A Welsh grandmother has won the right to a rehearing after a borough council pressed ahead with plans to adopt her granddaughter.
In KS v Neath Port Talbot Borough Council, the now three year old girl was born when her mother was just 18. She had been involved in a relationship with the girl’s father since she was 15 and he was 19 and the pair had a troubled relationship.
“There was domestic abuse between the parents in front of the child (domestic violence was denied) and they had a peripatetic lifestyle involving nine changes of address in the first eleven months of the child’s life. On two occasions the child’s father had removed the child from her mother during the course of arguments.”
The child came to the attention of social services after she sustained bruising to her head due to a lack of proper supervision “about which it is said the parents were not at the time open and honest.”
The baby was initially placed with the father’s grandparents and lived with them for more than a year, but illness intervened and they were no longer able to provide a home. The authority considered placing her back with her mother on a supervised basis and also assessed the girl’s grandmother as a potential carer. The assessment was mixed, with both positive and negative qualities noted.
Then the council changed its plans to adoption and the grandmother applied to be made a party to the proceedings. Her application was adjourned until the end of the hearing, when it was refused and care and placement orders were made for her granddaughter. These would allow the council to formally take her into care and place her with an adoptive family.
Encouraged by the girl’s mother, the grandmother launched a successful appeal. The earlier hearing had been unfair, said Lord Justice Ryder. She had not been given full access to document and evidence relating to her case.
In addition, he said, the court had failed to properly consider the grandmother’s case, and in doing so, had been in breach of the requirements set out in section 10 of the Children Act 1989.
Lord Justice Ryder explained:
“The judge did not reason why the grandparents were to be excluded, there is no comparative welfare analysis of the benefits and detriments of each option and a proportionality evaluation is entirely missing from the judgment.”
“That has the effect that there is no consideration in judgment of the effect on the child of breaking family ties, in particular her attachment to her grandparents and whether nothing else would do other than adoption.”
The care and placement orders were set aside and the case was sent back to the lower courts for a rehearing.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo by infomatique via Flickr