An 11 year-old girl raised by her grandparents should remain in a residential home after she was removed from their care earlier this year, a family court has ruled.
Her grandparents had been special guardians to her, a common arrangement when extended family members take on the care of children unable to live with their parents.
The youngster, referred to as ‘A’, has learning difficulties and a number of medical issues which mean she needed day-to-day care explained Her Honour Judge Williscroft at a family court hearing in Wolverhampton.
“Her illness is life limiting. As a result she has had care and support from health and social care services and support required for a child with disabilities throughout her life.”
“Her Guardian described her to me in a report for the court as having complex health needs, fully dependent on carers and “delightfully engaging, appealing and rewarding young woman…well-liked by adults and children due to her sunny disposition, sense of humour and friendly bubbly caring nature.”
The family’s local authority decided that grandparents could no longer meet those needs and that they in fact now posed a risk to her welfare. They disputed this and wanted A returned to them.
This meant, said the Judge, that court proceedings had become unavoidable.
“To my mind it is a tragedy that the impasse between her carers and professionals has resulted in court litigation which, because of its legal nature, means social services have to assert and prove that while in the care of her special guardians she was at risk of or experiencing significant harm as a result of their parenting. They must do this since they cannot organise a care plan for her without the special guardian’s consent unless the court has found this proved…”
Representing themselves, the grandparents “presented their case in the clear and forceful way that has been their hallmark in battling for this child”. Judge Williscroft said the couple had developed a confrontational relationship with several childcare professionals over the years, that they felt had misjudged them or failed to provide them with adequate support.
The Judge explained that she had asked the council to amend the case documents to make them “less challenging” to the grandparents, but the latter had still refused to accept the situation. Nevertheless, A’s legal guardian believed the couple had become “physically and emotionally overwhelmed by the task of caring for A.”.
Amongst the reasons given were their abrasive relationship with medical professionals, which mean they did not always provide the girl with recommended medical treatment or therapy. The Judge also noted:
“It is self evident that on the two occasions when Grandmother has pronounced the child is too much for her and requested accommodation the effects of this on the child would be harmful. Grandmother explained one occasion of this as in effect to make a point to social services which concerns me.”
“Observation of the extreme anger and stress that Grandmother expresses related to the care of the child I find must be emotionally harmful and despite advice has continued.”
Judge Williscroft concluded:
“I have therefore considered whether the grandparents are now in a position to work with professionals and follow professional advice and commit to the long term to enable their home to be adapted or a new suitable one found for them. Having heard in details from grandmother and read and considered all the evidence I am afraid I cannot accept they could do so. I do not feel a new social worker would make the difference needed given that everyone else is finding similar problems, and to repeat my earlier assessment do think the task of care has now become one that is just too much.”
Consequently, A was to remain in a specialist children’s home able to fully meet her needs,
“She will also be able to enjoy relationships with her wider family. Her grandparents will remain most important to her and I hope they can remain as committed to her in care as they have been throughout her life.”
You can read A (removal from special guardians) here.