The Fast-Track Option of Foster Care Adoption

Here at Higgins Miller we specialise in dealing with matters of family law. That means we have to demonstrate legal expertise in matters such as divorce, wills and probate and children disputes. It also requires a degree of sensitivity on our part, and this is particularly the case when helping clients who are working through the process of foster care adoption.

As with any issue which involves the welfare of children, foster care adoption is an emotional as well as a legal matter. We always work with regard to the feelings which are involved in each case, and handle our clients in an empathetic and caring manner. We like to feel that we offer a fully rounded service which provides a degree of emotional support at the same time as explaining, in an accessible manner, the legal factors which impact upon every case of foster care adoption.

To understand the process of foster care adoption it is probably best to quickly outline the differences between foster care and adoption. Although both processes involve a child being cared for by people other than the birth family, there are several differences, the most notable being the issue of permanence. Fostering is seen as a temporary solution, during which the foster-carers will look after a child while the authorities work with the birth family. The overall aim is always to return a child to his or her parents, but if that proves to be impossible, then a child will be put up for adoption.

When an adoption takes place the relationship between child and adoptive parents is legally binding. An adoptive child has all of the legal rights that a biological child has, and the adoptive parents become the child’s parents on a permanent basis. Whereas, in the majority of cases, a child’s birth parents retain legal rights while a child is in foster care – often under the supervision of the authorities – an adoption means that the birth parents have no further legal right to play a part in the child’s life. Foster parents, on the other hand, cannot make medical or educational decisions about the child in question without the consent of the birth parents.

Foster care adoption, therefore, involves taking the temporary solution of fostering and turning it into a permanent arrangement. The advantages of this process include minimising the disruption facing a child who has, by definition, already faced more than their fair share. In 2013 the government introduced the foster care adoption system, which was intended to fast track the adoption process in those cases where it was felt there was little, if any, chance of a child being returned to their birth parents.

The first step in the process of foster care adoption involves becoming an approved adopter. For parents new to the process, stage one will involve pre-assessment. Local authorities will perform checks and references to ensure suitability, at the same time as the parents involved undergo training and preparation. Once initial checks have been made, stage two will be the assessment process proper. This lasts four months and involves the agency responsible for the child – usually a local authority – carrying out intensive assessment and training. The fast track process allows for carers who have adopted previously, or who wish to adopt children they are already providing foster care for, to move straight on to stage two.   

In foster care adoption cases the family and child in question will have been matched with a view to a permanent placement in time, but it is not a guaranteed certainty. Ultimately, the local authority will present their adoption plan to a court, which will make the final decision. It is this uncertainty which is often the greatest challenge to those involved in the foster care adoption process. Another challenge is the fact that, whilst the child is still being fostered prior to adoption, the foster parents may have to make it possible for the child in question to have contact with members of the birth family at a supervised contact centre.

Although foster care adoption is undoubtedly simpler and quicker than previous adoption arrangements, it still involves a degree of uncertainty and the need to liaise with the courts and various other agencies. That’s why seeking the advice of the expert team at Higgins Miller can make such a difference. We’ve guided people through the process before, and so we’re perfectly placed to make sure our clients know what’s happening and what they can expect next at every stage.

If you’re involved in the foster care adoption process already, or would just like to learn a little more, please get in touch with us. You can call us on 0161 429 7251 or email at [email protected]. An initial 20 minute appraisal of your circumstances is free of charge, and a fixed fee first appointment costs just £50 (plus VAT). In the longer term, the range of funding options offered can be accessed here.


July 7, 2017


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