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Adoption and Children Act 2002

Placement for adoption

8.The Act changes the process of adoption itself. The Government believes that the needs and welfare of children should be at the centre of the adoption process. The Act makes the welfare of the child the paramount consideration for courts and adoption agencies in all decisions relating to adoption, including in deciding whether to dispense with a birth parent’s consent to adoption. It provides a welfare checklist which must be applied by the court and adoption agencies. The paramountcy test brings adoption legislation into line with the Children Act 1989.

9.The Act establishes new legal processes for placing a child for adoption through an adoption agency. Two routes are provided: birth parents may give consent to placement or a local authority may secure a placement order from the court, authorising it to place a child with adopters whom they select. A local authority must apply for a placement order where it is satisfied that a child should be adopted, but the parents do not consent to placement or have withdrawn such consent. The placement provisions build on and implement the recommendations of the Review of Adoption Law (see paragraph 4).

10.The intention is to ensure that decisions about whether adoption is the right option for the child, whether the birth parents consent and, if not, whether parental consent should be dispensed with are taken earlier in the adoption process than at present, with court involvement where necessary. The system aims to provide greater certainty and stability for children by dealing as far as possible with consent to placement for adoption before they have been placed; to minimise the uncertainty for prospective adopters, who possibly face a contested court hearing at the adoption order stage; and to reduce the extent to which birth families are faced with a ‘fait accompli’ at the final adoption hearing.

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