The two children of an Angolan woman living in England are to remain in foster care, a Family Court judge has ruled.
In Re N (Children), the mother fled her home country following the outbreak of “the brutal civil war that shocked the outside world”. Her first child was born in a Zambian refugee camp in 2002. Three years later, she sought asylum in the UK and was granted permission to stay in the country indefinitely in 2009. By then, she had given birth to a second child.
In 2013, South Tyneside Council claimed the children had experienced “emotional and physical abuse and neglect”, and were at serious risk of further harm if they remained in their mother’s care. These claims were based on the mother’s guilty plea to a charge of child cruelty and her admission that she had previously left the children at home unattended.
Sitting at the Law Courts in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, His Honour Judge Simon Wood said that the local authority had acted in a “deeply unsatisfactory” manner during this case. One example he cited was the letter the council sent the mother’s solicitors in which they said proceedings to have the children placed in long term foster care would begin in seven days. In fact, they did not launch proceedings until seven months after the letter was sent.
Judge Wood said that neither child had demonstrated “a secure, loving attachment to their mother”. He added that he could see “no foreseeable, realistic prospect” of them being returned to her care.
The judge said the case he found the case “simultaneously to be very difficult, very sad and also to have made me very angry”. His anger was at the “the gross, inexplicable and unjustifiable delay” by the local authority, and his sadness was at what the family had endured over their lives. Despite their poor performance, he directed the council to file a care plan for the children’s long term placement within two weeks.
To read the full judgment, click here.