The adoptive parents of a troubled teenage girl were not responsible for her mental health problems, a family court judge has ruled.
The case concerned ‘T’, a 16 year-old girl. She had been placed with the couple in 2009 and formally adopted the following year. It was her second placement – the first, in 2006, broke down the following year. She has two brothers, both in foster care, and she sees them regularly on a supervised basis.
Before entering the care system, T endured an emotionally and physically abusive childhood. In the Family Court sitting at Bromley, Her Honour Judge Redgrave explained:
“As a consequence of T’s traumatic experiences during the first seven or eight years of her life, she has developed serious mental health problems. She has been diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder; disinhibited attachment disorder [problems relating to parental figures and friends] and post traumatic stress disorder.”
She has self-harmed on a number of occasions, been sectioned under the Mental Health Act twice and also attempted suicide. She has been an in-patient in a mental health facility since last summer and is likely to remain there for at least another six months.
The local authority became concerned by the situation and applied for an interim (temporary) care order. Initially they argued that the adoptive parents were not looking after T properly and that the adoption ran the risk of breaking down.
Judge Redgrave refused the temporary care order but proceedings for a full care order continued. Delays in planning and documentation meant the situation remained unresolved by November. On the 6th of that month, the authority announced that it wished to withdraw proceedings because it felt T’s needs were now being met in the mental health facility. By this point, doctors treating the teen had agreed she should be formally sectioned
Judge Williams agreed to their request but still needed to decide the basis on which the withdrawal could be authorised. The authority still believed T’s adoptive parents were partially responsible for her problems and argued that she should be classed as “beyond parental control”.
But the Judge was not convinced, accepting the parents’ argument that there was no evidence that they had failed to look after the teenager properly.
Judge Williams declared:
“Ms. Jones on behalf of T. … pointed out that the guardian (and her predecessor) seriously questioned the actions of the local authority in issuing these proceedings. I voiced that opinion at an early [case management] hearing and I urged the local authority to consider at a senior level whether these proceedings should continue.”
“There is no evidence of any kind that either the mother or the father are culpable in any way for the behaviour of their daughter and the harm she has suffered or is at risk of suffering in the future. They have fought tirelessly for her to receive the treatment she needs and in my judgment these proceedings should never have been issued.”
Re P (Permission to withdraw care proceedings) can be read here.