Placement orders: When to apply, approve and revoke them

by Carolyn Johnson, Head of The Family Team

There have been a flurry of recent Court of Appeal cases about when the local Authority should apply for a placement order, when the court is in a position to approve them and their revocation.

The ACA 2002 s21 (2), (3) sets out the conditions that have to be satisfied before a placement order can be made. In addition to these conditions, a court will only make a placement order if that is justified having given paramount consideration to the child’s welfare throughout his life having regard to the other matters set out in ACA 2002 s.1. The framework before an application can be made by a Local Authority for a placement order must be strictly followed, "respected and scrupulously implemented; it cannot be bypassed or short-circuited. The Act and the Regulations were to be honoured and obeyed in their entirety"

[ Re B (Placement Order ) 2008 2 FLR 550 ]

Where it is premature to advocate that a child is suitable for placement for adoption, it is inappropriate to make a placement order at that stage.

Re T ((Placement Order ) 2008 1 FLR 1721. It is insufficient foundation for a placement order that the long-term aim of the court is that the child should be adopted. In this recent unusual case the court could not say that the children were suitable for adoption until a particular exercise had been carried out over several months, in the form of a specialised foster placement and therefore it was premature to find that adoption was in their best interests and a placement order should follow. They were not ready to be adopted. Mere uncertainty as to whether adoption would actually be possible was not a reason for not making a placement order.

The case of Re P ( Placement Orders: Parental Consent) 2008 2 FLR 625 distinguished Re T on the facts and stated that there were no inconsistencies with Re P. The issue for the court is to determine whether it is right for the placement order to be made when the Care order is made. Most applications are regularly heard and determined immediately after the making of a care order but a balancing exercise may need to be carried out by the court with the parent’s rights balanced against those of the children. The Guardian’s active role will end and the parent’s representation with access to legal advice will lapse once the placement order is made. If the interests of the children plainly require a placement order to be made there are compelling pragmatic reasons for adopting dual planning; it shortens the time during which the children have to remain in limbo and allows the Local Authority to search for adoptive parents particularly where the children are older and have suffered adverse parenting. Re P( Placement Orders: Parental Consent)

There has been several interesting recent cases on the revocation or attempted revocation of placement orders which contrast with the above approach of the making of placement orders.

In S_H v Kingston_Upon _Hull Council 2008 EWCA Civ 493 Wilson J. stressed "The necessary foundation for a placement order is that, broadly speaking, the child is presently in a condition to be adopted and is ready to be adopted"

Others include RE F (Placement Order )2008 2 FLR 550 and Re M (Children: Placement Order ) 2008 1 FLR 1093

Watch this space!


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