ADOPTION: Haringey London Borough Council v MA, JN and IA (By her Guardian) [2008] EWHC 1722 (Fam)

21 JUL 2008

(Family Division; Charles J; 21 July 2008)

The local authority considered that adoption was in the child's best interests; the only viable family members lived in the USA, so a family placement would be governed by the provisions of Adoption and Children Act 2002 relating to international adoption. The local authority sought leave to send the child, now nearly 2 years old, to the USA with her current foster carers and a social worker for a maximum 90 day visit, 4 weeks of which would be observed by the social worker. The child was then to return to England for further assessment in England; the US relatives would stay in England for a period, but could not remain for the entire 10 weeks stipulated by the 2002 Act, having work commitments and 5 children of their own. The government took the view that permission for a child to live abroad could not be given when what was proposed was a placement to assess the prospects of a successful adoption by persons living abroad, because such a placement would be for the purpose of adoption or with a view to adoption.

The authority's plan, involving assessment in the USA and in England, and co-operation with the relevant public body in the USA, struck a sensible balance, promoting the welfare of the child whilst having proper regard to the issues concerning foreign adoptions. Further, permission could lawfully be given for a local authority to arrange for a child to live outside the UK for the purposes of an investigation and assessment of whether adoption abroad by the persons with whom the child was to live would be the most appropriate welfare solution throughout childhood: Parliament had intended there to be a difference between the concepts of a removal from the UK 'for the purpose of adoption' and 'placing a child for adoption with prospective adopters'. However, the court did not grant leave to send the child to the USA, as this would create divergent authority at first instance. The local authority was granted leave to appeal.

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