From Sir Martin Narey, Chair of the national Adoption Leadership Board

Dear Colleague,

The Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) has developed a short guide, with support from an experienced Queen’s Counsel, to clarify the meaning of recent key court judgments relating to adoption (in particular Re BS). The guide is available here as well as the BAAF and CVAA websites. I would be grateful if you would ensure this is seen by everyone in your organisation who has an involvement in adoption.

Over recent years we have seen many more children finding permanent and loving homes through a more timely adoption system. But the last nine months have seen a significant reduction in both the number of placement orders made by the courts, caused primarily by a sharp reduction in the number of decisions made by local authorities to pursue care plans for adoption. These changes risk reversing the substantial progress made. Feedback to the ALB, the Family Justice Board, and DfE suggests that this is overwhelmingly due to a significant misinterpretation of Re BS and other judgments. It is very clear from discussions with local authorities that they have not been pursuing placement orders in circumstances where they believe such a path is in the child’s best interests, but because they think the test for adoption has changed. It has not.

The guide is being distributed to staff at all levels and across various disciplines in both local authorities and to members of the judiciary. You should ensure it is circulated to all those working in care and adoption proceedings to make sure procedures, practice and decision making accurately reflect the key tests set by the judgments and not what it might be imagined that the judgments say

I have discussed this issue personally with Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division and have been extremely grateful for his advice. He has seen this document and is supportive of its aim of dispelling the myths that have arisen.

The ALB will continue to monitor trends in every local authority and will be working with the Regional Adoption Leadership Boards and Local Family Justice Boards to make sure the guide has the impact intended and we see a recovery in the number of Placement Orders applied for and granted.