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ADOPTION: S-H v Kingston upon Hull City Council [2008] EWCA Civ 493

Date:14 MAY 2008

(Court of Appeal; Pill and Wilson LJJ and Charles J; 14 May 2008)

It would occasionally be proper for the court to grant a parent leave to apply to revoke a placement order under Adoption and Children Act 2002, notwithstanding that there was no real prospect that a court would find that it would be in the childs interests to return to live with the parents. As the judge had found, in the instant case the decline in the childs already very low weight, the emergence of a serious professional disagreement as to the optimum way forward for the child, the medical decision to suspend monitoring of the child because of concern about his current placement, and the conclusion reached by the local authority that at present the child was not susceptible to direct placement for adoption, amounted to a change in circumstances sufficient to meet the threshold for applying for revocation. However, the judge had gone on to refuse to grant leave to revoke the placement order on the basis that the authority had been acting as a reasonable parent, but that was not the correct question; the true question was whether in all the circumstances, including the mothers prospects of success in securing revocation of the placement order and the childs interests, leave should be given. The mother had a real prospect of securing revocation of the placement order in the circumstances, given that the plan for adoption had now been abandoned by the authority. A placement order should not be made merely on the basis that the long-term aim for the child was adoption; although a placement order could be made even if there was likely to be substantial difficulty and delay in finding a suitable adoptive placement, could be made, indeed, even if finding such a placement might, ultimately, not be possible, a placement order should not be made if the child was not ready to be adopted, that is currently in a condition to be adopted. In the instant case it was in the childs interests to grant leave to revoke the placement order, in order to give the court an opportunity to examine the apparent change in the childs current suitability for adoption. The judge had been correct to hold that, although under s 29(1) of the 2002 order a care order referable to a child did not have effect while a placement order was in force, a child subject to a placement order nevertheless remained the subject of a care order within Children Act 1989, s 100(2)(c), and could not be made a ward of court.