The grandmother of a four year-old boy has been granted permission to look after him while his mother seeks treatment for drug addiction.
In C (A Child), the boy had spent most of his life with his mother. Her brother – C’s uncle – was also a drug addict and prone to drunkenness as well.
The family’s local authority were well aware of their problems, noted Mr Justice Holman. Sitting in the Family Court at Birmingham, he noted:
“…the local authority have been extremely concerned about the wellbeing of C for a long time. They have, however, permitted him to remain in the home of the mother with her parents under a series of so-called working agreements, which have unfortunately not been adhered to.”
In addition to the problems posed by the mother’s continuing drug addiction, social workers saw his uncle as a major risk to C. He had been made the subject of a restraining order but largely ignored this, continuing to visit regularly and behave violently towards his sister, on one occasion grabbing her by the throat while she was holding C.
Earlier this month the brother was once again found at the house and this time the police were called. He ran off but was apprehended a short distance away. The uncle was sentenced to six months in jail for breaching the restraining order.
Mr Justice Holman explained the practical consequences for C:
“It is thus clear that for about the next three months the brother will be in prison and does not, in fact, in the short run represent a risk to the wellbeing of C.”
Following the incident, C was taken into police protection under a temporary care order. With expiry of that order now imminent, the Judge was asked to rule on an extension.
The mother had been taking heroin substitute methadone and the time of the judge’s ruling, urgently needed a fresh prescription or she would be “at risk of suffering serious withdrawal symptoms”.
Consequently, the Judge explained, “this judgment will be extremely concise. I am in any event dealing with a very interim situation.”
“It is frankly accepted by and on behalf of the mother that at the moment she cannot be entrusted with the care of C.”
She had expressed a wish to enter a drug rehabilitation centre but could not do so until tests indicated that she was free from drugs.
Mr Justice Holman told the woman and her mother:
“Frankly, it has to be clearly understood by the mother and by her mother, the grandmother, that unless the mother is able, with help, to kick this drug habit, it is highly unlikely that she will ever again be able to care for C.”
Nevertheless, he noted the legal requirements for taking a child into care and away from his or her family: this should only be done as a matter of last resort. In C’s case, he had lived with his grandparents his entire life. His grandmother had helped look after him for much of that time and she had now offered to take on his care the Judge explained:
“She puts herself forward as somebody who, at any rate in the short run, can and will safely care for him and will ensure that her daughter, the mother, is completely out of the way.”
The grandmother was required to formally agree in court to a number of undertakings indicating her willingness to prevent her grandson from having any contact with the mother or her brother and to look after him properly.
The ruling is here.