FOLLOWING on from last week’s article about David Cameron’s proposed reforms to adoption law, I have seen some interesting statistics which put this into context.

The Adoption Leadership Board has reported that the average wait for a child waiting to be placed with adopters has fallen from 22 months in 2012/13 to 18 months in 2014 and further reduced to 17 months in the first quarter of 2015.

On June 30, 2015, there were 2,460 children in England and Wales waiting to be placed with adopters who are subject to a placement order. This compared to 2,970 waiting for placement on March 31, 2015, a fall of 17 per cent. There is evidence to suggest that this is largely because more children are being placed for adoption in the first 12 months of a placement order being made.

* So what is a placement order?

These were introduced by section 21 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. In short, this is the order made by the family courts which allows the local authority to go ahead and place a child for adoption, and they are usually made at the end of care proceedings, often together with a care order, if the plan of the local authority is agreed by the court, to place for adoption.

A placement order will not be made if the court is not convinced that there is no other viable plan for the child. If parents or extended family members are possible placements, they will need to be considered before a placement order is made.

A care order will confer parental responsibility on the local authority but, without the making of a placement order, they can’t start looking for an adoptive placement. Because of this, the local authority will generally issue an application for a placement order before the end of the care proceedings, so the two orders can be made concurrently, but they do not have to do this, and the placement order can be made if time has not allowed for the two sets of proceedings to finish together.

Yes, the system can still be improved upon, but the length of time children are waiting to be placed is coming down.

Once a placement order has been made, a parent’s parental responsibility remains until an adoption order is made, but in practice, the local authority has the ability to override a parent’s rights, and can make the decisions about a child. The parents will be informed, and may continue to have contact until adopters have been found, but their involvement with their child will be reduced.

Once a child is placed with prospective adopters, it will not be possible to revoke the placement order, but if there has been an unreasonable delay in placing the child, and the parents’ circumstances have improved, or it is clear that adopters might not be found, it is possible to apply for permission to revoke the placement order and ask the court to review the child’s situation. These applications are highly unusual and there is a very high ‘bar’ to cross before the courts will reopen the situation.

You would need legal advice about this from an experienced childcare lawyer, and legal aid might not be available.