The Court of Appeal recently ruled that a mother’s application to revoke a placement order for her seven-year-old son could be heard after it was rejected by the County Court. The County Court judge concluded that the boy, who was already living with a foster carer, was with a ‘potential adopter’. The carer had not committed to adopting the child but she had not ruled it out. The law prohibits an application to revoke a placement order from being heard when the child has been placed for adoption with a ‘prospective adopter’. The judge ruled that she was a potential adopter and that meant that the child had been placed for adoption.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled that a potential adopter and a prospective adopter are not the same thing. The two words have quite different dictionary definitions. The Court of Appeal considered that the judge’s focus on the wrong adjective had led to the wrong conclusion in law.