A young brother and sister who were taken into care after their father injured the boy are to be returned to their parents’ care.
In C (Children : phased rehabilitation), the youngsters in question were three and one years of age. Their parents are both still in their 20s. In September 2015, the younger brother, ‘Y’, then aged just three months, was taken into hospital by her mother with bruising on the side of her face. Scans revealed multiple retinal and subdural haemorrhages (i.e. outside the brain).
The parents insisted, in a “prolonged” explanation to social workers and the police, that the injuries had been caused by an accidental blow to the baby’s head when closing a car door. However, they later admitted that this story had been entirely fabricated. The father had, in fact, struck Y after losing his temper with the boy the previous evening. At a subsequent fact-finding hearing, a judge concluded that the mother had fully aware of the father’s role all along.
The local authority quickly launched care proceedings and made accommodation arrangements for the two youngsters. Y was placed with the mother’s sister and her husband and his sister, ‘X’, with her maternal grandmother.
Sitting in an unspecified family court, Mr Justice Bodey explained:
“Those are the arrangements which pertain and have pertained to date. The children are doing very well in their respective placements.”
Since these placements, the parents have been allowed to see their children regularly. Both enjoyed multiple visits per week but after the father admitted his role the mother’s family drastically cut his contact schedule to just two hours per week, to be supervised by social workers. Over time, however, the mother’s family began to forgive him and the prior levels of contact were gradually restored.
Mr Justice Bodey noted:
“The long and short of it is that whilst the two children have obviously become well attached (I do not use that word in its technical sense) within their current placements, they still have a good and close relationship with the respective parents.”
Social workers concluded that the positives outweighed the negatives with the mother and father and that X and Y’s future lay in a ‘phased rehabilitation’ (gradual return) to their care.
In his ruling, the Judge referred to “the warmth and love which they had demonstrated towards both children throughout the process, as observed by the social workers, and to their having worked excellently with the local authority during the course of the proceedings, demonstrating a clear desire to put the children first.”
X had also received good care from the parents throughout her short life, in spite of “very substantial disabilities”.
Initially a return to the parents’ home would be under a care order, with full supervision by social workers, but the latter hoped to ‘discharge’ (cancel) this in due course. Both the parents and the children’s legal guardian accepted this plan.
Mr Justice Bodey declared:
“It hardly needs to be said that to return two vulnerable young children to their parents, in circumstances where a baby was seriously injured and could have died and where the parents then colluded (as I have found they did) to mislead all the professionals about what had happened, cannot be without risk.”
He urged the parents to fully cooperate with the social workers and stressed to the mother that she “must see herself as the major protective factor in the children’s lives.”
He hoped his ruling would ultimately prove beneficial to X and Y, allowing them, “when they are old enough, to make sense of their early lives, which (by the time they are rehabilitated) will have involved separation from their parents and from each other for not much less than 18 months.”
The full ruling can be read here.