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Court of Appeal: father not capable of raising his daughter

A father has lost his appeal against an order placing his daughter and stepson in care because he is not capable of raising them.

Re R (Children) concerned a 12 year-old girl, referred to as ‘E’, and her brother, ‘N’, who is just six. Their parents had a “volatile” relationship, which included domestic violence and “mutual injury”.

Sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, Lady Justice Black said the mother had “many disadvantages” and that looking after the children had proved “challenging” for her. She frequently left the family home without explanation. However, she took no part in the subsequent legal proceedings.

The father, meanwhile, was not the biological father of N but “he has always treated him as his own and is as committed to bringing up N as he is to bringing up E.”

The local authority had been aware of the family for a number of years. Social workers had been concerned about poor conditions in the family’s home and neglect of E. The judge also noted that the family had:

“…failed to act upon advice from educational and health care professionals with respect to a number of ongoing health problems”.

Finally, in February 2011, care proceedings began and the children were placed with foster carers the following month.

By the time the case came before the courts the following year, both parents had reportedly abandoned any plans to apply for continued custody of N and E. The local authority sought adoption or long-term placement orders but the father opposed these, arguing instead for a long-term fostering arrangement in which he would continue to see both N and E.

The judge approved the authority’s care plan for the two children, but said a contact order allowing the father to see N and E could limit the family placements available and this would not be in the children’s best interests.

Subsequently the local authority changed its plans, having decided that it was no longer in the children’s best interests to be placed together. It concluded that it was unlikely that E would find an adopted home given her age, and so she should stay in long-term foster care they said. But they thought N might still find an adoptive family, being considerably younger than his sister. The father opposed this, by then hoping that both children might be allowed to come and live with him again.

The children’s behaviour had become increasingly “challenging” by this point and their original foster placement had broken down.

In court, the judge noted the father’s efforts “to improve himself as a parent and his love for the children and genuine wish to care for them.”

Nevertheless, he ruled against returning the children, saying the father had no real grasp of the children’s needs and was not capable of meeting them.

She quoted the earlier judge, who had said:

“He likes to present himself as a victim of domestic violence with no real acknowledgment of the impact of his behaviour upon his children.”

The father’s subsequent appeal was equally unsuccessful.

Lady Justice Black concluded that the earlier judge had been entitled to reach the conclusion he had. She said:

“It is important to note that the judge’s conclusion at §75 was that F lacked the capability to parent E and N ‘whether separately or together’”.

She added:

“I also reject the argument there was not a proper analysis of the options for the children by the professionals or by the judge, who was well aware of the fundamental nature of the placement decision that he was required to make. A full reading of the evidence that was before the judge and of the judgment discloses that the realistic options were given appropriate consideration.”

Read the full judgement here.

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeal told a father whose marriage had broken down that he could not see his children more than twice a year.

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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