Delegating Parental Responsibility

As the flurry of activity is starting to snowball, and I’m suddenly being sent document after document to read, review, sign, etc, I am learning some fascinating things. Also they sent me a provisional timetable to meet my (potential) daughter which is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVAAAAAR!!!! It’s all becoming suddenly very real!

One notable thing that I found really interesting was the list of delegated parental responsibilities – and specifically what will transfer to me and what will not during the placement process.

At this point, a placement order has been issued by a court, meaning that this child has been legally assigned “to be placed for adoption”. She is in foster care currently, and I presume the birth parents were given the opportunity to contest the placement order, though I have no idea if they did or not. However, a judge has decreed that this child will be placed for permanent adoption, meaning that all other avenues, such as going back to the birth parents or living with relatives, have been exhausted.

Now, during this process, the birth parents have legal rights, even if some of those have been removed by a judge, and the local authority has taken over guardianship of this child, some of which has been delegated to a foster carer.

When the child is placed with me, some of the delegated parental responsibilities from the foster carer will be transferred to me, but the birth parents and local authority will retain quite a lot of legal responsibilities until such time as an adoption order is granted (usually around 3-6 months after the placement with me, depending on how well we are adjusting to each other).

At the time of an adoption order (which the birth parents can still legally contest even if the child has been living with me for several months), a judge will grant this legal document, (the adoption order) which makes the child legally mine in the complete sense, and at that time I will gain complete parental responsibility, can change her last name to match mine, and get a new birth certificate to officially make her a legal part of my family.

So what are my delegated parental responsibilities? Well, while the child is in my care, after she comes to live with me, I have the right to the following responsibilities:

  • Decisions in relation to any prophylactic treatment, including immunisations
  • Decisions in relation to emergency medical treatment
  • Involvement of child in religious activities
  • Intention to take the child away from the family home for longer than a weekend, for holidays/visits to relatives etc. (but the local authority must be provided with details)
  • Decision to leave the child in the care of another adult (i.e. occasionally for a short period of time)

However, the following parental responsibilities are NOT delegated to me, and need to be discussed with the child’s local authority until such time as I obtain full responsibility when an adoption order is made:

  • The name by which the child is known can only be changed prior to an adoption order being made with written consent of the birth parents or consent of the court.
  • Consent for medical treatment including operations that require anaesthetic
  • Decisions in relation to involvement in counselling or therapeutic services
  • Choice and timing of child attending any type of pre-school/nursery or day care provision
  • Baptism or confirmation of the child in a particular faith
  • Application for a passport
  • Agreement to take the child out of the country
  • Decision to leave the child in the care of another adult on a regular basis or overnight (i.e. agreed supporter with current DBS check)
  • Making any contact arrangements with the birth family over and above those already agreed as part of the adoption placement plan.
  • Agreement for body piercings and tattoos

In addition, the birth parents retain these rights until the child is formally adopted:

  • Agreement to the child being known under any other name
  • A birth parent with parental responsibility may need to be notified if the child has an accident which required treatment in hospital or has a serious illness.
  • Birth parents need to be consulted to give agreement to take the child out of the country for a period of more than three months.
  • When the application to adopt the child is submitted to the Court, the birth parents are asked to give their agreement to the adoption being finalised, or whether they wish to seek the leave of the Court to formally contest the making of the Adoption Order.

So it’s really quite an interesting list, and nice to have such a clear delineation of legal do’s and don’ts during this transitional process. For example, if I want to go camping with friends, or visit my mother or sister for more than a weekend, it’s useful to know I would need to get approval for this from the local authority, and similarly if later on I wanted to get a regular babysitter, childminder or other type of regular support, or start my child at a nursery or pre-school, I would need permission from the local authority to do this.

So there we are, learning new things every day in this process!

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