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16. When the agency is authorised to place the child for adoption, the Act makes provision for parental responsibility to be shared between the agency, the birth parents and, once the child is placed for adoption, the prospective adopter. The agency has the power to determine the extent to which the exercise of parental responsibility by the birth parents and/or the prospective adopter should be restricted. This enables the agency to decide how best to share parental responsibility for the particular child, according to their needs, as the case moves through the adoption process.
17. The most important elements of parental responsibility include
18. With regard to the birth parents, the agency should decide in each case the extent to which it is prepared to involve the birth parents or guardian in the exercise of parental responsibility, where it considers that they would have the necessary capacity to do so and that this would be in the interests of the child’s welfare. While the child is not yet placed for adoption and particularly in those cases where the birth parents accept the adoption plan, it may be appropriate for them to have a greater role in the child’s life by continuing to exercise some aspects of parental responsibility. Once the child is placed for adoption, it is less likely that it will be appropriate for the birth parents to exercise parental responsibility. In coming to a decision on the exercise of parental responsibility, the agency should take into account the views of:
19. When the agency makes a decision on the exercise of parental responsibility by the birth parents, it should write to them (if their whereabouts are known). The letter should make it clear the extent to which, if at all, the agency considers it appropriate for them to exercise their parental responsibility, the fact that this will be subject to review, and that they would be notified in writing of any change. The letter should also explain the reasons for the decision. The agency should ensure that it has recorded any views expressed by the birth parents or guardian about the exercise of parental responsibility, particularly in respect of questions of the child’s religious upbringing or consent to serious or invasive forms of medical treatment.
20. When the agency is considering placing a child for adoption with a particular prospective adopter, the agency should consider the extent to which the exercise of the prospective adopter's parental responsibility for the child should be restricted by the agency while the child is placed. It may well be appropriate for there to be a gradual ‘shift of power’ so that the prospective adopter comes to have a greater degree of autonomy as the placement progresses, and their confidence and parenting skills develop, bearing in mind that once the adoption order is made they alone will have parental responsibility.
21. In coming to a decision on the exercise of parental responsibility for the child, the agency should take into account
22. The proposed arrangements for exercise of parental responsibility will be set out in the adoption placement plan, giving the prospective adopter the opportunity to express their views about them prior to their agreement to the placement. The arrangements will be subject to review at each review under AAR 36, and any change to the arrangements must be recorded on the amended adoption placement plan. Any changes must also be notified to the child (if of sufficient age), the prospective adopter, and any other person the agency considers relevant. It will be helpful, for example, for the agency to notify the school or education authority of the arrangements in respect of the exercise of parental responsibility with regard to education.
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