The father of a five year old girl placed for adoption by the London Borough of Croydon has been granted permission to oppose the order.
In the recent case of The Prospective Adopters v IA and the London Borough of Croydon, the girl, called ‘N’ in case reports, was born prematurely. She suffers from serious disabilities. She spent the first seven months of her life in hospital and was subsequently placed with foster carers who have now been approved as prospective adopters. N has never lived with either of her parents.
The father, called IA, is from Nigeria and entered this country illegally. He does not currently have permission to stay.
The mother, meanwhile, is no longer part of N’s life. In the Family Division of the High Court, Mr Justice Moor noted that she “has had serious mental health problems as well as difficulties with alcohol and drugs. Her whereabouts are unknown. ”
IA lives with his own mother, who has played an active role in her son’s attempts to appeal various stages of the care process and gain custody of his daughter.
Following a complex series of hearings, the adoption proceedings came before Judge Atkins, who made a care and placement for adoption orders for the girl.
Mr Justice Moor explains:
“The judge ruled out both the Father and the Paternal Grandmother as long-term carers for N. He rejected long term fostering as being unsuitable in this case. He said that, whilst special guardianship would be a possible solution, it had disadvantages. For example, it expires at age 18 and would provide less permanency for N than adoption. He had previously quoted in detail from the evidence of the Independent Social Worker… as to the need for permanency and stability for N. He considered adoption would be the best solution, whilst recognising that it was a huge interference with the right to family life of N and her father and grandmother. He said a greater interference was hard to imagine but added that… he considered it both justified and proportionate and in pursuance of a legitimate aim, namely the welfare of N.”
The judge added:
“In his judgment, [Judge Atkins] found that the benefits of adoption outweighed the disadvantages and that it was clearly in N’s best interests, given the importance of her medical condition and her welfare throughout her life.
Following an unsuccessful appeal, the IA and his mother tried to take their case to the Supreme Court, but were refused permission because there was “no point of law of general public importance”.
The father then decided to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), alleging “that the Father and Paternal Grandmother’s human rights were violated by the decision to make a placement order … It is said that there was no proper consideration of all the options available and the order made was neither necessary nor proportionate.”
Meanwhile, the father again applied for permission to oppose the adoption order, as well as seeking a postponement of the formal adoption pending a ruling by the ECHR.
In considering this, Mr Justice Moor referred to the much cited case of Re B, a Supreme Court judgement made in June last year. This stated that:
“…the test for severing the relationship between parent and child is very strict and that the test will be found to be satisfied only in exceptional circumstances and “where nothing else will do” “
Mr Justice Moor said:
“I have come to the conclusion that is impossible to say that Judge Atkins applied the test in Re B. In doing so, I am not being critical as he did not have that test available to him. It is though right that he did not find that adoption was “necessary” nor that “nothing else will do.” In fact, he found the opposite. He found that special guardianship was a “possible solution” albeit with disadvantages. He found adoption to be “the best solution” rather than the only solution.”
The father was granted permission to oppose on the issue of whether special guardianship or adoption was the best solution for N. The judge was at pains to point out that:
“I make it quite clear that there is no question whatsoever of N being removed from [the] care [of N’s adopters]. The Father’s appeal against the final care order has been dismissed and he can have absolutely no complaint about that. He has been excluded as a carer and that will remain the position. The issue is solely between special guardianship and adoption. I make it equally clear that, by giving leave to oppose, I am not indicating that I favour special guardianship over adoption.”
Photo of Croydon Town Hall by Dr Neil Clifton via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence