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Case against local authority re adoption(17 Posts)
I’m asking for help on behalf of a friend who’s not on mumsnet.
She is a single female based in the North West who was approved as an adopter and eventually matched with a young girl from another local authority outside of her area. Long story short, intros week was in June during lockdown. During that week my friend became overwhelmed and displayed anxiety about proceeding with the adoption and the process broke down (council’s decision). The anxiety was brought on due to the stressful circumstances - normal pressures of intros week hugely exacerbated by her being away from home, alone in the process after weeks of lockdown, and self isolation, and the intros process being condensed due to Covid. The local authority failed to make adequate allowances for these circumstances, and the upshot is that they ended the process.
My friend subsequently raised a complaint with the local authority regarding how the process had been handled. She has had correspondence with them, obtained info via a GDPR request (which showed significant inconsistencies and failings in the process) and had a conference call with two senior members of the local authority, who acknowledged that ‘there was a lot to look at’.
Her question is whether there is any option for taking legal action against the local authority regarding their mishandling of the case. Ideally she would like the decision to be reversed and the adoption to proceed, although she has been told that this can’t happen. She’s not sure what other outcome she hopes to achieve but feels that the failings need to be fully addressed. Clearly whether the case could proceed would depend on the exact circumstances, but she’s not sure how to find a solicitor that would take on this sort of case. Is anybody able to advise please?
In adoption, the needs and interests of the children must be paramount. I think there may well be lessons to be learned but I'm not sure that legal action is the right route Is she allowed to still adopt another child when the time is right?
Thanks for the reply. Totally understand that the child comes first. She feels that the child has lost out on a great life with her, which she finds extremely upsetting and frustrating.
We’re not sure about the possibility of adopting a different child in the future, she’s 51 and the whole process is so slow.
As an outsider, your friend wasn't coping. Whatever the source of the anxiety, the child needed to come first, and they can't place a child in a setting with instability.
Oh my goodness, what a dreadful situation. Although I do think the LA did the right thing if your friend displayed doubts about proceeding so late in the process. They would be worried about her changing her mind after the girl was placed. Very sad for your friend though, but the child’s interests must come first.
Totally understand that the child comes first
Was she putting the needs of the child first when, in the middle of intros, she pulled out?
Once intros started, had the child been told she would be her forever parent? And then she changed her mind. That is not putting the needs of the child first.
Hi OP, there is an adoption board on MN.
(and I speak as someone whose prospective adoption disrupted a year ago).
Alternatively, there is an adoption disruption facebook group your friend may find useful.
Generally speaking I would not expect your friend to be able to adopt in future.
Agree with Lougle. She was not in the right frame of mind to adopt at that time, whatever failings on LA side. A placement with her then would have been very risky. Legal action would seem an illogical way of putting the child's best interests first. Hopefully she has been found a good alternative already,
A looked-after child is more likely to be demanding. If your friend became overwhelmed by the adoption process, how could the authorities be confident that she wouldn't become overwhelmed by the child? They wouldn't have expected her to not feel anxiety, but they were sensible to expect her to be capable of managing it. It sounds like your friend wasn't able to do this and they responded appropriately, despite the pressure to continue. She must be terribly upset to have been so close only for it to come to an abrupt end. I can understand why you'd be inclined to support her lashing out and blaming the circumstances and other people, rather than confronting what could feel to her like a deeply personal rejection. However, I wouldn't actively encourage her to pursue this. It's very unlikely that the professionals have given up a perfectly good placement on a whim.
Agree with PP that you should post this on the adoption board (under ‘becoming a parent’). There are people there whose intros broke down for a variety of reasons and might be able to advise.
More broadly, though, I agree with everything @Thenose has said.
I'm sorry, I've just realised this is on the legal board. I'm not a lawyer.
Sorry, I can't give legal advice, but again an outside point of view. By June we had all had time to come to terms with lockdown. We knew it was being lifted. The weather was good and we were able to get out for socially distanced walks. Your friend showed enough anxiety to halt proceedings. That is a huge red flag. As someone said, being anxious is one thing, but not managing it and impacting on the child is another. I fear she would 'mark her card' by taking legal action. Surely seeing help for anxiety (and being able to show that she owned up to the issue and developed better coping mechanisms) would be a better step, so that she can reapply to adopt or look at fostering, which I understand is desperately short of long-term foster parents.
I fear legal action would make her appear unstable.
Just an outside point of view and I wish her luck. 2020 has been a dreadfully challenging year.
To take legal action against the council your friend would have to be able to make a strong case that they had failed to meet their legal obligations in some way. That's very different from them not handling the situation very well.
Not a lawyer but if she doesn't know what she wants the outcome to be, what is the point of legal proceedings? Surely 'this' adoption will have continued with someone else, and the particular child has now been placed or is working towards placement? If she wants to become re-signed off as an adopter, there will be a process to go through. She could perhaps mount a legal challenge if this isn't the case, but by the time that's all done and dusted... it would be more productive to contact the heads of service and say 'complaint aside, how do I proceed as an adopter?'
What does she think the failings were?
Thanks for the advice and comments. I’ve shown her the thread and it’s given her some things to think about.
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