A judge has accused social workers involved in a care application of being biased against members of the child’s own family.
In North East Lincolnshire Council -v- G and L, the mother of a three year old boy, referred to as ‘J’, had been unable to care for him due to problems with substance abuse. She died prior to the hearing. Judge Simon Jack also noted allegations of domestic violence involving the late mother and her partner.
The local authority applied for care and placement orders in relation to J, allowing them to place him for adoption with a new family. Both sets of grandparents were willing to take on J’s care, but, Judge Jack explained, the social workers had ruled out both sets of grandparents.
One set was thought to have problems with drink and domestic violence, while the second set was deemed to be overly burdened by two older children with unspecified difficulties.
The Judge concluded that the social workers who gave evidence at the hearing had been one-sided in their claims. He declared:
“…I had the very strong impression that the local authority witnesses were intent on playing up any factors which were unfavourable to the grandparents and playing down any factors which might be favourable.”
The concerns expressed by the social workers about each set of grandparents had been “grossly overstated in order to try and achieve their ends.”
“ I have never, in over ten years of hearing care cases taken the view, as I did in this case, that the local authority’s witnesses were visibly biased in their attempts to support the local authority’s case.”
Turning to the grandparents alleged to have problems with drink and domestic violence, Judge Jack said there was no evidence that children in their care had suffered any adverse effects.
“The reality is that in this country there must be tens of thousands of children who are cared for in homes where there is a degree of domestic violence (now very widely defined) and where parents on occasion drink more than they should, I am not condoning that for a moment, but the Courts are not in the business of social engineering. The courts are not in the business of providing children with perfect homes. If we took into care and placed for adoption every child whose parents had had a domestic spat and every child whose parents on occasion had drunk too much then the care system would be overwhelmed and there would not be enough adoptive parents. So we have to have a degree of realism about prospective carers who come before the Courts.”
Nevertheless, he concluded that the youngster should be placed with the second set of grandparents, who, in addition to their older children, were also looking after J’s older brother, ‘R’. Judge Jack described R as “clearly a lad who is suffering “a serious sense of grief and loss” following the death of his mother. But the couple were coping “reasonably well” with the situation, the Judge believed.
Read the judgement here.