A Failure of Proportion: Non-Consensual Adoption in England and Wales

Photo by Nikola Saliba

Dr Samantha Davey, Lecturer in Law, University of Essex

Dr Samantha Davey has recently published a book with Hart, entitled ‘A Failure of Proportion: Non-Consensual Adoption in England and Wales’. This book is the result of PhD research which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It explored the topic of adoption – specifically the issue of adoption without parental consent.

The central question Samantha sets out to address in her book, is as follows: in what circumstances is it proportionate to remove children from their parents into care and place them for adoption?

In England and Wales, and most other jurisdictions, adoptions are final and irrevocable. Adoption, in these circumstances, is non-consensual, signals not only the end of the legal relationship between children and parents but the end of familial relationships. Once an adoption is finalised, it is very rare for it to be revoked and unusual for direct contact to take place between children and their parents.

Dr Davey’s book explores an area of law which has sparked considerable debate amongst academics, practitioners and the judiciary nationally and internationally. The emphasis of her book is on the circumstances in which non-consensual adoption may be regarded as a proportionate measure and when less severe forms of intervention, such as long-term foster care or kinship care, may also meet children’s needs while providing protection to children’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

S Davey, A Failure of Proportion (Hart 2020)

The book builds on existing literature on adoption law but takes the discussion in new directions, placing an emphasis on the need to closely scrutinise children’s and parents’ rights at all stages of the adoption process. A unique feature of this book is its emphasis on routinely incorporating key provisions from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into analysis when determining whether an adoption order is a proportionate measure.

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