A toddler accidentally injured by her father should be looked after by his grandparents, a family court has concluded.
In Re D (A Child), the child, ‘D’, was 20 months old at the time of the newly published judgement. The only child of her mother and the second child of her father, her parents had separated by the time of the hearing.
The baby’s mother was in her early 20s at the time of the birth and her father in his 30s. They met a work and the father quickly moved into the mother’s flat. While the mother insisted that the pregnancy had been unplanned, the father claimed the opposite.
D was born in December that year. The following March, a health visitor discovered areas of bruising o the little girl which the mother could not explain.
An examination in hospital revealed several healing bone fractures. The father eventually admitted that he and the baby had suffered an accident at home but despite injuries to the child, he had not sought medical treatment for her or informed the authorities, thereby breaching the Children and Young Person’s Act 1933. He was arrested following his confession and the parents separated. The mother went to live with her parents.
The authority accepted the mother’s reassurances that her relationship with the father was over and therefore the baby was at no further risk.
Later however, social workers were tipped off that the parents had in fact continued their relationship in secret. The father admitted this but the mother denied it until confronted with “transcribed electronic communications”. She insisted that she felt controlled by the father and had only remained in touch to ‘humour’ him.
It also came to light that the father’s previous child had also suffered bone fractures in mysterious circumstances, as a result of which his mother (the child’s grandmother) was given responsibility for the child under a special guardianship order.
Sunderland City Council launched care proceedings. By that point had already been living with her maternal grandparents for several months. The council applied to formalise this arrangement, with the couple to be supervised by social workers for six months.
Neither parent opposed this plan, but each applied for contact. By that point, the father had not seen his daughter for more than a year.
In the Family Court sitting at Newcastle Upon Tyne, His Honour Judge Simon Wood produced a detailed judgement. He concluded:
“These matters feed into the care plan. I have no doubt that [the maternal grandparents] will protect D and that they will regulate [the mother]’s contact in an appropriate way and that that will find its own level. This mother is still very young. She will mature as she grows up and so she does not automatically stand to be condemned for the rest of her life because of these events but there will have to be a period of reflection and acceptance before she can be considered to be a safe carer of a child.”
“So far as [the father] is concerned, the guardian’s concerns were well placed. It will take time given the findings and the concerns regarding him and his mother for confidence and for relationships to be built to enable contact with the paternal family to be supervised by the maternal family in a way that is positive and a good experience for D.”
Read the ruling here.
Photo by Adrian Barnes via Flickr