A couple who fled abroad to try and escape care proceedings have failed in their bid to have their children returned.
In Local Authority 1 & Others v AF (Mother) & Others, the couple had three children, aged six, four and 20 months. These were referred to in the judgement as ‘CF’, ‘DF’ and ‘EF’ respectively.
The family’s life deteriorated into “chaos and neglect”, the judgement notes. The two older children, CF and DF, were taken into care by following “an incident of extreme domestic violence”. The children suffered an “unusually high number of injuries”.
Sitting in the High Court, Mr Justice Cobb said the incident had occurred amidst a “history of chaotic and abusive parenting, materially contributed to by the parents’ chronic drug addiction”.
After his birth, EF was also made the subject of care proceedings by another local authority but was allowed to continued living with his parents under a written agreement.
However, the parents then took EF abroad to another country, home of the maternal grandmother. The mother subsequently returned to the UK and took the two older children from a contact session, flying back to the unnamed country. The couple then began email negotiations with both local authorities back in the UK, saying they would return only if the care plans were changed.
Mr Justice Cobb described the parents’ actions as “a calculated, clandestine, and audacious act undertaken, in my judgment, with scant regard for the welfare of the children – both in the short term and the long term.”
Eventually the famly agreed to return and a fresh residential assessment of their parenting abilities was launched. However, this quickly broke down and the children were placed with foster carers once more. The parents, meanwhile, each served prison sentences for child abduction under the Child Abduction Act 1984.
Mr Justice Cobb dismissed the parents’ application to revoke care plans for the older children and also issued a care order for the younger child. He said of the parents’ decision to take the children out of the country:
“The children experienced considerable disruption; the boys were removed from the care of their foster home (where they had been for 15 months), without preparation or warning, to the other side of the world, only for them to be returned some months later after the parents had reflected on the error of their decision. It was a futile act, condemning the children (as the mother herself acknowledged) to the status of ‘exiles’”
He acknowledged that the parents were “bright” and they had “offered good enough parenting for their children at times.”
However, they had also shown a lack of empathy and a failure to truly understand the consequences of their actions.
Read the full judgement here.
Photo by copdogblog via Flickr