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The law for featuring children

This page explains the law for featuring children in England, Wales and Scotland. It covers children's legal status, as well as what consent is required before a child can be featured in either magazine or online publications. Children in Northern Ireland are currently not featured.

England and Wales

The agency should have the legal authority to place the child for adoption, or have made an application for a Placement Order and obtained the court's consent, before advertising that child. Under the Adoption and Children Act 2002, authority to place a child for adoption is obtained by the adoption agency having either:

  • The formally given and witnessed consent of each parent with parental responsibility and any legal guardian (including a special guardian) of the child under section 19 of the Act
  • A Placement Order granted to the local authority under section 21 of the Act in relation to that child

Where authority to place a child is by consent under section 19 of the Act, the agency should first obtain the consent of each parent with parental responsibility and legal guardian (including a special guardian) before advertising.

If the child is currently subject to Placement Order proceedings the local authority must seek the consent of the court to advertise the child.

When a Placement Order has been granted the consent of the parent or the court is not required. The local authority can consent to advertising. However the agency should obtain the consent of the child where the agency considers the child is of sufficient age and understanding.

Transitional issues

Freeing Orders made before 30 December 2005 will remain in force unless they are revoked. Thus, agencies should already have the relevant permission to feature children.

Where the child is subject to a Care Order, the agency must obtain authority to place the child for adoption under the 2002 Act (see above), or have applied for a Placement Order and obtained the court's consent before the child can be advertised.

Where a child is the subject of an Interim Care Order (under section 38 of the Children Act 1989) in care proceedings and the plan is for adoption, the local authority will need to apply for a Placement Order. It may be possible to feature a child in this situation, but the relevant local authority's legal department should be consulted on its views about publicity, and it may be necessary to secure the court's permission before proceeding.

Where a child is accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, whoever holds parental responsibility will need to agree to the child being featured.

Scotland

Where more than one person has parental responsibilities and rights (PRR) it will be necessary to obtain consent from all of those who hold PRRs. Parental responsibilities and rights are not removed if a child is subject to a Supervision Order imposed by a Children's Hearing, or is accommodated with the consent of the parent(s) under s.25 of The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 thus consent will be required. If a Permanence Order (Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007) has been granted which grants authority to adopt then parental consent will not be required and the local authority will be able to consent. If a Permanence Order has been granted, but not authority to adopt then the situation with regard to parental responsibilities and rights will need to be checked. Where a child has sufficient understanding it is best practice to obtain consent from the child. If the child is over 12 an Adoption Order will not be made without the consent of the child unless the child has no capacity, therefore the child's consent should be obtained.

Where children are subject to a Freeing Order, the local authority will have parental responsibility for the children and will thus be able to feature children.

In all cases

Where there is any doubt about the necessary authority to feature children, the relevant local authority's legal department should always be consulted.