Haringey wins landmark overseas adoption ruling

Haringey Council has won a ground-breaking legal battle to ease the strict rules governing overseas adoption of a child by family members.

Haringey’s legal team challenged a family court decision requiring the uncle and aunt of a child in care to temporarily move from the US to the UK as part of the adoption process. The authority argued that the child should be allowed to stay with family members in the US while social workers went abroad to conduct assessments.

Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, prospective overseas adopters have previously had to move to the UK to look after the child at their home for at least 10 weeks in order to undergo checks.

But a judgement on 5 February, published on 3 April, the Court of Appeal ruled that the word “home” in the legislation was not geographically defined. This allowed the child to stay with its uncle and aunt in the US for the assessment.

Unanimous decision

The court’s panel of three judges were unanimous in their decision despite opposition from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which called for a strict interpretation of the law.

Lorna Reith, Haringey’s cabinet member for children and young people, said it was an important judgement for children in care.

She added: “Often the best thing for children in care is to be adopted within their own family. But clearly many families cannot uproot themselves for months like this. The result of the way the law has been interpreted has been children missing out on opportunities to be placed with suitable family carers.”

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