SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter seeks to provide a brief overview of the placement of children who have been relinquished. This is a complex area that may require additional legal advice depending on the individual circumstances.RELATED CHAPTERS
AMENDMENTSection 1.1, Consent and Competency was added in January 2019 to reflect additional information on parental capacity to consent, in line with High Court case-law.
The High Court in Re S (Child as parent: Adoption: Consent)  EWHC 2729 (Fam) made clear that parental Capacity to consent to a child being accommodated under s.20 Children Act 1989, does not equate to their capacity to consent to an adoption order in respect of the child - the capacity to consent is decision-specific. (That case concerned a 'child parent' (i.e. below 18 years of age) with learning disabilities. The principles, however, will be of relevance in considering parental capacity, irrespective of their age).
The court set out the salient or 'sufficient' information which is required to be understood by a parent regarding extra-familial adoption:
When determining the competence of a parent in these circumstances, 'all practicable steps' must be taken to help them to make the decision, for example using simple language, visual aids or other means. A parent will be treated as understanding the information relevant to a decision if they are able to understand an explanation of it given to them in a way which is appropriate to their circumstances.
The decision to consent to adoption is significant and life-changing. Before exercising their decision-making, the parent should freely and fully understand the information set out on the consent forms, which should be conveyed and explained to them in an appropriate way; there is no expectation that the parent would be able to understand the precise language of the consent forms.
If there is any doubt about the competence of a parent to give consent to adoption or placement for adoption, the issue should be referred to a court.
If the mother, prior to the birth of her child, requests that the child be adopted, she will make referral initially to the Merton Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and then be transferred to the Adoption Service. Following the birth, the baby will be accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. If the mother is under 16 years of age, her parents or persons with Parental Responsibility should be involved in the counselling and support from the Adoption Service, but the decision remains the mother's to make throughout, as she chooses. On referral from the mother, the MASH will decide if there are child protection issues (for the mother) requiring S47 investigation and reporting to the Police (see London Safeguarding Board Procedures). If S47 concerns are substantiated, the case will be transferred to the Safeguarding and Care Planning Team and if not to the Adoption Team. In respect of the unborn baby, the CIN Service will notify the Adoption Team and make arrangements for an early care planning meeting. The CIN service will begin the assessment of the mother and family. The allocated social worker will also ensure that the mother is:
If the mother names the father of the child and the father acknowledges paternity, he must be involved in the decisions for the child unless he chooses otherwise, or his involvement is considered likely to be detrimental to the safety and well-being of the baby. If, after the mother has made the decision to have her baby adopted, the father is named or makes himself known, and obtains parental responsibility either by being registered on the birth certificate or through the court, his own wishes and feelings about the plans should be ascertained and taken into consideration. The care planning meeting will consider the best interests and safety of the child (see Care Planning for Looked After Children Procedure, Newborn Babies). if the mother is married, her husband is presumed by law to be the father of the child with parental responsibility unless he or another party challenges this with evidence. If the mother initially declines to name the father but subsequently does so, the social worker must make every effort to trace him. If there is reason to consider either the mother or the baby to be at risk of harm from tracing the father, the social worker will take legal advice and discuss with their manager the advisability of not doing so.
A possible interim placement or permanent plan with a member(s) of the extended family should be a part of the initial discussion with the child's parents as an alternative to adoption (see Section 1.2, Mother).
It is not mandatory, or a requirement, that family relatives are informed of the child's birth or a proposed plan of adoption. In considering this, Merton staff should discuss with the parent(s)/guardian the likely views of the extended family (grandparents, siblings etc.) and the consequences of them both subsequently 'knowing' or 'not knowing' of the child's birth and plans for adoption. The outcome of this discussion should be recorded on the child's record.
Nevertheless, as much information as possible about members of the extended family should be obtained as part of the child's 'life story'.
If mother does not want her family to know about the baby, the social worker will obtain legal advice and consult with their manager. This is a complex area of law, despite the wishes of the parent, and Merton Children's Services must make a decision that is in the child's best interests.
As soon as possible after the birth the permanence planning meeting should be held and immediately followed by the first statutory review to endorse the care plan for adoption (or as a dual or concurrent plan). Within 2 weeks of the first statutory review, and 6 weeks of the baby's birth the case should be referred to the Adoption, Fostering and Permanence Panel for a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker (ADM) for a decision for adoption.
If at any stage the parent(s) withdraw consent to the adoption of their child, and withdraw consent to the Section 20 accommodation of their child, the social worker will consult their manager and follow the Care Planning for Looked After Children Procedure, Ceasing to Look After a Child Under Section 20. In addition, if the process has already progressed to a decision by the ADM, the ADM must review their decision for the baby's adoption and if they remain of the view that the baby should be placed for adoption the social worker will make immediate application for a placement order.
Only valid for 48hrs