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Family court sends girl home with troubled mother

A troubled mother with a history of violent partners has been allowed to take on care for her third child.

A (Final Hearing) concerned a girl referred to as ‘T’, who was born in April last year. The local authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, applied to the courts for care and placement orders which would allow the infant to be taken into care and adopted by a new family.

Concerns for T’s welfare focused on her mother, referred to as ‘P’. In the Family Court sitting at Peterborough, His Honour Judge Greene explained that the woman had led a “chaotic and abusive lifestyle”.

“Mother has had a very sad and worrying history … including care proceedings relating to three of her older children that concluded in August 2013.”

The mother had a lengthy history of forming relationships with violent drunks and drug addicts. At one stage she had lived in Malta with an abusive partner, then left an earlier daughter there with the man and returned to the UK with her son, and promptly formed a relationship with another violent partner, during which her son claimed he had been hit by the man. She broke with and then reunited with the same man, prompting the beginning of the earlier care proceedings. The court declared that her two children at that point were at risk of both physical and emotional harm due to the “mother permitting inappropriate adults with drug or alcohol problems to live or stay at the family home”. Both youngsters were adopted.

Social workers believed she had not adequately addressed her serious lifestyle problems since then. What changes she had made were “too recent, too little and are untested”. They also claimed that P had not been “open and honest” with them, and as a result, they could not guarantee the safety of a child in her care.

Their position was supported by the baby’s legal guardian.

Both P and the child’s father, R, opposed the plans. P insisted that she had changed and should look after her child, claiming the concerns listed by social workers were not sufficient to justify adoption, a position supported by R. He also expressed an interest in looking after T himself.

In his ruling, Judge Greene noted the requirements of adoption law, T’s lifelong welfare was his primary focus, and he had to consider the legal requirements set out in the Adoption and Children Act.

He continued:

“It is, however, now trite law that I cannot approve a care plan for adoption unless I am satisfied that there is no other realistic option that could meet T’s welfare needs. In other words, that nothing else will do. The case of Re B-S …[is] now very well-known and often recited.”

He considered the lifestyle changes made by T’s mother. She had undertaken social courses, seen improvements to her mental health and made an apparently genuine reconciliation with her mother and stepfather who had been critical of her previous relationships.

“P now says very clearly, and convincingly, that her reconciliation with her parents is because the courses that she has done have opened her eyes and she realises that they were right and she was wrong and she has told them so…She is also reported to be leading a more settled and acceptable lifestyle. The fact that she is going to appointments and is shopping and has joined a gym may seem comparatively trivial but not when seen in the context of her previous difficulties with anxiety and agoraphobia.”

The Judge concluded that T should be given back to her mother, but ordered that she been given a level of parenting support equivalent to that received by adoptive parents. R, meanwhile, was allowed only limited “closely supervised contact” until he had demonstrated significant changes to his lifestyle.

The Judge said:

“[Contact] should not go ahead if he has been drinking and it should be ended if he acts inappropriately.”

Read the ruling here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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