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Court considers role of unrelated carers in adoption

A woman who had been caring for a child belonging to her son’s girlfriend has lost her bid to oppose an adoption order.

In Re G (A Child), the woman, called ‘AR’ in case reports, applied for permission to oppose the adoption order after caring for the now three year-old boy for 18 months. ‘G’ was her son’s girlfriend’s child by a previous relationship and she had begun looking after him shortly after his birth when his mother decided she could not provide him with a home.

In May last year, G was placed with a foster family at the age of 18 months, and the family then applied to adopt the boy. AR opposed this move, claiming that the circumstances which had originally ruled her out of consideration as a carer had changed and that she should therefore be reconsidered.

A judge ruled against her, saying that as AR was neither related to G, nor a legally recognised guardian of the child, she was not eligible for permission to appeal under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (ACA). AR applied for permission to appeal and this was granted in February this year.

However, at the Court of Appeal Lord Justice McFarlane ruled against her once more. He declared:

“It is accepted that, despite the fact that she cared for G for the first 18 months of the child’s life, AR falls outside the statutory definitions of parent or guardian and cannot make an application for leave to oppose the making of an adoption order with respect to G by seeking to come within the terms of ACA 2002, [section] 47.”

In addition, said the judge, AR had made only superficial changes to her lifestyle.

“…I regard the appellant’s ability to access and complete a modest counselling course, to separate from and seek to divorce her husband, and to remain on an apparently relatively even emotional keel to be true positives.   However, the negatives identified by the [earlier judge] were deeply, deeply, established, having their background in the very earliest years of the appellant’s life and permeating her ability to function as a reliable, stable and safe carer throughout all the years that followed. [The judge] identified a need for extensive and intrusive therapy of a kind which simply does not equate with the short term counselling intervention that the appellant has apparently undertaken. “

He concluded:

“In contrast to the position of a father who lacks parental responsibility, and who wishes simply to be heard as a party to a final adoption application with respect to his child, AR, as a non-relative who was, however, the primary carer for G during the first 18 months of his life, does not in my view have a sufficient interest to be joined as a respondent to the adoption application.”

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. WinstonSmith says:

    I’m afraid McFarlane is tarnishing his reputation as a liberal. Surely there are no grounds for a Forced Adoption if someone else is caring for the child ?

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