The grandparents of two young children have lost an appeal against a decision to remove them from their care.
The case concerned a five year old girl, ‘L’, and her younger brother J, who is four. Sitting in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice McFarlane explained the children’s background:
“They had the misfortune to be born to parents who compounded the difficulties that they had in terms of their own personalities and intellectual make up by sustained use of Class A drugs and alcohol.”
As a result, the children had lived a life with their parents that was “profoundly harmful”, but following court intervention, they “have been protected from care by their parents for some time.”
The parents went their separate ways in October 2012, and J the younger child, went to live with her with the paternal grandparents at that point, but L did not join them until April last year when his father took him there.
Care proceedings began, with a Judge noting the parents’” chaotic lifestyle”, history of depression, and drug and alcohol misuse. The father had a criminal record and “anger issues”, while the mother had a “learning disability”.
Social workers initially believed that the grandparents were the best candidates to care for the children within the family, and explored the possibility of a special guardianship order. However, following a detailed assessment of the grandparents’ parenting abilities, the assessors began to question whether the grandparents really had the necessary skills to properly care for the youngers.
Lord Justice McFarlane explained:
“As a result of their experiences in the care of the parents, [the children] had shown a marked tendency for disturbed behaviour. The chaotic lifestyle they had had required additional levels of parenting prowess over and above even what normally children would require.”
The local authority therefore concluded that the grandparents “simply could not meet the children’s needs” and asked the family court to rule them out as long-term carers despite the fact that both children had been living them for some time by that point.
At a hearing held in January, a family court issued an interim care order stating that the children should be removed from the grandparents’ care and placed in a special foster home. Lord Justice McFarlane noted that the Judge – His Honour Judge Meston QC – had found the case difficult and had not felt able to make a number of declarations sought by the local authority regarding the grandparents’ long-term suitability as carers.
But Judge Meston had based his decision to remove the children on an observed deterioration in the children’s behaviour, as a result of the fact that they had been “profoundly damaged in an emotional and psychological way by the experience that they have previously lived through”. They required “enhanced parenting” and the grandparents were, he concluded, unable to provide this.
Lord Justice McFarlane supported this decision, highlighting incidents of disturbed behaviour by the younger boy, J, “that the grandparents found remarkably difficult to deal with”.
These had, said His Lordship, serious implications for the boy’s development, which could “pass the point of no return” if no intervention was made. If that occurred, “the option of this boy being able to grow up in the same home as his sister might be lost, in terms of safety in emotional terms, requiring immediate separation.”
Lord Justice McFarlane concluded:
“To my eyes, that point alone would justify the order that the judge made.”
Read T (Children) here.