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Court of Appeal says judge did not recognise full impact of adoption

The Court of Appeal has overturned care and placement orders for a one year-old child, saying the judge had not fully considered the impact of adoption.

S (A Child) concerned a woman in her 20s with “mild” learning difficulties. Her daughter, called ‘K’ in case reports, was placed for adoption by the local authority, and she appealed, initially acting as a litigant in person. The child was placed with prospective adopters just a couple of weeks after the mother filed her appeal, but the local authority later apologised for this, claiming it had been an oversight.

At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black noted:

“[The local authority] recognised that this was not in accordance with good practice and apologised unreservedly, explaining that it had not been their intention in any way to thwart [the mother]’s appeal. Fortunately, the prospective adopters had been warned about the appeal before K was placed with them.”

The mother had suffered from depression and had no fixed address. She had two other children. The oldest had already been taken into care and the second placed under a care and supervision order.

Her appeal in the case of K centred on the claim that the original judge’s order had been “disproportionate”.

Lady Justice Black highlighted a lack of coordination in the local authority, with the adult social services department supporting the mother’s appeal while the children’s department opposed it.

She said:

“At the heart of the problems in this case has been the division of [the local authority]’s work between adult social services and children’s services. Both were, of course, involved with M and her children but they did not work together or form a consistent view of the case. The judge was rightly critical of [the local authority] for this and said that lessons needed to be learned from the case.

She also referred to criticism of the local authority by the original judge:

“…not least because on four occasions they had applied for the removal of K from [the mother]’s care only to abandon each application on the day, which was very upsetting for [her]. [The original judge] considered that [she] had been given mixed messages.”

However, said Lady Justice Black, the judge had not given due consideration to the gravity of adoption in his conclusions. She referred to the recent Supreme Court ruling Re B.

“Re B is a forceful reminder that orders such as the judge made here are “very extreme”, only made when “necessary” for the protection of the child’s interests, which means “when nothing else will do”, “when all else fails”, that the court “must never lose sight of the fact that [the child’s] interests include being brought up by her natural family, ideally her parents, or at least one of them” and that adoption “should only be contemplated as a last resort”.”

The original judgement “does not convey any real sense of these considerations”, she observed, and did not contain “sufficient recognition that the orders that the judge was proposing to make were of huge consequence for M and K and were only to be made as a last resort.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. vob re says:

    Why are these individuals who more often than not get the title of ‘Social Worker by sitting a college course where the requirement is to do so many modules extracting paragraphs out of books with no exam at the end of it. Many of these individuals have no first hand child experience of their own allowed to continue the devastation they cause to families. The routinely dismiss ‘Kinship care. It should be hammered home
    ‘Adoption’ WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS’.

  2. Clare Wakeman says:

    theres two many proffessionals put children up for adoption when there is no need at all ?all they are doing is destroying familys who do not need destroying

  3. Julie Oliver says:

    my son moved his girlfriend in with us and at that time she was going back to court and was fighting to keep her son. She lost the fight and they put him up for adoption and he is living now with the adoptive parents but they still have one last court to have the boy made there own. my son and his girlfriend have just had a baby girl who is being checked by social service and my son is main carer and myself as second carer now. The mum is living with us and is an active member of the family and is now learning how to care for baby properly and is doing great wanted to know is there anyway we can stop the adoption of the boy who we tried to fight for before and have him living with us as his family home would be with his mum who has learnt alot being here with us wanted to know if we would be able to appeal thanks Julie.

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