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CoA clarifies when proposed adopters’ merits may be considered on making placement order

Exception made to Re T (A Child) (Early Permanence Placement)

The Court of Appeal has considered the circumstances in which, when making a placement order, it is appropriate for the court to take into account the merits of proposed adopters.

In B (A Child) (care proceedings) [2018] EWCA Civ 20, the Court of Appeal heard an appeal from Her Honour Judge George's order making care and placement orders that a baby girl, B (born in 2016), be adopted by the adoptive parents of her older brother (born in 2015). The other option considered, and dismissed, by Judge George was to place the child in the care of her father's cousin.

The principle raised by the father at appeal was based upon the Court of Appeal's decision in Re T (A Child) (Early Permanence Placement) [2015] EWCA Civ 983, [2017] 1 FLR 330. The President had given the only judgment in Re T, determining that in making a placement order the question for the court was whether it was in a child's best interests to be adopted but it was not for the court to consider the merits of proposed adopters. However, Sir James Munby P had noted that an exceptional case might justify a departure from that general approach.

In B (A Child), in his leading judgment, Sir James Munby P complimented Her Honour Judge George's 'careful and detailed judgment' and quoted extensively from that judgment. Judge George had considered: Re T; the welfare checklist at section 1(4)(c) and (f) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002; and the evidence, particularly that of the children's guardian. Judge George had thoroughly analysed the advantages and disadvantages of both a kinship placement and an adoptive placement before reaching her decision.

Amongst other things, the father argued on appeal that Judge George had misapplied the principles in Re T by comparing the adopters with the kinship carers and deciding "which would be the 'better' placement" [23]. The Court of Appeal found that the judge could not ignore the crucial fact that the child's sibling had been adopted and that his adoptive parents were willing to adopt B. The Court also decided that Judge George had rightly determined how much weight to attach to the various factors to be considered.

For the judgment, prefaced by the above summary by Sara Hunton of Field Court Chambers, click here. Family Law Week will publish within the next week an article concerning this judgment, written by Martin Kingerley and Emily James of 36 Family.