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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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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). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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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.

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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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Advice for fathers were there is a plan for adoption

This page looks at some questions fathers may have if children’s services or the Family Court think their child should be adopted.

But to understand more about adoption see our Adoption pages. And if adoption is being raised as a plan for your child as part of the options looked at during care proceedings see our Care proceedings page.

When may children’s services consider a plan of adoption for a child?

1. Within care proceedings

If children’s services have good reason (‘reasonable grounds’) to believe a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer significant harm, they may start care proceedings. This is the process of applying to the Family Court for a care order or supervision order.

Assessment work done before or during care proceedings might have concluded that it is not in the child’s best interests to remain with their parents. And if no one in a child’s wider family and friends’ network can care safely for them, children’s services may propose a final care plan for adoption.

See our Care proceedings page for more information about the processes children’s services must follow before adoption may be considered as an option for a child.

2. Where parents agree to their child being adopted

Adoption may be also be an option for a child if a parent is in the position where they agree to their child being adopted.

For more detailed information see When might children’s services consider adoption? on our Adoption page.

Any father who thinks there is a plan of adoption for his child should urgently take legal advice from a solicitor who is a specialist in children law. Or who has Children Law Accreditation.

To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. See our Working with a solicitor guide on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor.

What should happen before a plan of adoption is pursued for a child?

If a child cannot be safely raised by their parents and adoption may be a possible plan for a child, children’s services should do four main things.

These are:

  1. Explore and assess options for the child to be raised by someone from within their wider family and friends’ network
  2. Provide parents and other family members with information, counselling, and support
  3. Find out parents’ wishes and feeling regarding the proposed adoption
  4. Make sure any plan for adoption is approved by a senior person in children’s services

If a father thinks there is anyone in his family or friends’ network who might be a suitable carer, he should tell his solicitor and the social worker straight away.

If a father thinks there is anyone in his family or friends’ network who might be a suitable carer, he should tell his solicitor and the social worker straight away.

Government statutory guidance called Volume 1 Children Act 1989: Court orders and pre -proceedings says children’s services should consider making a referral for an FGC ‘if they believe there is a possibility that the child may not be able to remain with their parents… unless this would place the child at risk.’

So, if a family group conference has not been suggested, a father can request one. And can remind children’s services of what that government guidance says.

See our Family group conference: advice for families page for more information.

For more information about this see When looking at whether adoption is the best plan for a child, what must children’s services do? on our Adoption page.

When does a child become legally adopted and when can this happen?

Adoption is very serious step. When the Family Court makes an adoption order, a child becomes part of a new adoptive family. This means they will no longer be legally related to the birth parents or their family.  And all parental rights pass over to the adopter(s) (see section 46 (2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002).

A court will only make an adoption order if it thinks this is what is best for the child. This should only happen if the child cannot be safely raised within their family and friends’ network.

The court has the power to order adoption even if the child’s parents do not agree.

When does a child move to live with their adopters?

Before an adoption order can be made, an adoption agency need to formally arrange for the child to live with people approved as prospective adopters. This called placing a child for adoption. Or placement for adoption. And it should only happen if the child cannot be safely raised by their birth parent(s) or within their wider family and friends’ network.

A child can only be placed for adoption if:

What exactly is 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.

Condition 1:

Either:

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.

See What is the effect of a placement order? on our Adoption page for further information.

Will a father with parental responsibility be told if children’s services have made an application for a placement order?

A placement order will often be made at the final hearing in care proceedings, at the same time as a care order. This is because a care plan for adoption can only be put into cation if children’s services have the court’s permission to place the child with prospective adopters.

Sometimes placement order proceedings happen separately. But this is usually soon after the care proceedings have ended. And only if in the care proceedings the Family Court decided a plan of adoption was best for the child. And a care order was made.

If a father has parental responsibility, he must be told about the application for a placement order. He will automatically be a party to the placement proceedings (see Rule 14.3 of the Family Procedure Rules). This should always happen unless the Family Court has told children’s services, they don’t need to let the father know.

What if a father does not have parental responsibility? Will he know about a placement order application?

If a father does not have parental responsibility but has been a party to the care proceedings about the child, then he will automatically be involved in the placement proceedings as a party (see Rule 14.3 of the Family Procedure Rules).

Where a father does not have parental responsibility, but children’s services know who he is they must take steps to trace him.  This is so his views about adoption can be gathered. And so, he can be given notice of the placement order proceedings.

A placement order has been made and children’s services plan to place the children with adopters soon. Can a father stop this from happening?

If a parent can demonstrate a change in circumstances since the placement order was made, they may be able to apply for the order to be revoked. Revoking an order means to end it.

