The Court of Appeal has overturned an earlier ruling that two girls in long-term foster care should not be adopted, after their local authority appealed.
The case of Re V (Children) concerned sisters, aged nine and four, who had been taken into care. The local authority had planned to place them for adoption ,but a judge ruled that it was in fact in their best interests to remain in long term foster care so as to maintain contact with their parents. They had grown into happy children and their relationship with parents was valuable, he believed. If separated, they could suffer a real sense of loss.
The judge ordered the local authority to change its plans for the children.
The local authority appealed, saying the judge’s ruling was insufficient and that he had failed to take into account aspects of their children’s relationship with their parents.
In the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black ruled in the local authority’s favour, saying that the original judge had not given sufficient weight to significant problems in the girls’ relationship with their mother. If they continued to see her, contact was likely to be repeatedly suspended. Whilst the children had a better relationship with their father, he had not taken proper responsibility for their care when the mother’s ability to look after them had declined. Contact with the father had to be seen in the context of their relationship with the mother. Any benefits the children might receive from staying in touch with their father would not outweigh the problems that contact with the mother could cause.
The girls should now be placed for adoption as originally planned, the Court ruled. In her judgement, Lady Justice Black noted significant differences between adoption and fostering:
“Adoption makes the child a permanent part of the adoptive family to which he or she fully belongs. To the child, it is likely therefore to “feel” different from fostering. Adoptions do, of course, fail but the commitment of the adoptive family is of a different nature to that of a local authority foster carer whose circumstances may change, however devoted he or she is.”