A three year-old boy from a troubled background is to be placed for adoption after a judge ruled that the move was in his best interests.
In Re P (A Child: Assessment of Kinship Carers), the boy, referred to as ‘P’, was born when his mother was just 14 years old. ‘AB’ named ‘RN’ as P’s father, but he refused to take a paternity test, has no parental responsibility and is currently in prison.
AB’s background was unhappy. She grew up in a home riven by domestic violence, violence which was sometimes witnessed by AB and her younger sister. Her father eventually left the family when she was three.
Later AB was involved in assault, shoplifting and a “racially motivated public order offence”.
By November 2010, she was pregnant with P. In January last year, a “violent incident” with AB’s then partner resulted in bruising. Then, later the same year, the local authority began to express concerns about P’s welfare.
Sitting at the Family Court in Leicester, Judge Bellamy explained:
“The manager of the mother’s supported accommodation contacted the local authority to express concern about her behaviour and about threats the mother was receiving from known drug dealers. This led to an initial child protection conference held on 30th August 2013. It was the unanimous decision of the conference that P should be made the subject of a Child Protection Plan under the risk categories of physical and emotional harm.”
“Concerns in respect of the mother’s lifestyle and parenting continued. There were concerns about her drug abuse, about her leaving P alone in her flat, about unknown third parties entering her flat and about P’s poor attendance at nursery.”
AB agreed to go into a mother and baby foster placement, but she was asked to leave after just a few months when she was seen to return home under the influence of drugs. She also failed to properly supervise her son on at least one occasion, when he burned his hand on her hair straighteners. P remained in the foster placement.
Leicestershire County Council then applied for ‘care and placement’ orders for P. These would give them the authority to take P into care on a permanent basis and place him for adoption with a prospective new family.
The mother opposed their application.
AB’s parenting skills were criticised. The local authority said he she was “unable to put P’s needs first on a consistent basis”.
A report stated:
“AB…can implement advice and understands that providing P with consistent routines and boundaries causes his behaviour to improve. She clearly has the ability to make positive changes in the way she parents him and has demonstrated doing this during the course of this assessment.
However, AB has struggled to maintain the changes she has made to her parenting on a consistent basis. She struggles to be a young mother with responsibilities to fulfil on a daily basis to P. She remains a teenager with her own needs.”
The mother put forward her father, GF, and his partner, MR, as ‘kinship’ (family) carers for P.
Judge Bellamy considered the ability of GF and MR to properly care for P. He noted that social workers had raised a number of serious concerns about them, including a history of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and fractious family relationships.
The judge explained that, under guidance issued by the President of the Family Division in the much-cited case of Re B-S, adoption must only be considered where there is no alternative option in the child’s best interests.
The judge considered the advantage of P going to live with his grandfather and his partner.
“Placement of P with GF and MR would have the advantage that P would be cared for within his birth family. There is clear evidence, which I accept, of a positive relationship between P and GF and also between P and MR. There can be no doubt of the strength of their love for P, a love which P reciprocates. There is also clear evidence, which again I accept, of the commitment of GF and MR towards P. They genuinely want what is best for him and equally genuinely believe that they are able to provide the care that is best for him. Placement of P with GF and MR would also have the advantage of enabling P to continue to have direct contact with his mother.”
Nevertheless, he continued:
“ In my judgment the evidence raises very real doubts about the capacity of the mother, GF and MR to meet P’s needs. I am in no doubt that if placed within his birth family P would be at risk of emotional and perhaps also physical harm.”
The toddler is, the judge declared:
“…attached to his mother and GF. There will inevitably be a sense of loss when direct contact with his mother and GF comes to an end. He will also lose his identity as a member of his biological family. In place of the family into which he was born he will be grafted into a new family, a process the success of which can be reasonably expected but which cannot be guaranteed. As is evident from the research to which I referred earlier, adoption placements do sometimes break down, sometimes years after the child was placed.”
But, Judge Bellamy concluded:
“Whilst there are risks in placement outside his birth family, in my judgment those risks are significantly less than the known risks of returning him to the care of his birth family.”
Consequently he overruled the mother’s consent to the adoption.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo of Leicester by NotFromUtrecht via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence