Adoption without parental consent

Adoption without parental consent
Book Chapter
Julie Doughty
Adoption Law, 25 April 2023 [Elgar]
This chapter places controversy about adoption without birth parents’ consent in England and Wales in a wider historical and social context. Although it may appear that legal challenges have become more common in adoption proceedings, it is argued that these rarely succeed and that the relatively few reported cases give only a partial picture of birth parents’ experiences. Three aspects of consent are considered: whether the consent given is valid; withholding consent; and actively contesting court proceedings. Research suggests that, historically, birth parents in the UK, Australia and the USA have been coerced into surrendering their babies, some in circumstances that raise doubts about mothers’ mental capacity to consent. Current debates focus on less direct coercion through a lack of support services for families facing poverty and adverse circumstances. The background to relevant provisions in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 is examined, and case law relating to different stages of the court process is analysed. Although courts give serious consideration to human rights principles and due process, the discussion indicates limited opportunities for birth parents to effectively resist adoption by refusing their formal consent or making court applications. Legal mechanisms designed to allow non-consenting parents to challenge the adoption process, where this was justified, do not appear to offer a realistic prospect of overturning an adoption plan, once this has been approved in care proceedings.

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