At AFG LAW our placement order solicitors regularly represent parents who are facing placement orders being made in relation to their children. We understand that finding out the social worker’s plan is adoption is heart-breaking for parents and it is important you feel supported and have expert legal advice. Many of our lawyers are children’s law accredited specialist solicitors, and we also have Higher Rights Advocates. We have tried to answer some of the common questions we get asked below, but if you want to speak to one of our friendly solicitors about a placement order, contact us today on 01204 377600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal aid is available for parents who are facing placement orders being made about their children. Our placement order solicitors can help you apply for legal aid to ensure you are represented.
What is a placement order?
A placement order is a court order made by a Family Court Judge which says a local authority can place a child for adoption with prospective adopters that have passed all the checks and are a suitable match for the child. It does not mean that a child has been adopted but that the local authority can start to make plans for the child to be adopted and can ‘place’ a child with the people wanting to adopt the child.
When can a court make a placement order?
This can be really difficult A local authority will apply for a placement order when they believe that a child needs to be adopted as there are no other options and the child is at risk of significant harm. We have talked about ‘threshold’ here. Sometimes parents consent to adoption but, if they don’t agree to their child being adopted or they have withdrawn their consent, the local authority will need a placement order from a judge before the local authority can plan for adoption. A placement order would also be needed if there is no living parent or guardian who can give consent.
The court cannot make a placement order unless; a care order has been made about the child; the court is satisfied that the ‘threshold’ conditions used when making a care order are met or if the child doesn’t have a parent or Guardian.
The judge can only make a placement order if they are satisfied that each parent consents to their child being placed for adoption, the parent’s consent should be ‘dispensed’ with because the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with, or the parent cannot be found or cannot give consent. The judge also has to decide that making a placement order is better for the child than not making a placement order.
When a judge is asked to make a placement order, they will look very carefully at the child’s welfare throughout their life. There are different factors the court has to look at, and these are called the welfare checklist. The welfare checklist includes:
- The child’s ascertainable wishes and feelings regarding the decision (considered in light of his or her age and understanding).
- The child’s particular needs
- The likely effect on the child (throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and becoming an adopted person
- The child’s age, sex, background and any of the child’s characteristic that the court or agency consider relevant.
- Any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering
- The relationship the child has with relatives, prospective adopters and any other person the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including-
- The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child of it doing so,
- The ability and willingness of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise meet the child’s needs,
- The wishes and feelings of any of the child’s relatives, or of any such person, regarding the child
We know that this list is complicated; our placement order solicitors can explain it to you and how it will affect your individual circumstances. Contact us today for an initial chat on 01204 377600 or email email@example.com
The judge doesn’t just have to consider the welfare checklist but must also think about the different alternatives available.
The local authority usually makes applications for placement orders towards the end of the care proceedings if their assessments of the parents, family members and friends are negative and there is no one else who could take the child. The hearing for the placement order will usually take place at the same time as the final hearing in the care proceedings.
Do I still have parental responsibility for my child if a placement order is made?
When a placement order is made, the local authority, who you might hear called the Adoption Agency, get parental responsibility for the child. The local authority also has the power to restrict the parental responsibility of the child’s parents.
Once a child has been ‘placed’ with potential adopters, they also get parental responsibility for the child. This means when a child is placed with potential adopters, the local authority, potential adopters and the birth parents will all hold parental responsibility; however, the local authority has the power to restrict how the others can use their parental responsibility.
I’m not on the birth certificate but I’m the dad. Can I still take part in the placement order proceedings for my child?
Fathers who are not on the birth certificate or married to the mother don’t automatically get parental responsibility for their children.
Fathers are not automatically a party to the proceedings, but the social worker should take steps to find you and give you notice of the placement order proceedings. If this has happened to you contact our placement order solicitors straightaway and we can discuss the process and apply for you to be able to take part in the proceedings. If you were already a party in your child’s care proceedings, you will be a party in the placement order proceedings.
How long does a placement order last?
A placement order will continue until a child is adopted, reaches the age of 18 or if the order is ‘revoked’ by a Judge.
What if a placement order has been made but a placement cannot be found for a child?
If a placement order has been made the local authority can’t delay trying to find an adoptive home for the child. There is an expectation that if a local authority haven’t found an adoptive placement for a child within 9 months from the date of the order, they should consider making an application to revoke the placement order.
Can I stop a placement order?
Once a placement order has been made, it is possible to make an application to remove the order; this is known as an application to revoke a placement order. Any person can apply to revoke a placement order, but if you are not the local authority or the child, you will have to apply for permission from the Judge to be able to make the application. This permission is often called ‘leave’, and the application is called leave to apply to revoke a placement order. It is also important that any application for leave to revoke a placement order is made before the child is ‘placed’ with the prospective adoptive family; otherwise, it is too late to make this type of application.
The court cannot give permission to apply to revoke a placement order unless it is satisfied that there has been a change in circumstances since the placement order was made.
What court order will be made about my child if the placement order is revoked?
If your child was subject to a care order when the placement order was made the care order will be reactivated.
What is the difference between a placement order and an adoption order?
Before a child can be adopted the local authority have to apply for a placement order. If your child is involved in care proceedings, and the permanence plan for a child is for them to be adopted, the placement order will be applied for at the same time as the final care order. The placement order allows a local authority to find an adoptive family for a child and place the child with the potential adopters. The adoption order gives full parental responsibility to the adoptive parents and takes away everyone else’s parental responsibility. It makes the adoptive parents the child’s legal parents throughout life.
It is also important to remember that care proceedings are not adoption proceedings. The normal pathway for most children that are going to be adopted is:
- A final care order is made by a Judge who has endorsed the local authority plan for adoption
- A placement order gives permission for the local authority to place the child for adoption
- An adoption order after the child has been living with their adoptive family for at least 10 weeks. Adoption is permanent, and all other people who hold parental responsibility lose it and only the adoptive parents will have parental responsibility.
I have heard my child has been placed so it is too late to apply for leave to revoke the placement order. What can I do?
If your child has been placed with a potential adoptive family, it is too late to apply for permission to revoke a placement order and instead you may need to consider making an application for permission to oppose the adoption order. It is important you seek legal advice in relation to this quickly. Our care solicitors can give you advice about making an application for leave to oppose an adoption order. We have provided some information here but feel free to contact our adoption solicitors on 01204 377600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We have also accredited members of The Law Society’s Children Law Accreditation Scheme.
Contact AFG Law
If you have further questions regarding placement orders or if you require legal advice about a placement order, please call 01204 377 600 and speak with AFG LAW’s expert family law team who can help.