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Council takes child without informing the mother

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A local council has been given permission to take a child into foster care without informing the mother beforehand.

In X County Council v M and Others, the mother had been diagnosed with a mental health condition known as schizoaffective disorder. Symptoms for this illness include abnormal thought processes and an inability to regulate emotions.

According to her psychiatrists, the mother “lacks insight” into her condition and does not believe she needs treatment. Since April, she had refused any medication for the illness and this had led to a further deterioration in her mental state.

The mother also suffered from “persecuting delusions” and believed the mental health services would murder her and her unborn child.

As a result of the mother’s mental health issues, the local council sought to take her child into foster care once he was born.

It applied for permission to do so without disclosing the plan to the mother.

They also requested a reporting restrictions order (‘RRO’) until the child’s birth. This would prevent the mother finding out about the care plan through the media.

Sitting in the High Court in London, Mr Justice Keehan said the requests were “extremely unusual”. He added that such a “Draconian and highly exceptional course of conduct” would only be allowed by the court in exceptional circumstances.

One of the mother’s doctors believed there was “a very real risk” that she would physically harm herself and her child if she were to learn about the council’s plans to place him into care.

The judge agreed with this assessment. He also noted the mother’s “history of being abusive and threatening”, her inability to control her behaviour and her lack of cooperation with the health care professionals. For these reasons, he said it was “vitally important and an absolute necessity” that there be no reporting of the case in the media.

Both of the council’s applications were granted. The child has since been born and taken into foster care, which means the RRO is no longer in place.

The child’s father was offered supervised contact once his paternity had been confirmed by a DNA test. He has put himself forward to care for the child.

Mr Justice Keehan said there was to be a further hearing which would further deal with certain intricacies of the case at a later date.

He concluded the judgment by complimenting the father for making his way from his home country to be present at the hearings.

The judge also wished to “pay tribute” to the father’s relationship with his child. He said the way they interacted was “one of the most moving” examples he had ever seen. The judge said the father was clearly “a loving, caring, and tender father who was very keen to care for his son”.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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