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72. Section 19 of the Act provides that a parent may consent to the placement for adoption of their child, and that this consent may be to placement with any prospective adopter chosen by the agency, or to a specific prospective adopter. In the latter case, the consent may (but is not required to) provide that, in the event of the placement with a specific prospective adopter being terminated before an adoption order is made, the agency may place the child with a prospective adopter of its own choosing.
73. Section 20 of the Act provides that a parent, who gives consent to the child being placed for adoption, may also give their advance consent to the making of an adoption order. At the same time they will have the option of making a statement that they do not wish to be informed of any application for an adoption order (although they may retract such a statement later). This situation could arise where a parent has requested their child be adopted and is clear that they wish to have no further involvement with the plans for the child. If such a statement is made, AAR 12 requires that this is recorded on the child’s adoption record and at the same time file a copy at court.
74. The agency must explain to the parent the consequences of giving consent to placement, in particular the fact that a withdrawal of their consent will be ineffective once an application has been made for an adoption order (which could be made any time after the child has lived with the prospective adopter for 10 weeks). They should also ensure that the parent understands the position about contact and the provisions of section 26 of the Act.
75. Where a parent wishes to give consent to the placement of their child with a specific prospective adopter, that person must be identified in the form of consent. There may however be some cases where the prospective adopter's identity is to remain anonymous. That prospective adopter will make use of the procedure in the court rules for using a serial number rather than their name on any notice of the application sent to the parents. In such a case, the characteristics and circumstances of the prospective adopter will have been described to the parents, and it is important that the agency is able to identify them by means of a file reference which is provided to the person responsible for witnessing consent.
76. The agency should explain to the parent the procedure for the formal witnessing of consent. They should provide the parent with contact details for the social worker and any support worker to enable the parent to get in touch if they have any queries, or if they are considering withdrawing their consent. They should also emphasise to the parents the importance of their keeping the agency informed about their own whereabouts. This will benefit not only the parent receiving information about their child's progress, but also the child as it will help avoid possible delays in notifying the parent when the adoption application is made to court.
77. Consent is given on one of the forms A100 to A103 under the Family Procedure Rules 2010 and must be witnessed in accordance with those Rules. Where the parent or guardian who is willing to consent is resident in England or Wales, the provisions of AAR 20 apply, and a Cafcass officer (if the child lives in England) or Welsh family proceedings officer appointed by the National Assembly for Wales (if the child lives in Wales), will witness consent.
78. AAR 20 requires the agency to request that Cafcass appoint an officer, or to request that the National Assembly for Wales appoint a Welsh family proceedings officer, to witness the parent’s or guardian’s consent to placement or to adoption, prior to court proceedings. AAR 20 also stipulates that the agency send with that request the information specified in Schedule 2. The Association of Directors of Children’s Services and Cafcass have agreed a protocol for dealing with consent (Protocol for children relinquished for adoption: August 2007). See associated resources.
79. In making the request for a Cafcass officer to witness consent, the agency should write to the Cafcass office that is nearest to the parent's or guardian's address.
80. For consent to be effective, the Cafcass officer will need to be satisfied that the parent or guardian fully understands the consequences of giving consent and that they are willing to do so unconditionally (section 52(5) of the Act). The Cafcass officer will then need to witness the formal signing by the parent or guardian of the consent to placement form, sign the form themselves and then notify the agency in writing, including the consent form with the notification. The Cafcass officer must keep a copy of the original form.
81. The agency must place the original consent form on the child's adoption case record, and must be ready to provide it to the court - delivering it by hand or sending it by recorded delivery - when the prospective adopter makes their application to the court for an adoption order. A copy of the consent form will not be acceptable. Any notice that the parent does not wish to be informed of an application for an adoption order, or withdrawal of such a statement must also be kept on the child's case record.
82. Where the Cafcass officer is not satisfied that the parents wish to give their full consent, or has doubts that they fully understand its implications, or considers that they are not competent to give consent, they will be directed by Cafcass guidance to notify the agency. In these circumstances consent cannot be given, and it will be necessary to make an application for a placement order.
83. Where a parent or guardian lives outside England and Wales and is prepared to give their consent, the agency is required by AAR 20A.1 to arrange for an 'authorised person' to witness the consent. The agency is also required to send to that person the information specified in Schedule 2. AAR 20A.2 stipulates that an authorised person is:
84. Once formal witnessed consent is given, the agency is authorised to place the child for adoption. Once the procedures set out in chapter 4 have been complied with, it will therefore be possible to place the child with a prospective adopter. Even if consent is given, the agency should consider whether it can rely on the parent's consent remaining in place. If there is a question of placing the child outside the British Islands, the procedures set out in the Adoptions with a Foreign Element Regulations 2005 and the guidance on intercountry adoption must be followed.
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