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Wed, 24 Nov 21 10:00

Families Leaving the Country to Avoid Social Services - Comment

Andrew Webb, ADCS lead on family justice, said:

“Local councils in England have a duty to protect children from harm. In order to achieve this, they can apply to a court for the power to remove a child from their parents. Most children who enter care return to their family as a result of the help they receive as part of a care plan. However, for the small number that cannot be safely returned home, a permanent, stable family is needed. Research shows that adoption is the most successful permanent legal option, particularly for younger children who are already in the care system. It is a myth that local authorities have to place a target number of children for adoption and that government funding provides them with an incentive to do so. However, performance measures are used by councils in relation to the number of adoptions of children from care, and the time taken to give them permanent families.

“There are three distinct legal tests underpinning adoptions from care. The first test requires the local authority to demonstrate, in a court in which all parties have legal representation and based on expert opinion that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm. The second test is whether the harm (or likely harm) is the result either of the actions of the parents, or a lack of capacity in the parents to prevent the child suffering harm – so a court can anticipate that a child might suffer harm in the future. The third test, which applies only to those children for whom a court has already agreed a care order and who require a permanent family, is whether adoption is in their best interests. Before a court can make an adoption order for a child in care, it has to be satisfied that no other order will do. Case law is very clear on this: all other realistic options, which might include a return home to the family, must be actively considered by the court before an adoption order is made. Where adoption is not in the best interest of the child it will not be pursued.

“Any number of parents leaving the country with their children to avoid involvement from social services is a cause for concern as it could potentially put children at risk of harm, and it undermines the important work carried out by children’s services to keep children safe. By working together, families can receive the help and support that they need to ensure that children stay in the family home - our preferred outcome wherever possible.”


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