A grandmother has won permission to appeal against a care and placement order for her grandson. Placement orders are legal permission to place children with prospective adopters.
In C (A Child), the grandmother had applied for a ‘special guardianship’ order, with the support of the boy’s parents. Issued under the Children Act 1989, special guardianship orders provide children with a secure placement without breaking the legal relationship between them and their parents.
Meanwhile, the London Borough of Sutton – the family’s local authority – wanted the child, called ‘J’ in case reports, to be adopted, a move supported by the boy’s legal guardian. The original judge ruled in in favour of adoption and the grandmother appealed.
Lord Justice McFarlane, sitting at the Court of Appeal, looked to the precedents set by the recent Supreme Court decision in Re B (A Child). That case had stressed the need for the courts to give due consideration to human rights and only permanently remove children from their biological families when it is ‘necessary’ to do so.
The original judge had not properly evaluated whether her ruling in favour of the local authority was ‘necessary’ in that way, the Lord Justice concluded. She had also not explained how it was in the child’s best interests to ignore the wishes of his biological parents, as required by law. He noted:
“… Parliament and case law stress that a judge must be satisfied that the parents’ consent to adoption should be dispensed with because the child’s welfare ‘requires’ that.”
In addition, the original judge, at Croydon County Court, had not investigated the support that would be available to the grandmother or properly weighed up the benefits of adoption against the ‘detriments’.
The care and placement orders were put on hold pending a full appeal.
Lord Justice McFarlane told the court:
“I am told, and readily accept, that J is moving fairly swiftly through the adoption process and that prospective adopters may have been identified and the case may be going to panel in the near future…. it must be plain as a pikestaff that we must determine this appeal as soon as possible.”