A family court judge has described the evidence given by a social worker as “some of the most factually impoverished and unhelpful” he has ever heard.
The case before Judge Moradifar in the Family Court at Reading concerned two young children, aged 16 months and two months, who have been taken into care. The local authority applied for an order placing them both for adoption with the same family. But the parents were adamantly opposed this plan, with the biological mother insisting that the local authority had not properly assessed her parenting skills.
Judge Moradifar explained:
“She has furnished the court with a detailed and well-thought-out proposal that would work towards the children’s rehabilitation back to her care whilst there are elements of support and safeguards put in place. She will engage in the recommended therapy. She is highly committed to the process.”
He agreed that she had not been given “a fair opportunity to demonstrate her parenting capacity.” The Judge also believed that the authority’s complaints that the mother had not engaged with them were unfair as the events in question had taken place a number of years before.
“It is important to note that [at] the times these services were offered to the mother, she was a teenager or a care leaver. She was deeply troubled and at that time misusing drugs and alcohol. I found there was a real lack of analysis by the local authority witnesses when giving evidence on these issues.”
The mother’s background was a tragic one: she had herself been in the care system and suffered neglect and abuse during her childhood. As a result, said a psychiatrist, she was “vulnerable to making poor life choices, whereby she will compromise her safety and that of any child in her care”.
The Judge was very critical of a social worker involved in the case, questioning the accuracy of his evidence and saying he seemed “unable to explain the decision-making process through which he came to conclusions about these parents”.
“He was argumentative in the witness box and unable to provide a balanced analysis of any of the issues during his involvement in the case. His evidence was an astonishing display of how little he knew about this case.”
But another social worker allocated to the case came in for a more positive review. She, he declared, had provided the court with “more measured and balanced evidenced about the mother”.
Despite his sympathy for the mother, the Judge eventually opted to issue the placement orders sought by the local authority. The therapy required to become a trustworthy parent would take an unacceptably lengthy two years and the children’s welfare required that adoption proceed promptly.
While this process was underway, visits by the biological parents would be cut to just once a week, then formally end. After that they would have only ‘letterbox contact’ – i.e. the right to write to them, although Judge Moradifar left the door open for the possibility of future face-to-face contact too.
Read the full ruling here.
Image by duncan c via Flickr