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Adoption and Children Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 15: Placement for adoption by agencies

Subsection (1) provides that an adoption agency (except in the case of a child who is less than 6 weeks old) may only place a child for adoption with prospective adopters where the parent of the child has consented to the placement or, in the case of an adoption authority, where it has obtained a placement order. Subsection (2) provides that an adoption agency may not place a child for adoption with prospective adopters unless the agency is satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption. Where a child is placed or authorised to be placed for adoption by an adoption authority, the child is a looked after child for the purposes of the Children Order (subsection (3)).

An adoption agency may place a child who is less than 6 weeks old ("baby placement") for adoption with the voluntary agreement of the parent or guardian. Regulations made under section 9 will set out the process for obtaining this agreement. Subsection (3) applies to any such child placed by an adoption authority. When the child reaches the age of 6 weeks and adoption remains the plan, the adoption agency should obtain the consent of the parent or a placement order.

Subsection (4) provides that an adoption agency may not place a child for adoption where an application for an adoption order for that child has been made and has not been disposed of. Where the agency has already placed the child with the applicants, it may keep the child with them until the application is disposed of, but apart from that, the adoption agency may not place the child with any other prospective adopters.

Under subsection (5), placement has been given an extended meaning covering both placing a child with prospective adopters and, where the child is already placed with people for other purposes (for example with foster carers), keeping the child with them as approved prospective adopters. This is intended to reflect circumstances where a child is in a foster care placement with carers who have been dually approved as both foster carers and prospective adopters to minimise the number of moves the child may have to make. It will also be open to authority foster parents to seek formal approval as prospective adopters in respect of a child being fostered by them. If they are approved as prospective adopters and the agency keeps the child with them as prospective adopters, the placement will be an agency placement and there will be no need for them to give formal notice of intention to adopt under section 41. If the adoption agency does not approve them as prospective adopters, authority foster carers can independently give notice of intention to apply to adopt the child as a non-agency case, providing the condition in section 39(4) is met i.e. that the child has had his home with the applicants at all times during the period of one year preceding the application.

Under subsection (6) references in Chapter 3 to an adoption agency being, or not being, authorised to place a child for adoption are to the agency being, or not being, authorised to do so under section 16 (placing children with parental consent) or a placement order. This means that, where a child who is less than 6 weeks old is placed for adoption, section 22 (Parental Responsibility), for example, will not apply.

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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