The parents of a seven year old girl have been granted permission to oppose her adoption.
The girl in question, referred to as ‘L’, was born in December 2007. In her judgement, Judge Atkinson noted that:
“L has lived her entire life at the centre of court proceedings”.
Two separate sets of care proceedings have taken place, the first beginning before her third birthday. Sitting at Bromley County Court, a Judge declined the local authority’s invitation to issue care and placement orders for her on that occasion. Instead, on the recommendation of a social worker and L’s guardian, she was placed in the care of the father under the supervision of the local authority. This decision was made on the basis of evidence that suggested the father had been able to make changes to his lifestyle and provide appropriate levels of care for his daughter, in contrast to the mother, who “was not really a contender for care of L.”
Approximately a year later, however, the parents returned to Bromley County Court when the mother reported that the father had slapped L. He denied the claim but Judge Atkinson concluded that he had hit L. As a result, she concluded, the father could no longer be trusted to look after her. However, the mother was still unable to prioritise L’s needs or recognise her own problems and so she was not a suitable carer either.
Judge Atkinson therefore granted the local authority’s renewed request for care and placement orders, allowing them to formally take L into care and place her for adoption.
A social worker told the court that “there were good prospects for an adoptive placement in spite of L’s relatively advanced age.”
Prospective adopters were found and L was placed in their care on a provisional basis. The mother, meanwhile, launched legal proceedings seeking to oppose the adoption. The Judge said:
“It is significant, in my view, that the grounds of her appeal were not that I was wrong about her or wrong about the father, but rather the grounds of her appeal were that she had effected changes since.”
The mother insisted that she had made an effort to “comply with the court’s recommendations.”
She declared that:
“I have successfully removed all negative influences in my life that would have been detrimental to my daughter.”
She also claimed that L was unhappy in her new home and had shown signs of separation anxiety.
That application was unsuccessful but it was later renewed when the prospective adopters applied to formally adopt L. Both parents were asked whether they consented to the adoption and both indicated that they wished to oppose it. The father stated that he now had a job, had not been involved in criminal activity for a number of years and did not think adoption was in his daughter’s best interests.
Judge Atkinson was sympathetic to the parents’ claims. She noted evidence that L was troubled and unhappy in her placement and had displayed “extreme behaviours”.
Of the mother the Judge declared:
“She has taken steps to clear her [rent] arrears and find herself independent accommodation. She has a new partner. She is in a stable relationship. She is accessing work or has the opportunity to access some work. It seems to me that those things in themselves demonstrate a change of circumstance of sufficient degree but that is added to by the circumstances that we find L in.”
The father’s case was more tenuous said the Judge but “given the unusual situation which arises here largely because of L’s circumstances … I consider that on that basis alone his position is not fanciful and it would be in the interests of this child that all options are before the court one last time.”
Judge Atkinson concluded:
“[L’s] welfare demands then that I should not refuse him the permission extended to the mother. I am going to give them both permission.”
L (permission to oppose adoption) can be read here.