The High Court has approved a special guardianship arrangement which will allow disabled parents to maintain contact with their two year-old son while he remains with a foster carer.
Special guardianship orders maintain the legal link between a looked after child and his or her parents.
In Surrey County Council v AB & Ors, the child, referred to as ‘X’ in the judgement, was born to parents aged 21 and 20. His mother has both cerebral palsy and a learning difficulty, while the father suffers has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and symptoms similar to Asperger Syndrome. Their relationship was described as “volatile”.
X was also born in with a number of complicated health issues and requires a high standard of care. The local authority launched care proceedings after X was taken to hospital and doctors identified poor weight gain.
However, during subsequent hearings, they and the parents reached an agreement on X’s future.
At the High Court, Mrs Justice Theis explained:
“What has been agreed is that X should remain in the care of his current carers Mr and Mrs SG who have been his foster carers since May 2012. It is agreed that should be under a special guardianship order (SGO) in favour of Mr and Mrs SG. The local authority have filed a revised care plan which provides for more comprehensive contact between X and his birth family, leading to a regime of overnight contact based at the paternal grandmother’s home.”
The judge added:
“I fully appreciate that this has been an extremely difficult decision for these two young parents. They understandably want to care for X full time but now realistically recognise that cannot happen. They have been supported in that decision by the paternal grandmother, who will be able to support the parents seeing X when he visits her home. Both the parents and the paternal grandmother have a good working relationship with Mr and Mrs SG and they will all need proper support in place to help ensure that remains an effective working relationship to benefit X.”
Mrs Justice Theis approved the agreement, saying X’s welfare needs required the stability offered by the plan, which was to be reviewed in six months.
She criticised some of the council’s assessments of the parent’s disabilities.
“Whilst it will never be known if the correct assessments of the parents had been undertaken earlier, as they should have been, whether the parents would have been in a position to care for X the reality is now the comprehensive assessments undertaken since are united in their conclusions that the parents would not be able to care full time for X, even with extensive support being provided.”
The local authority was granted permission to formally withdraw its earlier care proceedings.