The High Court has refused a local authority permission to seek the cancellation of an adoption order.
The case of Re W concerned a girl, called G in case reports, who was born in 2000. In 2004, she was formally adopted by a Mr and Mrs Y. However, the couple separated the following year. G remained with Mrs Y and the couple’s two biological children, while Mr Y had contact. However, G suffered from severe behavioural problems and as a result, the adoption eventually broke down, the judgement reports.
“She was obviously a very troubled little girl with understandably low self-esteem and many problems, the precise causation of which does not matter and might well be difficult to determine. From time to time, the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service became involved, as did Social Services, in their attempts to support the family; but to no avail. The parents felt they had “nothing left to give”.
In November last year, G was taken into foster care. There her behaviour improved but she remained attached to her former family and wanted to return. However, the family did not want to have anything further to do with G, saying they were unable to meet her needs.
The local authority then consulted a “well known” child psychiatrist for advice on the case. He concluded that it would be in G’s best interests for ties to her former family to be severed. The authority therefore applied for permission to dissolve the original adoption order, ending the parent’s formal parental responsibility for the girl. They argued that the family’s “rejection” of her had caused emotional harm.
It was established that the only statutory grounds for revocation of an adoption order was not applicable to the case, so it could only be done under the court’s “inherent jurisdiction” – ie legal authority – but this power could only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Bodey concluded that revocation of the order was not in G’s best interests. Whilst it could help her to come to terms with what happened, there was also a risk that it could undermine the important legal principle that adoption orders are final. Revocation would also involve contacting G’s birth family and that could have undesirable consequences. There were also issues of expense and the case was unlikely to succeed even if permission was granted, the judge declared.
He described the case as:
“… a Pandora’s box and the court should in my view only go there if it seems proportionate, necessary and reasonably likely to be ultimately successful. I do not think that the application fulfils those pre-requisites. “
A final care order was made to replace existing temporary orders and formalise G’s settlement in foster care.