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Mother loses dual care appeals

A mother with a troubled background has lost a dual appeal against having her youngest child placed for adoption and refusal to let her have direct contact with an older child, who had already been taken into care.

In the recently published case of S (A Child), the mother had been brought up by foster carers and had severe emotional and behavioural problems thanks to neglect and abuse by her parents when she was young. As a teenager she became involved in crime and gave birth to her first child at the age of just 14.

This child, called C, was placed for adoption. Subsequently the mother received a long jail sentence after committing arson at her local social services office. She went on to have four other children. The youngest, a boy called F in case reports, was born in June last year.

A girl, referred to as A, was placed an interim care order shortly after birth in August 2012.

An older child, called Y, had been born in April 2011 and his carers now sought to formally adopt him.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Laws, Pitchford and McFarlane noted that the mother was intelligent and had good childcare skills but reacted with aggression to authority figures and had a history of dishonesty with social workers.

The mother’s appeal against the rulings in relation to A and Y claimed there were insufficient grounds for the care order, under section 31 of the Children Act 1989. She also argued that the judge had not given sufficient weight to her childcare abilities and said her dishonesty had not placed A at risk. The judge had not properly assessed any risks to A, she claimed.

But, delivering the leading judgement, Lord Justice McFarlane insisted that the original judge had properly considered and assessed the case material, evidence and requirements for care proceedings.

The judge said:

“…we are asked to consider whether this is a case, to use the phrase adopted by Lady Hale, in Re: B where “nothing else will do”. I respond rhetorically, that there was “nothing else” put forward other than the open ended wait for therapy [for the mother]…and that wait had no guarantee that there would be success and a reduction of risk at the end of it. There was clear and immediate evidence before the judge’s very eyes in the courtroom of the continuing problem presented by this mother from time to time.”

There had been no realistic alternative to care proceedings, the judge declared. The mother’s appeal against refusal of her additional application, for direct contact with her other child Y, was dismissed on the grounds that the judge had sufficient familiarity with the case to assess its merits.

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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