An Essex couple have claimed that they were not allowed to take on the care of their granddaughter because of their age.
They looked after the three year-old girl after her mother was hospitalised for mental health issues. Upon her admission, the mother “acknowledged that she was unable to give good enough care to her daughter”. However, she also “objected to [the girl] being with the grandparents” so Southend-on-Sea Borough Council placed the child in foster care.
The couple, aged 58 and 70, applied to the Family Court for permission to apply for a child arrangements order so that their granddaughter, ‘C’, would legally live with them. In a hearing before District Judge Hodges, the husband said that C “would be happy with them and they want to do their best for her”.
The local authority wished to put C up for adoption. The children’s guardian also opposed the move. This is a professional who represents the best interests of a child in family law proceedings. She expressed concerns about the couple’s ability to cope with a small child and said “their expectations are not realistic”. Additionally, she was uneasy about the wife’s stability as she had a history of depression and was still on medication. The guardian said that C had “reached a sense of closure and was being prepared and indeed looking forward to meeting a forever family”. She therefore thought disrupting the adoption process would be too great a risk to take.
She also warned that placing C with her grandparents could put her at risk of exposure to her mother’s “extreme behaviours”. The couple had said they planned to maintain a relationship with their daughter.
The judge said he had “no hesitation in saying that [the couple’s] application should … be dismissed” because the risks were too high when compared to the disruption such an order would make to the local authority’s care plan.
This case has been covered by the national media because the couple believed their application was refused because of their age. One of the local authority’s reports mentioned their ages and they claimed this had been used against them.
In an interview with the BBC, the grandfather said:
“We’re very much able to care for her. We feel as though we want to dedicate our lives to our granddaughter, we love her so much … I can’t see why we are in this position – they know we care about her. It’s devastating, it breaks our hearts to be like this”.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council denied that age was a “deciding factor” in their opposition to the application, but the couple are planning to appeal the ruling nonetheless.
To read the full judgment, click here.