The High Court has upheld an adoption order for a disabled girl against the opposition of her father.
In N (A Child), the girl in question, now five, was born prematurely in 2008, and spent the first seven months of her life in hospital due to “serious” disabilities.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Moor noted that these required “that she receive a high and committed level of care”.
When she left hospital, the girl, referred to as ‘N’, was placed with foster carers and has lived with them ever since. They have now applied to formally adopt her.
N’s mother has both mental health and substance abuse issues and her whereabouts are unknown. However, her father, along with his mother (N’s grandmother) opposed the adoption order, arguing instead for a special guardianship order. Such orders maintain the legal link between a child and their biological parents while they live with foster carers.
N’s father and grandmother regularly see her for supervised visits. Mr Justice Moor noted:
“…there is agreement from everybody that, whatever order I make, N should continue to have contact with the Father and Paternal Grandmother as this is in her best interests in the long term. The [potential adopters] are completely signed up to this. Indeed, the most recent contact on 8th April 2014 took place in the community at Kidspace, a children’s indoor play area, at the instigation of the [adopters]. They were both present. Afterwards, everyone went to McDonalds. The [adopters] recognise the importance for N of her paternal Nigerian heritage. Indeed, they go further. They have also instituted contact for N with her four half-siblings, recognising the importance of this to N and the Jamaican heritage she has through her Mother.”
The judge considered case law on the issue of adoption, referring to the 2013 case of Re B-S, in which Family Division President Sir James Munby emphasised the need for a “holistic” approach to adoption orders, saying:
“The judicial task is to evaluate all the options, undertaking a global, holistic and…multi-faceted evaluation of the child’s welfare which takes into account all the negatives and the positives, all the pros and cons, of each option.”
Mr Justice King also noted Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to “respect for private and family life”.
Nevertheless, he continued:
“I have come to the very clear conclusion that the only order that is right for this case is one of adoption for N. Nothing else will do. Special guardianship will not meet N’s needs for permanence throughout her life. Although it does have the advantage of not severing the legal tie between her and her paternal family, in every other respect it is an unsatisfactory and inappropriate order in view of the circumstances of this case.”
The judge added:
“I have formed the view that an adoption order is overwhelmingly necessary. N has only ever known one home. She has significant special needs. She is a vulnerable child. She will become a vulnerable adult. She has received a very high quality of care from the [potential adopters]. She has thrived with them. She now needs the security, trust and confidence of being made a permanent legal member of their family such that the [adopters] will be fully and solely responsible for her needs throughout her life.”
Mr Justice Moor also declared:
“I have absolutely no doubt that the Father and Paternal Grandmother are also devoted to her and love her very much. I make no criticism of them in this regard at all. It is, though, a fact that they have been ruled out as potential carers for N.”
Read the judgement here.