The Court of Appeal has said that that the change in circumstances must be ‘sufficient to justify reopening the issue’ (see the case of Re P (Adoption: Leave Provisions) [2007] EWCA Civ 616, [2007] 2 FCR 407, [2007] 2 FLR 1069).

The change can relate to either:

  • A parents situation;
  • The child’s situation’ or
  • The child’s placement.

Fathers needing more information and advice about challenging a placement order can:

  • Read our Adoption: challenging placement orders advice sheet
  • Post a question on our Parents Forum and receive advice from one of Family Rights Group’s expert advisers
  • If needing further or more detailed advice, call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).
  • Take legal advice from a solicitor. Find a solicitor who is a specialist in children law. Or who has Children Law Accreditation. To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. See our Working with a solicitor guide on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor.

Can a father stop an adoption order being made?

Where a child has been placed for adoption and there is then an application made for an adoption order a father with parental responsibility will:

  • Be sent a notice from the Family Court telling him that an application for an adoption order has been made
  • Be actively oppose the making of tan adoption order only if the Family Court gives him permission to do this (see section 47(5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002).

To get permission to oppose the adoption order, he will need to show two things:

  1. There has been significant change in circumstances since the time the placement order was made, and
  2. Keeping the child’s welfare as the paramount consideration (top issue), he might be successful in the end, in opposing an adoption order being made.

A father who wants to oppose the making of an adoption order:

  • Should take legal advice from a solicitor. Find a solicitor who is a specialist in children law. Or who has Children Law Accreditation. To find a solicitor, search using the ‘how to find a solicitor’ function on the Law Society website. See our Working with a solicitor guide on our Top tips and templates page for more information about finding and working with a solicitor. Read our advice sheet on Challenging adoption orders
  • Can post a question on our Parents Forum and receive advice from one of Family Rights Group’s expert advisers, and if needing further or more detailed advice
  • Call Family Rights Group’s specialist legal and practice advice line on 0808 801 0366 (the advice line is open Monday to Friday, from 9.30 am to 3 pm excluding bank holidays).

Will a father still see his child after a placement order has been made?

The arrangements about who a child stays in touch with or sees are often called contact arrangements.

There is no duty children’s services to allow reasonable contact between the parents and the child once a placement order has been made. If a contact order has been in place before, this will no longer apply. This is because the placement order brings that contact order to an end.

But a child may continue to have face to face contact with their parents and other family members after a placement order is made.

But:

  • This may be at a reduced level
  • This may gradually reduce as the time for the child to move to be introduced to and live with the prospective adopters’ approaches
  • Often, direct contact will end ahead of child moving to live with prospective adopters.

What is in place will depend on what arrangements for contact the Family Court approved at the end of the care and placement order proceedings. And the arrangements should be included in the child’s final care plan.

At the time the placement order is made, the Family Court can make a contact order. This is an order requiring prospective adopter to allow the parent to have ongoing contact with the child. These orders can be made under section 26 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. But they are very rarely made.

If is important that a father who has views about what arrangements should be in place, shares these with the child’s social worker.

Can a father still see his child after an adoption order has been made?

When an adoption order is being made, the Family Court must look at what arrangements have been made for the child to stay in touch with their birth family  (see section 46(6) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002).

If is important that a father who has views about what arrangements should be in place, shares these with the child’s social worker.

The court does have a power to make an order about contact. This is in section 51A(2) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. But case law says a contact order should not be made unless the adopters agree to it (see B (A Child: Post-Adoption Contact) [2019] EWCA Civ 29). And orders about contact arrangements after adoption are rarely made.

Usually any contact will be by agreement, and in the form of indirect contact. This means the adopters and the parents exchange letters and/or photographs. The purpose of this contact is to establish links for the future. If the child wants to get in touch with their birth parents when they are older, they will be able to.

See our Post adoption contact advice sheet for more information and advice.

Important information about foster for adoption

Foster for adoption is a type of foster care used when adoption is being considered for a child and it:

  • Involves babies and younger children who are looked after in the care system living with foster carers who may go on to adopt them
  • Is allowed even though adoption is not yet the formal plan for the child
  • Can happen even when the Family Court is not involved and has not agreed.

The idea is that the child is able to form a strong, early relationship with the people who may go on to be adopt them.

Children’s services and the court must follow strict legal procedures before a child can live with a family who wants to adopt them. But the law and process is different if children’s services want to place a child in a foster for adoption placement.

So, it is very important that any parent who thinks children’s services may be proposing their child is cared for in a foster for adoption placement urgently:

    • What foster for adoption means, including implications for parents and the child
    • What needs to happen before a child is placed in a foster for adoption placement
    • What parents should do if a social worker tells them they want to place their child in a foster for adoption placement.
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