A baby was abandoned by eccentric parents who refused to register his birth, a family court judge has concluded.
In Re A Child, Southampton City Council applied for care and placement orders. The parents failed to attend court, having previously sacked their solicitors.
In the Portsmouth Family Court, Her Honour Judge Black explained:
“I am satisfied that they are aware of today’s hearing, and the fact that it is a final hearing as I have seen the u tube (sic) clip of the 26 th June, which records a telephone conversation between the social worker and the parents, in which in many occasions the social worker advises them of this fact, and asks them to return to this country so that they could see their son and be assessed.”
The child’s mother is Portuguese and his father English. They have been in a relationship for approximately three years but have never married. The father is not named on the child’s birth certificate and so does not hold legal parental responsibility under English law.
At the time ‘X’ was born in January, the couple lived in Southampton. They made no attempt to properly register the birth and had in fact told hospital staff they wanted the birth to be unofficial.
The City Council intervened under an interim care order and registered the birth instead.
Days after returning home, the parents refused to allow a midwife access to the baby, despite having previously agreed to do so. Later, they also refused to let a doctor see their baby, failed to attend an appointment at the hospital, and even refused access to the police when they were found at the premises of a doula (birth companion).
Eventually, a doctor did examine the child and found him “jaundiced and dehydrated”.
The father had a variety of unorthodox medical beliefs, and had sold potentially toxic mineral supplements in the past. Social workers were concerned that they might try to give these to the baby.
They also worried that the parents might abscond and launched care proceedings, on the grounds that the couple had not sought appropriate medical treatment for the baby. The baby was taken into emergency police protection.
The mother opposed this, insisting that they had not placed the baby in any danger, saying the apparent refusals to let professionals see the child had been based on ‘misunderstandings’.
“I do not accept that my son has suffered any harm or that I have placed him at risk. X is my first child and I only want what is best for him. I have felt there has been considerable hostility towards me from the authorities: however I do acknowledge that it is necessary to work with Southampton City Council and all health professionals. I understand and assure the Court that I will follow advice.”
The father made no formal opposition however, but as a couple they argued that the baby should be returned to them. However, by that point, they had moved to Portugal.
As a result of the parents’ “bizarre behaviour” plans were made to have them each assessed by a psychologist. But communication rapidly broke down and the Council suspended contact between X and his parents.
The Judge explained:
“The parents had entered into a Contract of Expectations on the 11th February 2016 … to ensure that contact ran smoothly and was a positive experience of the child. However the social workers statement documented that the parents had failed to comply with that contract in that in almost every contact session that had taken place there was a refusal by the parents to accept or act on advice, they were being disrespectful to the contact supervisors.”
The Judge concluded that the parents had effectively abandoned their son to the care system “in that they have not taken any steps which would enable the Local Authority or the Court to consider recommencing contact let alone rehabilitation [of the baby to their care].”
It was uncertain when the couple had travelled to Portugal but the move appeared to have occurred in late April. The Judge explained:
“…it is clear that they have remained out of the country now for some considerable time and it is unclear that they have any plans to return to this country.”
Despite significant efforts to find other family members who might be able to care for X, no one had come forward, explained Judge Black.
She commended the council for their efforts, adding:
“As a consequence of the parents’ behaviour the child has no relationship with his parents nor any relationship with any of his relatives. The Court is satisfied that there is no-one who is in a position to meet the needs of the child and there is no relative who has the ability or willingness to meet the child’s needs.”
She issued care and placement orders, formally taking X into the care system and placing him for adoption.
The ruling can be read here.
Photo by roland via Flickr