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The Modern Law


Indispensable for all involved in adoption work

Paperback i

Book printed softcover

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 is designed to promote the wider use of adoption, to improve performance of the adoption services and to place the needs of children at the centre of the adoption process. The Act reforms the need for parental consent to adoption.

 Adoption: The Modern Law explains in detail the legislation and sets it in the context of adoption law more generally. The book also provides a comprehensive analysis of the law in respect of inter-country adoptions. Written by two of the foremost experts on the subject, it covers all the key issues raised by the law, answering questions such as:

  • how will the principle that the welfare of the child is paramount affect adoption decision making?
  • what new duties will local authorities have with regard to adoption?
  • what are the new measures for placement for adoption and consent and placement orders?
  • what is a special guardianship order?
 Adoption: The Modern Law will be indispensable for all involved in adoption work - family lawyers, adoption and fostering agencies and social services personnel.

  • Adoption - the Historical Perspective
  • The process of reform
  • The need for reform - the background issues
  • The need for reform - issues of child welfare
  • The need for reform - issues of contact and information
  • The new law - an overview
  • Welfare
  • Parental consent
  • Placement for adoption
  • The making of adoption orders
  • Contact
  • Access to information and confidentiality
  • The adoption service
  • International regulation of intercountry adoption
  • Recognition of international adoptions
  • Illegal transfers, placements and transactions


  • Adoption and Children Act 2002
"a thorough, thoughtful and thought-provoking book which performs some very valuable functions"
New Law Journal
The Rt Hon Lady Justice Hale DBE

 Who would have thought it? In 1995 a very modest proposal to improve the procedures for deciding property disputes between unmarried couples proved so controversial that the whole Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill had to be withdrawn for a rethink. Now only 7 years later we have on the statute book a law permitting unmarried couples to adopt – and not only same-sex couples who cannot get married or register their partnerships but also opposite-sex couples who could get married if they chose.

 The 1992 Review of Adoption Law was not so bold. We thought that the security and stability that adopted children need were still more likely to be provided by parents who were publicly committed to their relationship and had legal responsibilities towards one another as well as their children. Bringing up children usually involves considerable financial sacrifice for the primary carer. It can also place added strains on a relationship. If the relationship does break down and the couple have no financial responsibilities towards one another, the child and primary carer will suffer even more. But we also recognised that many of the children now considered for adoption were those whose early experiences had made them particularly needy and challenging. It was important to find the best possible people to meet those needs and rise to those challenges. These might not be the same sorts of people who had traditionally put themselves forward to adopt healthy babies. Even in 1992 many unmarried couples, whether of the same sex or opposite sex, were in fact bringing up adopted children together. So it was that both sides in the debates on the Adoption and Children Bill could rightly claim to be championing the best interests of the children as they saw them.

 The Bill had its genesis in the 1992 Review of Adoption Law. Like the Review of Child Care Law in 1985, which had led to the widely welcomed Children Act 1989, this was a joint project between the Department of Health and the Family Law team at the Law Commission. Our aim then was to produce a modern code of adoption law to match the modern code of child law. As with the Children Act 1989, there should be a flexible range of responses to meet the increasingly diverse needs of children separated from their birth families. Adoption had already become one of the options to meet the needs of children who had to be removed from their birth families: compulsory adoptions and adoptions with some contact were increasingly part of the landscape. Other children would need greater security in their new homes while still remaining members of their birth families: for older children, in particular, this can be an important part of their sense of self. Step-children would need a recognised relationship with their step-parents while retaining their relationships with both birth parents and birth families. All of these options have found their way into the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The parallels with the Children Act 1989 do not end there. Rather as Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss’s inquiry into child abuse in Cleveland sparked the political will to enact the Children Act 1989, so the revelations of Sir Ronald Waterhouse’s tribunal of inquiry into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales sparked the political will to enact the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
 Some of the Act’s other provisions, while provoking less political and public controversy than those about unmarried couples, have been controversial with the organisations and professionals who know most about the children and families themselves. Only time will tell how some of these will be interpreted in the courts or work out in practice. It is very much to be hoped tha the parallels with the Children Act 1989 will continue, with a massive inter-disciplinary training effort before implementation and a rigorous research programme afterwards.
 Meanwhile, this timely book will provide a valuable resource in understanding the new law, its background and its context, and some of the controversies which have raged about it. A few of the legal conundrums may come my way in future, so it should not be assumed that my views are always those of the authors, particularly in some of their speculations about the likely outcomes in the courts!

May 2003

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