Many of you will be aware of the so-called ‘Somerset Judgment’ which is ricocheting around the English adoption world at the moment.

In November 2021 Somerset County Council asked for legal advice about ten Placement Orders where Adoption Agency Regulations had not been fully complied with – particularly in relation to the way children’s health information was handled by adoption agencies. The Judge found the Placement Orders were legal despite the errors. But there are concerns that this may apply to other children. In March, the President of the Family Division of the courts will be looking at any other similar cases that are found.

The main message from AUK Trustee Emily Boardman, a solicitor who does a lot of work with birth families and adopters, is: don’t panic. This case does not mean your adoption order will be overturned or your child removed. It does mean that local authorities may need to examine paperwork carefully, including paperwork in old cases.” The Somerset case on non-compliant Placement Orders - Boardman, Hawkins & Osborne LLP (

Emily goes on to say: “For the vast majority of families in this situation the legal advice will be to wait until The President of the Family Division has considered the issue in March 2022 and produced further guidance. However, there are three categories of people who are advised to take more urgent legal advice:

  1. If matched but the placement is at risk;
  2. If about to be matched and the placement is at risk;
  3. If already in an adoptive placement which may break down if the adoption application is delayed.

If you are going to take legal advice you need to ensure the solicitor is a specialist in adoption law and you can ask the placing local authority if they will fund your legal fees.”

Everyone wants an adoption system that is lawful, fair and follows due process. Though the judge confirmed that adoption was the right decision for the Somerset children, it goes without saying that regulations must be followed. Legal process really does matter for the children at the centre of these decisions.

Of course at the heart of all of this, we have real people with real emotions. Adopted people, adopters, birth families and social workers will all be watching as this unfolds. That’s where I think Adoption UK can play a part. We can keep you informed, support you and connect you with others who might be in the same situation as you. We will all have to wait to hear what the President of the Family Division has to say in March. We will keep you posted, and if you want to talk, please call our free Helpline:  0300 666 0006. Adoption UK is by your side. 


Written by Ellie Haworth, Director of Service Delivery