b) Parental Responsibility

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 20 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Under the Children Act parental responsibility is not usually conferred on a non-parent except by court order. The only existing exception to this is the appointment of a guardian to act after the death of a parent. (Under amendments to the Children Act in this Bill there will also be a power for a step parent to be given parental responsibility by agreement with the child's parents, but it is important to note that this parental responsibility is shared and the appointee is not put in a position to restrict the exercise of parental responsibility by the parents.) By clause 24 of the Bill, parental responsibility is given to the adoption agency not only on the making of a placement order by a court, but also by the mere fact of the parents' agreeing to placement for adoption, when no court will be involved. The same clause also provides that when the child is placed for adoption (whether under a placement order or by consent) the prospective adopters acquire parental responsibility. Again, this involves the granting of parental responsibility without reference to a court.

While the child is placed for adoption, parental responsibility will be shared by the agency, the parents and the prospective adopters but clause 24(4) gives the agency an unqualified power (subject only to the requirements of clause 1) to restrict the exercise of parental responsibility by both the parents and the prospective adopters. This contrasts with the position under the Children Act, where a local authority that has parental responsibility by virtue of a care order may determine the extent to which a parent or guardian may meet his or her parental responsibility for a child, but may not exercise this power unless they are satisfied that it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote the child's welfare.

When a placement order is made by a court, it is appropriate that parental responsibility should be given to the local authority concerned, but there is no reason why the wording of the Children Act (s.33(3) and (4)) should not apply in this situation exactly as it does under a care order. Where an agency is authorised to place a child for adoption with the consent of the parents, there is no need for parental responsibility to be vested in the agency; the situation is comparable to the placing of a child in accommodation under s.20 of the Children Act; the parent can of course, as would usually happen now, authorise the local authority—or the prospective adopters—to exercise certain aspects of parental responsibility such as consent to medical treatment.

These provisions regarding parental responsibility are even more inappropriate when it is seen that the combined effect of clauses 18(4) and 24(1) are to continue to vest parental responsibility in an adoption agency and in the prospective adopters where the child was placed for adoption by consent, but the consent is subsequently withdrawn.