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Senior family judge laments ‘sloppy practice’ in adoption procedure

Many local authorities are rushing children into adoption without properly considering the alternatives, Britain’s most senior family law judge has declared.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said too many councils were “unable or unwilling” to properly consider alternative solutions to children’s welfare that would not permanently break the link with their birth parents. Councils, social workers and sometimes even judges often  paid “little more than lip service” to alternatives that would allow children to stay with their birth families.

The President was giving judgement in an appeal by a mother against the adoption of her two children. They had been taken into care due to her chaotic lifestyle, but she had since reformed. The Court rejected her appeal as the children were now settled with their prospective adoptive family.

He and fellow Lord Justices Lady Justice Black and Lord Dyson, had, said Sir James:

“…real concerns, shared by other judges, about the recurrent inadequacy of the analysis and reasoning put forward in support of the case for adoption.”

Under pressure to speed up adoption, many councils were now guilty of “sloppy practice” in their adoption procedures, he said, and it was time to “call a halt” to overly hasty adoption applications.

The president said:

“It is simply unacceptable in a forensic context where the issues are so grave and the stakes, for both child and parent, so high.”

The courts could not lose focus on the fact that children’s rights “include being brought up by the natural family, ideally by the natural parents” unless there were very strong reasons for that not to happen.

The government’s current drive to accelerate adoptions and process adoptions within a 26 week timetable could not take precedence over the rights of children. Adoption should only be a “last resort”, he said.

Councils which failed to make a sufficiently compelling case for adoption versus alternatives like kinship care (fostering by a relative) or special guardianship (placements which maintain a legal link to birth parents) faced adjournment of their cases, even if that took the proceedings beyond 26 weeks.

The President said:

“…the issues are too grave, the stakes for all are too high, for the outcome to be determined by rigorous adherence to an inflexible timetable”.


The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    ‘sloppy practice’ is not just in adoption procedures, but unfortunately is pervasive throughout family law.

  2. vob re says:

    At last someone is addressing this subject; Who i wonder is picking up the sloppy mess already that has gone before:
    the biological family, the adopter family, the child ?
    Many of these social workers are not sufficiently educated to be promoting adoption and have contributed to the already high failure rate.

  3. Dana says:

    Forced adoption should not be happening at all! These children often have family members who want them but are prevented by the opinions of social workers who barely speak to them yet write reports that oust them! Judges always side with the local authority. In 2007, in care proceedings 0.27% of children were returned to parents the extended family or the case was dropped!! Makes you wonder why legal aid was paid for parents to fight for their children when the failure rate was so high. What about the thousands paid by grandparents? What about Professor Jane Irelands report into the Experts Assessments for the court and found to be mostly flawed! Sloppy is one word but corruption reflects the true story!

    • Samantha says:

      The curuption has gotten worse,a pro bona solicitors company made 10 million pound in legal aid in the family courts in 2016.. facts.. when they was sacked after 2 hearings they claimed legal aid for 5 months even though we hadn’t seen them in 3 of that? Had to sign a adverdavid when tried revoking the order that day paying £175 for a hearing of less than 2 minutes no grandparent can’t revoke the order. When parents are given option A,B,C and none was to not keep the child who was taken from birth. By that rubber stamp neither knew the social setvice had been to court for the 3 orders without anyone knowing when was partied in she was well on her way. Rang MOJ as judge allowed local authorities lies to pass, and give his blessing.. allergations were impossible family putting £7k of borrowed money as well, from friends and family. 64 members come forward to try to help keep her from being adopted and none was looked at, not even witness statements, they have a agenda and has gotten worse just changed the names from banardoes as well known mainly for selling siblings to the private companies. SS is a name I will never forget , grandparents have no rights neither do the parent or even PR when local authorities get u in that court room. Guilty by the perjury and sloppiness committed by social services themselves and can’t prove your innocence. Breaking parents child involved.

  4. Luke says:

    ‘Councils, social workers and sometimes even judges often paid “little more than lip service” to alternatives that would allow children to stay with their birth families.’

    Sir James Munby hits the proverbial nail firmly on the head here.

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