A baby girl aged one year and three months is to be adopted, after her parents were judged to pose a danger to her welfare.
In Leeds City Council v B (The Mother) & Ors, the baby, referred to in the judgement as ‘A’, was born in July last year. Her parents, ‘B’ and ‘C’, had been a couple since 2008, and lived together until October of last year.
During the B’s stay in hospital to give birth, she had told the staff that she had problems with her mental health and would struggle unless C stayed with her on the ward. Later a GP reported the family to the local authority after B confessed that the father had shown anger towards the baby and been rough with her.
Subsequently, B and A moved together into the grandmother’s home and C, the father, was only allowed supervised contact with his daughter.
However, investigations by the local authority then uncovered the fact that B had been placed on the Sex Offenders Register in 2006, “due to a caution for physical and sexual assaults on young children”. It also emerged that she had a background of abuse and neglect.
The local authority launched care proceedings and A was placed with a foster family under an interim (temporary) care order. The mother had been unable to cope with a mother and baby placement and struggled to engage with daily assessment of her parenting skills at the foster family’s home.
A was removed from her mother’s care altogether in April, when an interim hearing considered possible dishonesty on her part and concerns about possible sexual abuse.
Following a two week assessment of the risks posed to A by her mother, the matter came before Her Honour Judge Lynch for a final hearing. The parents opposed plans to adopt A.
Sitting at the Family Court in Leeds, Judge Lynch considered claims that A’s development had suffered during the time she was in her mother’s sole care, concluding that it had. The judge explained:
“My understanding of the situation just after A’s birth is that C gave up work to care for B and to take an active role in caring for A. B breastfed A but it seems much of the other care was shared and that C played a significant parenting role. That of course ended when the couple had to separate in October after the GP’s referral and thereafter A’s care came from her mother until removal at the end of April…”
Nevertheless, she also believed that the father’s temper and anger management issues were significant. He had been threatening and abusive towards the foster family, social workers and the children’s guardian.
“Whilst I entirely accept the pressure on C following A’s removal and anticipating the final hearing, he does not seek to deny being threatening and aggressive,” the judge explained.
If placed in her father’s care, A would be continue to be affected by her father’s anger, she declared.
Judge Lynch concluded:
“I am very conscious of the parents’ desire to keep A with one of them, and arguably they would be very committed to making such a placement work. Remaining with one of her parents would be the simplest and best option in terms of A’s identity; she would be within her birth family as most other children are and that would have to be the ideal. She would grow up with links with her maternal family at least and would have a sense of who she was and where she came from.”
But, she added, “it is clear that there are significant risks to A if she is placed with either of her parents.”
Adoption was therefore in A’s best interests.
Read the full case here.
The courts are sometimes required to make difficult decisions about the best interests of very young children. Last month, the High Court allowed doctors to withdraw medical treatment from a one year- old with “profound” brain damage.
Photo of the River Aire in Leeds by Tim Green via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence