A few weeks ago, crunchyleafmama and now_i_am_mama shared their stories of adoption disruption. I thought it would be a useful follow up to those articles to hear from an adoption lawyer about the services they can provide to adopters. Sarah from the Adoption Legal Centre has written this article to explain how they can help adoptive families.
At the Adoption Legal Centre, we provide a wide range of services covering various issues that adoptive parents can face during their journey.
Our team consists of Nigel Priestley, Sarah Brown and Michelle Silcox. Sarah predominantly specialises in adoption, Nigel and Michelle specialise in both kinship and adoption. We also have our assistants, Jane Bolton and Zuzanna Taithe, who keep us in order. As a team, we provide assistance and reassurance to our clients, who are often dealing with difficult and emotional situations.
We’re based in Huddersfield, but our clients are based across the country. Distance is never an obstacle when providing our clients with the advice they desperately need. In today’s current circumstances, everything’s now held either by telephone or Zoom in any event.
How we can help
We can assist adopters during the adoption application. Usually they’ll seek our advice at this stage when they require help on agreeing an adoption support plan with the Local Authority or if birth parents are opposing the application.
We also provide advice when the child’s placement ends prior to adopters obtaining an Adoption Order. If anyone’s in a situation where the Adoption Agency or Local Authority are stating they’re not supporting the adoptive placement and seek to remove the children from the adopter’s care, then we advise clients to contact us immediately. It’s important we take swift action when presented with this scenario.
It’s important to make sure you have a robust adoption support plan. This will very much depend upon the needs of your child. We can help you with looking at the Local Authority’s adoption support plan to ensure that it’s appropriate for you and your child’s needs. The support plan can include services such as therapeutic work or financial allowances.
If a child is displaying challenging behaviours, it may be that an assessment of need is required to look at your child’s individual needs. At the end of the assessment there should be a recommendation as to what, if any, support is required for your child. If you request an assessment of need from your Local Authority, they have to do it. However, they don’t have to provide the recommended support. If this is an issue which you’re facing, contact us to see if we can assist.
The majority of our work is with adoptive parents who contact us when they’re in crisis. Often the placement is at risk of breaking down. They may have been asking for support for months or even years, and not getting the help they so desperately need.
Often when adoptive parent contacts us, it’s as a last resort and they’ve exhausted all other options. We try to reassure our clients and guide them through the very difficult time within their family. They’re often dealing with child on parent violence within the family home. We understand that this, coupled with the lack of support from professionals, can be a very stressful and emotional time. We try to take off the pressure by guiding them through the difficult process and providing them with the legal options available to them.
In some circumstances, our clients take the extremely difficult decision to request that their child is accommodated by the Local Authority. Once a child has been accommodated, the Local Authority may decide to make an application to share parental responsibility with the parents. This is often known as care proceedings. If a Local Authority does decide to make this application, legal aid is available to adoptive parents during those proceedings and we represent them at Court.
We always advise our clients to make a will. When an Adoption Order is made, their child is legally theirs. That means that their child would inherit from their estate. We help clients who are concerned about what would happen to their estate, should anything happen to them before their child reaches 18. Some don’t feel their child would be able to cope with a large amount of money when they turn 18. They come to us to have measures put in place for this. We can provide advice about what steps you can take to protect your child’s inheritance.
We have various options in respect of our fees. Some of our work is covered by legal aid, but this is only if the Local Authority start care proceedings. Some of our work is on fixed fees, whilst others are ongoing as the case progresses. It very much depends upon the area you’re seeking advice on and whether court proceedings are required.
We pride ourselves in helping adoptive families from all over the country, on various different aspects of the adoption process. An adoption journey is not always straight forward. We make it clear to all our clients, particularly those who are having an extremely difficult time within the family home, that we’re not here to judge them. Those at crisis point and at risk of an adoption disruption, often already feel judged and like they’re the only ones in that situation.
We’re here to provide advice to adopters and guide them through a difficult and emotional process. We’ll be with them every step of the way. We find a lot of our clients have a feeling of relief when they come to us. We “get it and understand” the emotional rollercoaster that adoption creates.
If you have any issues in respect of your adoption journey then please take a look at our website the Adoption Legal Centre