Three sisters under the age of seven should continue living with their grandparents, a family court has ruled.
In X, Y & Z, the children and their parents had been known to social services for a number of years. Social workers believed the parents were immature and doubted whether they could look after their children property. The father had been diagnosed with autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and his own mother raised concerns about his coping abilities and poor sleeping habits. He also has dyslexia and a “mild learning disability”.
The mother, meanwhile, has been prone to depression since 2009..
The family were assessed on a number of occasions and concern steadily grew, focused in particular on X. Her attendance at nursery was patchy and on one occasion was found playing by herself while both parents were upstairs asleep.
In the family court sitting at Leeds, Her Honour Judge Lynch explained events after their youngest child was born.
“Following Z’s birth in May 2014… the toll of caring for three young children led to increasing challenges and demands. A significant deterioration was seen in respect of the parents’ ability to meet all the children’s needs, including safe supervision, schooling and their health needs.”
During 2014, the parents left the three youngsters with their grandparents without telling the local authority. They visited them occasionally but did not resume looking after them until December.
When the parents failed to collect X from school one day and teachers could not contact them, social services drew up plans to take them into care, accusing the parents of neglect.
But then in June last year, it emerged that the children were back with the grandmother and grandfather as the parents had travelled abroad.
The local authority began proceedings to secure the sisters’ living arrangement with the grandparents and give it legal status.
The Judge agreed to issue a child arrangements order, saying:
“If I look at the options of the girls remaining with their grandparents or moving back to live with their parents, I agree that their current placement best meets their needs. At the present time the grandparents are ensuring that the girls have a stable and settled home, one in which all their needs are being met. The effect of the harm the girls have already experienced is being lessened. They are also able to have an ongoing relationship with their parents whilst living with their grandparents. Remaining where they are means that they do not have to experience yet another change in their primary carers and that stability is very important for children as young as these girls.”
She endorsed detailed contact [visiting] arrangements already agreed with the parents. They would see the children once a week, on Saturday, initially on a supervised basis in a contact centre, then “out in the community”, before eventually moving to the parents’ home.
The ruling is available to read here.