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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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What is the effect of a placement order?

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.

Condition 1:


Condition 2:

  • 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.
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