A five month baby boy born to a mother with learning difficulties should be taken into care, a family court has ruled.
In W (Care Order), the girl’s father was 29 and her mother just 19. They had enjoyed a brief relationship after meeting on social media. In the Family Court sitting at Manchester, Miss Recorder Henley explained:
“The parents’ relationship was a short lived one, the Father describes it as “a fling” which involved them meeting on social media and predominantly exchanging messages, only meeting in person on two or three occasions. On one of those occasions W was conceived.”
Their relationship lasted for about six months and ended before the baby, ‘W’, was born. The mother has since begun a relationship with another man. Initially she was unsure who the father was.
Social workers intervened during the pregnancy, concerned about the mother. They believed her younger siblings were not being properly cared for by W’s grandparents and that the family lived in “poor” and overcrowded conditions. The family had been known to social services since as long ago as 2000 due to allegations that W’s grandmother was neglecting her children.
An assessment of the mother raised serious doubts about her ability to look after a baby. She also had learning difficulties, leaving her capacity (ability to make decisions about her own welfare) in doubt.
W was born in January this year. By that point social services had concluded that the mother was at significant risk of both financial and sexual exploitation and lacking in the ability to both look after herself and properly care for a new baby. If left with her, he would at risk of neglect and of physical and emotional harm.
The Judge also noted:
“Unknown individuals are frequenting the family home, some of whom have been observed to misuse alcohol in the home whilst the Mother’s younger siblings are present.”
Care proceedings were launched. The initial plan was to place W with members of the mother’s extended family on a temporary basis but the mother fell out with the couple in question and the idea was postponed pending a full fostering assessment. Upset, the couple withdrew altogether.
Instead the baby was taken into local authority foster care.
When W’s case eventually returned to court his father applied to look after him.
Miss Recorder Henley noted that the father had been dishonest with social workers regarding his employment and personal circumstances. He admitted this, explaining that he had not wanted to tell them that he was claiming benefits while in work and had also not wanted to reveal that he lived in a caravan at the funfair where he worked, while also staying with friends on occasion.
In a detailed judgement, she described the father’s childhood as unsettled and described his “transient and nomadic lifestyle”, with its seasonal work at funfairs, drug taking and “sofa surfing” as “clearly incompatible with the safe care of a child”,
Nevertheless, she went to say:
“I found the Father to be a likeable witness who impressed me as motivated in attending contact with his son. I do not doubt that he dearly loves W and I note that there are no concerns about his ability to meet W’s basic care needs within the confines of contact sessions. He described W as “bundle of joy” and “the best thing that has ever happened to him”. The quality of his contact is very good and I accept that he is natural and intuitive towards W in contact, that he delights in W’s development and that he has established a good relationship with him. I accept that the Father genuinely wishes to care for his son.”
But his history of concealing information from social workers “in order to present a more favourable impression” meant he could ultimately be trusted to seek appropriate support in a fathering role, “especially in circumstances in which he may fear it would reflect badly upon him”.
Therefore she concluded, local authority care was the best option for the boy. This would include contact for both parents, but a reduced level of contact for the father. The Judge explained:
“I acknowledge the Father’s understandable desire to have contact on a more frequent basis than monthly and accept that a reduction from the present level of twice weekly contact will be a significant change, however I am satisfied that this reduction is necessary at this stage to enable W to be introduced to his new carers and to settle into their care and form attachments with them.”
The ruling is available here.
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