The mother of a six month child has been refused an assessment of her parenting capabilities.
In Re S (A Child), held before Family Division President Sir James Munby, the woman had given birth to four children. The three oldest had been taken into care as she had a history of prostitution and drug use. The fourth child was born with drug withdrawal symptoms and made the subject of an emergency protection order, and then taken into care on an interim (temporary) basis.
The mother applied for the residential assessment of her parenting abilities during the subsequent care proceedings – initially for a weekend, and if that was successful, for a further 6-12 weeks. A hair analysis showed very low traces of drugs in the woman’s system.
However, if granted, the woman’s application would extend the length of the care proceedings beyond six months, as they had already been ongoing for five months at that point.
Sir James Munby referred to the recent introduction to the Children Act 1989, via the Children and Families Act 2014, of a 26 week timetable for care cases. This timetable was a “a deadline, not a target”, said the President, “not an average or a mean.”
The President added:
“On behalf of the mother, Mr Pitt submits that she has complied with everything asked of her, is no longer taking drugs, has made progress in relation to her mental health – she is now talking freely – and continues to engage with the agencies and professionals who are in place to support and assist her.
Mr Hand on behalf of the local authority accepts that, to her credit, the mother has been making improvements. But, he submits, she has a long way to go. There is, he says, no realistic way in which she could care, or be supported long term to care, for S. Given the range of expert material already before the court, further assessment will not, he submits, assist the court in discharging its responsibilities.”
“Looking to the mother, there is, sadly, at present no solid, evidence based, reason to believe that she will be able to make the necessary changes within S’s timescale. Even assuming that there is some solid, evidence based, reason to believe that she is committed to making the necessary changes, there is, sadly, not enough reason to believe that she will be able to maintain that commitment. In the light of her history, and all the evidence to hand, the assertion that she will seems to me to be founded more on hope than solid expectation, just as does any assertion that she will be able to make the necessary changes within S’s timescale. Secondly, I have to have regard to the detrimental effects on S of further delay.”
Photo by Naddsy via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence