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Christian couple who lost adoptive son win retrial

A decision to take the younger of two brothers from his adoptive parents should be reconsidered, the Court of Appeal has declared.

The boy and his older brother, aged 10 and 13, were adopted by a devout Christian couple but the relationship faltered quickly.

At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice King noted that the siblings had been taken into care after their birth parents subjected them to “appalling neglect including physical and possibly sexual abuse.”

This legacy had obviously damaged both boys, particularly the older one, referred to “JK”, who was subject to “violent fits of rage” and sexually inappropriate behaviour. A series of placements broke down as a result and plans were made to separate the brothers before they were finally offered a home by the couple. Both in their 50s, the couple’s own children had already left home.

But Cambridgeshire County Council social services intervened less than a year later when JK appeared at school one day with a bleeding nose and told staff that his mother had hit him in the face. Both boys were taken back into the care system.

They complained that the Christian couple had smacked them, shouted at them and washed their mouths out with soap. A member of the public also reported that couple had staged a prayer meeting in their home during which JK was restrained, while people “talked in tongues” around them and reference was made to the boy having “demons” within him.

A judge concluded that the boys should remain in local authority care. The couple appealed in relation to the younger boy, admitting that they had hit JK on occasion because they had found the older boy’s behaviour “impossible” at times.

Social workers agreed that the teen could be “extraordinarily challenging” but insisted that their response to his bad behavour had been “inappropriate, damaging and punitive”.

At the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice King expressed her sympathies, saying:

“No one reading the papers in this case could remain unmoved; at the plight of these two young boy with their appalling life experiences to date and the poor prognosis for their future happiness, and [not] feel pity for the parents who gave these children what was intended by all to be their permanent home and who love each of them dearly.”

She admired the couple’s determination not to “admit defeat in relation to [the younger boy” and their continuing wish to “honour their commitment to him.”

But, she continued, a “laudable” desire on the part of the local authority to find adoptive parents for “profoundly disturbed and damaged children” had led to them being placed with a couple who, “with the benefit of hindsight, it might be thought were unlikely ever to have been able to cope with their, and in particular, JK’s, disturbed and challenging behaviour.”

She concluded that the earlier judge had not explained his reasoning in sufficient detail and that further analysis of the younger boy’s situation was needed. The case should therefore be reheard, on a yet-to-be-specified date.

The ruling is 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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