Recently new statistics in relation to adoption were released. They show not only an increase in the number of children being adopted in England, but also that the number of adoptions is at the highest it has been since 1992.
There were 5,050 looked after children adopted during the year ending 31 March 2014, an increase of 26% from 2013 and an increase of 58% from 2010.
The statistics show that the number of looked after children continues to rise: 68,840 looked after children at 31 March 2014, an increase of 1% compared to 31 March 2013; and there has been a steady increase over the past few years
Last year, I wrote about a perception that recent high profile court decisions (ReB and ReB-S) had changed the law in respect of local authorities’ ability to plan for adoption for a child who cannot return to live with their parents; and a concern this would result in fewer adoptions. The Adoption Leadership Board (ALB), in response, issued a ‘myth-buster’ guide to emphasise that the law has not changed, following fears that the number of care plans seeking adoption was falling. Given the recent statistics, it seems that those fears may have been unfounded.
In a recent Court of Appeal judgement (Re R) the President of the Family Division made the following observation ‘On 11 November 2014 the National Adoption Leadership Board published Impact of Court Judgments on Adoption: What the judgments do and do not say, popularly referred to as the Re B-S myth-buster. This document appears to be directed primarily at social workers and, appropriately, not to the judges. It has been the subject of some discussion in family justice circles. I need to make clear that its content has not been endorsed by the judiciary’.
There are many complex issues to be grappled when a local authority plans for children to be adopted without parental consent. England and Wales is one of the few jurisdictions where so called ‘forced adoption’ is an option available to the court. This month the Latvian authorities have raised their concerns directly with the UK Parliament, in respect of children, who are Latvian citizens, being placed for adoption without parental consent. Cases with an international element are increasingly likely to attract attention from abroad, with the potential for increasing litigation, particularly with the increasing number of parents and children from other countries being involved in care proceedings - so watch this space.