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Court dismisses care appeal from neglectful mother

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a mother’s objections to an adoption order issued for her daughter.

CM v Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council concerned ‘M’, who is now five years old. She has not lived with her mother since June 2011 and is currently in her fourth foster placement.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Ryder noted that M had spent approximately a year living with her maternal grandmother under a special guardianship order, but she was removed and placed back in foster care in June 2013.

M’s mother was unable to properly care for her daughter and it was accepted by parties to the case that this was unlikely to change. M had been taken from her “in circumstances of neglect, inappropriate parenting, drug use and relationships with men who presented a risk to the child.”

The grandmother, meanwhile, lost care of M after allowing the mother to see her on an unauthorised basis and also allowing the father of M’s cousins, who lived with her, free access to her home, despite the fact that he had been convicted of sexual offences against children.

M’s father is not involved in her life.

In March 2013, a judge issued a ‘placement order’ for M, allowing her local authority to put her up for adoption. Despite being unable to care for the girl, her mother opposed the adoption order during the application and then appealed against it.

The only alternative to an adoption order would have been long term foster care, retaining M’s legal status as a member of her birth family. The judge, however, concluded that adoption was in M’s best interests and necessary to protect her welfare. Both the child’s legal guardian and social workers had argued for adoption, saying it would provide much-needed stability in her life and this outweighed any benefit M might receive from maintaining ties with her birth family.

In reaching her decision, the judge had applied the principles set out in the much discussed case of Re B-S and the earlier Supreme Court ruling Re B. Both concerned the circumstances in which adoption is the best choice for a child.

However, the judge ordered a so-called ‘twin track’ care plan for M. This would introduce the possibility of long-term foster care after six months, in addition to a continuing search for an adoptive family. The mother’s legal team argued that an adoption order was disproportionate in circumstances in which foster care was to be considered just six months later.

But Lord Justice Ryder declared that it is:

“…no part of a court’s function to fix a timetable within which a local authority is to undertake the functions that are exclusively within its responsibility and operative discretion once a full care order and/or a placement order has been made.”

Read the full report here.

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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