A 12 year old boy living in Sheffield and his younger sister should both be taken into care, a family court has ruled.
In J and E (Care, Placement) the boy, referred to as ‘J’, and his five year-old sister, ‘E’, had different fathers.
Sheffield City Council had been concerned for J’s welfare for a number of years. He was placed on the Child Protection Register as someone at risk of neglect and also placed in police protection on two separate occasions. Social workers reported that he was exposed to alcohol and drug use, domestic violence and “marital discord” at home. Two foster placements broke down and J had been on the verge of adoption when his maternal grandmother and her husband put themselves forward as carers. They were given a positive assessment by social workers and a special guardianship order was issued, giving them responsibility for J’s care. But in 2012, this placement also broke down and J returned to his mother.
She began a new relationship with the man who became E’s father and a pattern of drug misuse and domestic violence reportedly continued, although her second partner denies being violent towards her. Later the mother left him and moved to a woman’s refuge in Sheffield. While there, J became involved in a fight with another child, and this led to the mother assaulting also assaulting the youngster’s mother.
J was placed on the Child Protection Register again, this time with his sister, and social workers believed both were at risk of emotional harm and neglect. The mother then began a relationship with a third man, who had a criminal record for domestic violence.
Finally, in November last year, Her Honour Judge Sarah Wright noted:
“…J was found walking on the M1 motorway reporting that he wanted to get away from Sheffield and presenting as very unhappy about living at home. He described a chaotic home with people attending his house whom he described as rough and were drinking alcohol, shouting and swearing. He spoke in particular of one individual called R who he described as nasty. R it appears was and still is a friend of mothers. E described being left in the house with J when her mother left the house at night time.”
The authority then launched care proceedings, applying to place E for adoption and to keep J in long term foster care. The mother agreed to their plan but wanted more contact with J: the Council had proposed monthly visits only. The boy’s father also agreed but wanted parental responsibility for him.
J’s father took part in the care proceedings despite “health and travel issues” but the maternal grandmother did not.
Meanwhile, E’s father was in prison for robbery and is not due for release until next year. He opposed the council’s plan altogether and wanted the girl returned to her mother’s care or that she remain in foster care until his release.
Judge Wright concluded that “really is no alternative for J other than a Care Order” and that monthly contact with her mother was the appropriate level and would allow him to settle into his placement. “Any more at this stage could be very disruptive.”
E, meanwhile, needed “a stable secure consistent environment allowing her to thrive throughout her life.”
“She has been in a state of flux,” declared the Judge. “She needs attachment to a primary carer who can consistently meet her needs,” and neither of her biological parents were in a position to do that.
Read the judgement here.
Image by Paul Gibson via Flickr