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Family court rejects mother’s bid for return of child

The Family Court has rejected a mother’s bid for the return of her two year-old son.

In The Prospective Adopters v FB & Ors, the toddler, referred to as ‘E’, was taken into foster care in July 2013, aged just seven months, after the local authority became concerned by the behaviour of his parents.

E’s mother is a recovering alcoholic and former drug user who has been involved in a succession of fraught relationships. In his judgement, Mr Justice Moor referred to her “abusive childhood”, saying:

“She has been poor at self-monitoring her feelings. Although she does not accept this, it appears that she has not had a relationship with a male that has not been abusive in one way or another.”

She has five children, all with different fathers, most of whom have no involvement with their offspring. Z, the father of the fourth child, was violent towards the mother on a number of occasions, and at one point, the family was forced to flee to a domestic violence shelter, whether the mother was reported for neglecting her children under the influence of alcohol. On another occasion, the second oldest child ran into the street to shout for help “ because he was so distressed and concerned for the Mother”, noted the Judge. “He was aged seven at the time.”

The mother’s two oldest children are now in further education despite their troubled backgrounds. The Judge paid tribute to the two oldest, saying:

“It has to be said that it is a remarkable testament to both BB and AB that they have achieved so much notwithstanding all that has happened in their lives.”

The third oldest is a “talented artist”.

E’s father, referred to in the judgement as ‘EK’, is a former heroin addict who has also, like the mother, had problems with alcohol. They began what has proved to a troubled relationship in 2010, one characterised by violence, confrontations and alcohol abuse.

Social services and the family courts insisted that the father leave the family home and have no contact with the mother for the sake of the baby but the pair continued their relationship in secret. When this came to light, social workers took E into foster care, where he has remained ever since.

The father was given a four month prison sentence for assaulting the mother after he learned of her pregnancy. An indefinite restraining order was also imposed but the couple resumed their relationship, again in secret, not long after his release.

In August last year, a Judge made a care and placement order for E, formalising E’s stay in foster care and allowing the local authority to place him for adoption. E was matched with a couple who have now applied to adopt him.

E’s mother opposed this order and was given permission to appeal. She argued that E should be returned her care or at least that she should at least be allowed to see E on a “shared care” basis.

His father initially supported the adoption but later changed his mind and opposed the adoption along with the mother. E is his only child.

Mr Justice Moor said the mother had made significant efforts to deal with her problems but the risks inherent in returning E to her care were too significant. She had been very selective in what she told the social workers engaged with the family, he declared.

“She had chosen abusive partners because of her own abusive upbringing and the psychological harm it caused her. She needed to be in a relationship, whatever the cost to her or the children. She was at times evasive and at other times belligerent when cross-examined. She was an unreliable witness. The [earlier] judge had no doubt that the true level of violence against her and the number of meetings between her and the Father was far higher than the Mother said. She sensed their relationship was far from over. The Mother had no insight into the impact of all of this on the children. The parents would drink alcohol when they met up.”

A full adoption without direct contact between E and his birth parents was in the child’s best interests, the Judge ruled. The only contact allowed would be “letterbox contact”. If the mother was allowed to see E on a regular basis, there was a significant risk that she would attempt to undermine the adoption “as she does not support it”.

The judgement is here.

Photo of beer kegs by Matthew Peoples via Flickr

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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