Grandmother must be assessed as carer for abandoned baby

Children|May 9th 2016

The grandmother of a Latvian baby must be assessed as a potential carer before a decision can be made on adoption in the UK, a court has ruled.

The baby, now eight, was born in the UK to unmarried Latvian parents who had lived in here since 2009. They already had two children by the time ‘RA’ was conceived but separated during the pregnancy. The two older children remained with the mother but the former couple decided they did not want to keep RA.

Shortly after his premature birth at home, the parents took the baby to a hospital and left him there. They did not return and have not seen the child since.

In the Family Court sitting at Leeds, Mr Justice Cobb explained:

“The mother and father believe that raising another child within the family would impose upon them too heavy a burden, financially and otherwise. They have indicated that they do not wish to have any form of contact with [the little boy].”

Before abandoning him, however, the parents gave him a “classic” English name, believing this would help him to integrate into British culture.

The local authority placed the boy with foster carers and they later applied to formally adopt him. However, complications arose when RA’s maternal grandmother back in Latvia on the Baltic Sea was tracked down. She expressed an interest in looking after RA.

The parents adamantly opposed this, arguing that he should be adopted in England. The Judge noted:

“The birth mother …says that if the current adoption application were to fail for whatever reason (if, for instance, the Court took the view that the child’s interests would be best served by placement with the grandmother), she would want to put herself forward to care for her son, rather than see him placed with her mother.”

The local authority also opposed involvement of the grandmother, saying the baby was currently enjoying a “settled home” with the couple caring for him, in an arrangement fully supported by his birth parents.

Failure to approve the adoption could, the authority argued, lead to an “unusual but possible outcome”, in which “the mother would be able to mount a persuasive case to assume care of her son – an outcome for which she does not currently contend, indeed one that she has hitherto not contemplated.”

Meanwhile, the authorities in Latvia opposed adoption in the UK, saying this could breach RA’s righto respect for family life, as defined by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They had conducted an initial assessment of the grandmother and believed she was potentially suitable as a carer.

The Judge concluded that a full assessment of her abilities and situation was required before any decision regarding possible adoption could be made.

“In this case, the Local Authority proceeded initially on the basis that there was no family member who could look after RA; the inference I draw from the documents I have considered is that had such a family member been identified by the parents, he/she may well have been contacted by the authority and/or considered as a potential carer.”

Read Mr Justice Cobb’s judgement In the Matter of RA here.

Photo of Riga, capital of Latvia, by gato-gato-gato via Flickr

Author: Stowe Family Law

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