What is the effect of a placement order?
3 minute read
A placement order gives an adoption agency (often children’s services) permission to formally arrange for a child to live with people approved as prospective adopters. They can do this even the child’s parents do not agree. Then, once the child has been living with the prospective adopters for at least 10 weeks, the prospective adopters can apply for an adoption order. For more information about this next stage, see our FAQs about Adoption orders.
The Family Court can only make a placement order if two conditions are met.
- The child is subject to a care order
- The threshold criteria in section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989 are met, or
- The child has no parent or guardian.
- Each parent with parental responsibility for the child has agreed to the child being placed for adoption with any prospective adopters, or
- The court has decided the parents’ agreement should be dispensed with.
The Court can dispense with the parents’ consent in any of the following apply:
- The parents cannot be found
- The parents are incapable of giving consent
- The child’s welfare requires their consent to be dispensed with. This means that the court can decide that a child can be placed for adoption even if their parents do not agree.
Even if the conditions are met, the court must then look at:
- What is best for the child’s welfare (known as the welfare principle). Section 1 (2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 says that the best interests of the child throughout his or her life are the most important consideration for the court
- Section 1 (4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 then says that the court must go through the welfare checklist. This means that the court must consider:
- The child’s wishes, background, age, sex, personal characteristics and needs
- Any harm the child has suffered or is likely to suffer
- The likely effect on the child of ceasing to be a member of their birth family, and becoming a member of the adoptive family
- The relationship the child has with the rest of their birth family. This includes the benefit to the child of these relationships continuing in the future. But also the ability and willingness of anyone in the birth family being able to provide a secure home for the child.
- The court must not make a placement order unless it has considered all of its powers. And can conclude placement for adoption is in the child’s best interests (see section 1 (6) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002)
- Contact arrangements. Once a placement order is made, any previous orders for contact cease to have effect (see sections 26 (1) and 27 (4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002). So, before making the placement order, the court must also consider any contact arrangement that would benefit the child. For more information about this, see our advice sheet about Post-adoption contact.