Post-Adoption Contact – Court of Appeal Clarifies the Law

When parents lose children to adoption through no fault of their own it is unsurprising that they often wish to maintain contact with their offspring. However, as a Court of Appeal ruling showed, judges will almost never order such contact to take place without the consent of prospective adopters.

The case concerned a mentally disabled couple who were considered incapable of looking after their baby girl despite their earnest wish to do so. Care proceedings were launched soon after her birth and a judge ordered that she be placed for adoption. She was sent to live with a foster couple who wished to adopt her. Her parents’ application for post-adoption contact was dismissed.

In ruling on the parents’ challenge to that decision, the Court observed that Section 51(A) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 created a novel and bespoke regime for the making of post-adoption contact orders and that the case was the first time that that provision had been considered at appellate level.

The prospective adopters had shown an empathetic attitude and a commitment to ensuring that the girl maintained an awareness of her genetic identity. They were open to the prospect of the girl having post-adoption contact with her parents, but believed that now was not the right time for that to happen.

In dismissing the parents’ appeal, the Court found that Section 51(A) had not altered the established law that the imposition on prospective adopters of orders for contact with which they are not in agreement is extremely rare. The welfare of adopted children remains the overriding consideration and the provision was aimed at enhancing the position of adopters, rather than the contrary. The judge’s refusal to order post-adoption contact was, on the evidence, impregnable.