Placement Orders (clause 20)

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 20 November 2001.

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12. A placement order is an order made by the court authorising a local authority to place a child for adoption with any prospective adopters who may be chosen by the authority. A local authority must apply for a placement order where they are satisfied that a child should be adopted, but the parents do not consent to placement or have withdrawn their consent.

13. In response to points raised in consultation on the previous version of the Bill, the Government has restricted the ability to seek placement orders to local authorities only. Previously this was also open to voluntary adoption agencies. This change was made in recognition of concerns that it is inappropriate for voluntary organisations to be able to apply to the court to have a child compulsorily placed for adoption against the parent's wishes.

14. A further change has also been made to this clause to provide that a court may not make a placement order unless the child is already subject to a care order, or the court has the power to make a care order under section 31(2) of the Children Act 1989. In order to be able to make a care order (and therefore a placement order) the court must first be satisfied that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, and also that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to the care being given to the child or likely to be given to him if no order were made not being that reasonably expected of a parent, or the child is beyond parental control.

15. Linking the making of placement orders with these provisions in the Children Act 1989 is intended to deliver on the Government's undertaking to align adoption law with the Children Act. The same threshold for compulsory intervention in family life is to apply where a local authority seeks authority to place a child for adoption without parental consent as applies where an authority seeks to take a child into care under a care order. Where a court considers the `significant harm' threshold is met, it will then consider whether a placement order should be made. The provisions in clause 1 of the Bill will apply—the child's welfare will be the paramount consideration, the court will apply the welfare checklist set out in clause 1(4) and the court will have to consider its full range of powers and will only make the order if it is better for the child than not to do so.

16. This change has also been made in response to consultation on the previous version of the Bill. Several stakeholders in their evidence to the Select Committee expressed concern that children could be placed for adoption against the parent's wishes without this threshold being met. This was felt to be inappropriate given the widely understood and accepted principles of the Children Act.