In the recent case of W (A Child) [2020] EWCA Civ 16the parents successfully appealed the court’s decision for refusal of permission to oppose the making of an adoption order.

A child (B) had been removed from his parents’ care in April 2017 when he was two days old. He was subsequently made subject of a placement order in March 2018 and placed with prospective adopters in November 2018. The prospective adopters made an application to adopt B in April 2019. The parents applied for permission to oppose the adopters’ application. This was refused and the Guardian appealed that decision, supported by the parents.

Under s.47 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, there are certain conditions that must be met before an adoption order can be made. The parent of a child who has been placed for adoption under a placement order can only oppose the making of an adoption order with permission from the court.

There is a two stage process when the court is considering an application for permission to oppose an adoption order. The court has to ask itself 1) whether there has been a change in circumstances, and if so 2) whether leave to oppose be should given. The court must have regard to the parent’s ultimate prospects of success in opposing the making of an adoption order and the impact on the child if leave is granted or refused, bearing in mind the child’s welfare throughout his life.

The Court of Appeal determined the decision of the judge in the lower court had been wrong and noted the following:

  • To rule out the possibility of a birth family placement for B even at this late stage was premature
  • Evidence about the emotional and psychological effect on B of a further move needed to be fully considered. 
  • By excluding the possibility of B being cared for by his parents the judge was prevented from weighing up all the matters likely to be relevant to his welfare throughout his life. 
  • The factors the judge found compelling could not be accurately evaluated on the available evidence. 
  • There was evidence of considerable change from the parents leading to the return of B’s siblings to the family home. 
  • The negative aspects of a contested adoption hearing must always be taken into account, but in the absence of specific disadvantages, they cannot be given much weight. 
  • A short delay would not be very influential when considered alongside the lifelong significance of adoption. 

The appeal was allowed and the court granted permission to the parents to oppose the making of an adoption order. This does not mean that the application for the adoption order will be unsuccessful, but that the parents will have an opportunity to put forward their case in the adoption proceedings as to why an adoption order should not be made.

The full judgment can be found here:

Lindsay Blake

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