A young mother with a learning disability failed to secure legal aid when fighting the adoption of her daughter.
In R (A Child), the mother only had the assistance of a mental health advocate and she was unsuccessful in her efforts to prevent the adoption.
At the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne County Court, Judge Hudson noted that she had been unable to secure legal representation despite “the best endeavours” being made to do so.
“I find it a matter of real regret for a young woman with obvious limitations to find herself without representation, in circumstances in which other applications for permission to oppose are made before me from time to time with the assistance of representation through legal aid.”
The mother and father’s relationship ended before the birth of their child, called ‘R’ in court documents, and as a result the father was not named on the birth certificate.
After R was born he lived with his mother until he was admitted to hospital suffering from gastroenteritis (a stomach infection).
The local authority expressed “considerable concern” for the level of care the mother could provide for R following this incident and he was taken into foster care.
The local authority did not think he could live with any other members of his family so he was put up for adoption with provisions for “indirect contact” with his mother.
An adoptive family was found for R and he was placed with them in September 2013, “in which he is very well loved and his needs are very well met.”
The mother said she had settled into accommodation with her grandmother and would like R to live with her there.
Judge Hudson ruled there was “no solid basis” for the mother’s application.
She said the changes the mother had made to her life were not sufficient to reconsider the adoption placement.
“They are very limited changes in her day-to-day living arrangements and fall very far short of the changes which the court would require to be persuaded that they were of a nature and degree sufficient on the facts of this case to open the door to the exercise of judicial discretion.”
The judge added:
“The conclusions of the assessments that R could not safely be returned to his mother’s care were based on the history of her neglect of his needs when he was in her care and the professional assessment that she was not able to improve her parenting abilities in such a way which would allow her to provide consistently for R’s needs to a good enough standard.”
It is hard to imagine any mother being hit with a worse situation than that of irrevocably losing her child. It is a scandal that such a vulnerable woman was unable to secure the legal help she clearly required, which who knows might well have altered the outcome.