Young sisters born to Hungarian Roma parents should be adopted, the High Court has ruled.
The case concerned two sisters, now aged four and three. They had been removed from their biological parents – the older sister at the age of 15 months and the younger straight after her birth. Social workers had found squalid conditions in the family’s home. The toddlers have lived with an English foster family since then.
The parents lived in London at the time but who have since returned to Hungary. They opposed plans for the foster family to formally adopt the girls.
In April, the Supreme Court overturned rulings by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal that the case should be transferred to the Hungarian court system. That would have taken place under EU Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, more commonly known as Brussel II Revised. At the Supreme Court Lady Justice Hale said the transfer itself might not be in the child’s best interests, regardless of the eventual outcome.
As a result of the ruling, a hearing was held in the Family Division of the High Court to consider the children’s future. Mr Justice Peter Jackson noted that:
“As a result of the Supreme Court judgment in this case last April, this decision is being taken by an English court applying English law. This requires that their welfare throughout their lives is treated as paramount – more important than anything else.”
The children’s welfare would be given priority over both the views of the parents and Hungarian law he explained.
The Judge outlined the facts of the case. The sisters had been removed from their biological parents because they had neglected them.
“They now need a family that will meet their needs throughout their childhoods and make them feel that they belong.”
The sisters had since formed a close bond with their foster family and come to regard the couple as their actual parents, and the other children in the family as their brothers and sisters.
As a result, there was no chance of any other family being able to provide the little girls with the sense of security and belonging they needed. In the words of a child psychologist, moving them would be an “emotional catastrophe”.
Turning to the children’s birth parents, the Judge said:
“[They] have natural feelings of affection for the children, but they could not meet even their most basic physical and emotional needs. This would be true whether the parents were together or apart and whether or not they had family support.”
No other members of the girls’ extended family were available to take on their care.
No alternative to adoption would meet the children’s needs. Consequently the Judge dispensed the usual need for the birth parents’ consent.
There would be farewell visit between the parents and children but no further contact after that point because it had “not been good” for them.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson was very critical of how long the case had taken, saying it was “not typical” of the family justice system.
“These proceedings have taken far, far too long. They were slow to start and have now been going on for two years nine months. The delay has caused problems for the children and their carers, for the parents and the wider family, and for the professionals.”
Read the ruling here.