Mother’s appeal against care order dismissed

Family Law|November 12th 2014

A mother whose daughter was adopted without her consent has failed in a bid to overturn the decision.

In M-H (A Child), the mother had struggled with an addiction to drugs and had also been subjected to “appalling” domestic violence, not only by the father of her child and by her partner in a subsequent relationship. Despite this, the woman was finding it a challenge to “separate completely” from the two men.

She admitted that her domestic travails had badly affected her six year-old daughter, referred to as ‘S’ in the judgement. The girl was taken into care in April last year and has remained with foster carers ever since.

Sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, Lady Justice Macur explained that the mother “would obviously wish to resume her care but, however reluctantly, concedes through her counsel, that this is a case where she was rightly ruled out as a viable option to parent her child.”

Nevertheless, she sought regular contact with her daughter, and as such preferred the option of long term foster care.

In April this year, a judge at Brighton County Court issued a placement order for the girl, permitting the local authority to put the six year-old up for adoption. The judge did so against the mother’s wishes, using the legal authority bestowed on the court by section 52 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.

This begins:

“The court cannot dispense with the consent of any parent or guardian of a child to the child being placed for adoption or to the making of an adoption order in respect of the child unless the court is satisfied that—

(a)the parent or guardian cannot be found or is incapable of giving consent, or

(b)the welfare of the child requires the consent to be dispensed with.”

The mother appealed the placement order, arguing that the judge had not dispensed with her consent on a proper legal basis and had not properly considered expert evidence when assessing the potential benefits of long-term foster care.

But Lady Justice Macur supported the earlier adoption order. When considered as a whole, she declared, the original ruling, by Her Honour Judge Jakens, had reached the correct decision. She had considered the girl’s situation holistically, including her personality, needs and the harm she had suffered in her home life.

Lady Justice Macur wrote:

“As [Judge Jakens] comments in paragraph 117 [of the original ruling]: “It is not likely that [S] can understand the momentous implications of the options she faces and I am required, in her interests, to override what is her dearest wish” ( that is to return to her mother).”

S was “obviously sympathetic” to the mother’s problems, said the judge, and the mother was in turn attached to her daughter.

“I perceive quite clearly from this judgment that [Judge Jakens] genuinely and regretfully felt literally driven to the order she made.”

Read the full judgement here.

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