A ten month old baby has been taken into care against the objections of his mother.
In Re HJW (Care & Placement Orders) the mother had come to the attention of her local authority when she was suspected of neglecting her older child. Now aged six, he was taken into care in 2011. She had repeatedly left the child with “inappropriate people” who had had their own children taken into care as well as with teenagers “who were under the influence of substances/alcohol” according to a family court judgement. The child’s father also had a history of violence and crime.
When the older child, referred to in the judgement as ‘JDW’, was 18 months old, his mother was found passed out drunk while looking after him. An ambulance was called and JDW placed with foster carers. He was briefly returned to his mother’s care but she continued to expose the baby to risk “by associating with inappropriate people whilst caring for him.”
Neither parent attended court for the hearing in which JDW was formally placed for adoption.
The following year the mother had a relationship with another man and fell pregnant again. However, she was still seeing the father of JDW and the authority became aware of a “domestic abuse incident” between them. She insisted that the second man was the father of her new child, but the authority suspected that it was actually her earlier partner.
The authority criticised the mother’s behaviour as her pregnancy progressed, believing her to be disengaged from the social workers tasked with assessing her and helping her deal with her domestic violence issues.
The mother’s second child, ‘HJW’, was born in May last year.
Sitting in the Family Court at Manchester, His Honour Iain Hamilton explained:
“…HJW was deemed to be at risk of suffering significant harm, due to the effects of domestic abuse within his mother’s relationships, her chaotic lifestyle and instability, her inappropriate choice of associates, her historical and possibly current substance/alcohol misuse, and her unmet mental health needs.”
The authority applied for a care order in July.
The parents both opposed the local authorities plan to have HJW adopted, applying instead to be given sole care. Nevertheless the mother remained disengaged from the assessment being carried out by social workers and further incidents of domestic violence were also reported. The father, meanwhile, had a history of mental illness.
The father’s grandmother and the mother’s step grandmother were both assessed as potential ‘kinship carers’ the former was thought unsuitable and the latter withdrew from the process.
His Honour Iain Hamilton noted the mother’s position. She claimed to have stopped using cannabis and drinking alcohol and insisted that her mental health was “under control”. Furthermore, there had been no incidents of domestic violence since August last year. She said she and her partner had disagreements rather than arguments and that sometimes her emotions got the better of her.
But the Judge concluded that there was no realistic prospect of HJW being successfully returned to his mother’s care and that adoption was therefore in his best interests.
Therefore, he declared:
“I dispense with the consent of the mother to adoption on the ground that HJW’s welfare requires it.”
The judgement is available here.