We receive a number of enquiries from foster carers wanting to know what their legal options are about adopting the child they have been fostering.
Sometimes the child has been placed on a long term foster placement with the family and come to view themselves as part of their foster carer’s family. Other times the foster carers and child have developed such a strong bond, that the foster carers want to adopt the child. There was an article recently published by the BBC which stated that a child had asked his foster carer’s to adopt them by drawing himself into the family photo. It is not unheard of for children to ask their foster carers to adopt them. We have been contacted by various foster carers, who have been asked by their foster child if they can legally be part of their family and share the same surname, as they see them as their family.
If you want to adopt the child you are fostering, then you first need to show that he or she has been living with you for more than a year before you make your application to Court. You also need to give your Local Authority notice of your intention to adopt the child. We usually advise our clients to do this in writing, whether by email or a letter.
You need to give the Local Authority at least 3 months’ notice, before you make the application. You also need to make your application within the two years of you giving notice to the Local Authority.
If the child has not been living with you for at least 12 months, you can still make an application to Court. This would however be an application for the Court’s permission to make your adoption application. The Court would then have to decide whether you have a good prospect of success with your application. If the Court does give you permission, then you can go on to make your adoption application.
Fostering a child is usually temporary, especially when a younger child is placed with you. It is likely that the child will have been subject to a Care and Placement Order. This means that the Local Authority have parental responsibility for the child, in addition to the Court’s permission to place the child for adoption. The child will then remain in foster care until adoptive parents are identified for the child.
It is not always so straight forward to find adoptive parents for children. Sometimes this can be a lengthy process, depending upon the age of the child. We have also known foster carers who have wanted to put themselves forward to adopt, even when adoptive parents have been identified but the child hasn’t yet been placed.
A child has usually been subjected to at least one move in their short lives, when they are removed from birth parents. It is likely that the child will have been subjected to early life trauma whilst in the care of birth parents. In some children’s circumstances, coming into foster care is the first time that they have the benefit of a being part of a family. It is usually in those circumstances that the child forms an attachment/bond to their foster carers. One that they not have previously had in their lives before.
In some circumstances a child may be placed with adoptive parents, but for whatever reason, the placement doesn’t work out. The child is then returned to the foster carers. This was the scenario presented in the BBC article. That child had only ever really formed a bond with his foster carers.
There is a difference between fostering a child and adopting them. As a foster carer you will receive an allowance for caring for them. You do not have any legal parental responsibility for them, as this is shared between the birth parents and Local Authority. With an Adoption Order the child legally becomes yours and you have parental responsibility for him or her. They are legally part of your family. Any parental responsibility that the birth parents and Local Authority had, disappears once an Adoption Order is made.
One thing to consider when making an application to adopt a child that you are fostering, is to ensure that any adoption support plan is robust. This will depend upon the child’s individual needs and any support they require in future. The plan may also consider an adoption allowance.
As part of the adoption process, the birth parents will be informed of your application by the Court. This means that they could ask to oppose the application if they choose to. The Court would then have to decide whether the birth parents have any prospect of success in opposing your application.
If you are considering adopting the child you are currently fostering, then please get in touch with us to discuss your options. It may be that you are unsure of the process, or you need help in discussing a support plan with the Local Authority. If you do feel that you do have a strong bond with the child and are unsure – please just give us a call – you may have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
Your situation be similar or different to what we have described above. It really doesn’t matter, as each client’s scenario is very different. We really don’t bite and aren’t as scary as people sometimes think, when they think of solicitors. We’re happy to discuss your situation with you.
Please give us a call on our freephone 0800 8 60 62 65 to speak to one of our adoption solicitors.