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Baby left alone by death of his mother ‘should be adopted’

A nine month-old baby whose mother died last year should be adopted, a family court judge has ruled.

Referred to in the judgement as ‘A’, the boy was born prematurely in June last year, at just 27 weeks. His mother, already a mother of three by a different father, had “extremely serious health issues”,. the nature of which weren’t specified in the judgement. A was himself very unwell following birth, noted His Honour Judge Simon Wood at the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne District Registry of the Family Division.

“At that time, the survival of each was in doubt. There was no-one able to exercise parental responsibility in respect of A, his father then being a serving prisoner in Her Majesty’s Prison Durham.”

South Tyneside Council launched care proceedings. In the event mother and baby both survived. A’s health has since improved although he still has a “chronic” lung problem. Unfortunately things did not go so well for the mother, the Judge explained.

“…sadly his mother’s health thereafter fluctuated and she became seriously ill just before Christmas and very sadly died on 28th December at the age of just 27.”

A’s three older half-siblings went to live first with their aunt and then with their father, who had been out of touch with them for some time following a “very difficult” relationship with the mother.

A, meanwhile, lived with foster carers following lifesaving surgery. Despite his health improving to an extent that has exceeded doctors’ expectations, he still uses breathing equipment and  they still believe he is at risk of cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and general developmental delays.

Nevertheless, he was described as happy and well-settled and doing “far better than was anticipated”.

A’s father had not helped matters by disappearing “entirely”. Initially reluctant to visit his son even when he was seriously ill despite being given a chance to do while in prison, he briefly expressed interest in the care proceedings after his release before dropping out of contact with his solicitor and social worker. A’s father has significant mental health issues and a history of drug abuse.

The care proceedings came before Judge Wood. He noted that social workers had been keen to place the baby with relatives if at all possible. But candidates were very limited. His paternal grandmother briefly expressed interest, only to later withdraw.

In a concise judgement, the Judge concluded that there were “no alternatives to the local authority plan, if one accepts the basic premise that [long term] foster care for a child of A’s age is not a welfare outcome that is likely best to meet his needs, now or lifelong.”

His emotional and physical welfare required the certainties of adoption. It was one of the exceptional cases in which circumstances pointed “inexorably” towards the need for full adoption.

Even if the father had taken an interest in his son, adoption would still have been in A’s best interests, the Judge insisted.

Judge Wood said:

“This court deals with many very sad cases but this one, I have to say, is particularly so.”

RE M (A Child) 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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