her birth family. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and found that the proceedings had been sufficiently flawed and that the issue needed to be heard by a different judge.
The President had to determine the local authority’s application for permission to withdraw the care proceedings and the application for an adoption order.
The President held that since the continuation of the public law proceedings had no useful purpose or benefit to the child, leave should be given to the local authority to withdraw the proceedings.
In respect of the adoption application the President set out the appropriate principles to be applied and held that there were considerably more risks and uncertainties in the child moving from the adoptive placement to her birth placement than leaving her where she was. If she were removed at this point there was a high probability of immediate and significant levels of distress and trauma. The child did not have a meaningful relationship with her birth family and notwithstanding the excellent care and commitment offered by the father, it would almost be too much for any parent in his situation. The child’s welfare necessitated that she remained with the adopters. It was in her best interests for an adoption order to be made.Although the experts agreed that direct contact with her birth family would safeguard the child’s long-term psychological welfare, the President declined to make an order and left it to the adopters, as the parents, to decide how and when it should take place.