Three children of parents struggling with stress and depression should be adopted, a Family Court Judge has ruled.
In A Local Authority v G the couple’s two daughters were aged 12 and three, while their younger brother was 19 months. The father of the oldest daughter died when she was just three. Her mother later began a new relationship with the father of the younger two in 2009 and they eventually married four years ago.
The father of the younger girl and boy considered adopting ‘A’, the older girl, but did not in the end do so and so he does not have parental responsibility for her. Aged 59, he is considerably older than the mother, who is just 35. The latter is partly deaf, has a learning disability and a limited IQ. Her husband is also her registered carer. Both are also contending with depression.
The younger two children were taken into foster care last May, with social workers claiming that the parents could not look after them properly. This had followed multiple referrals to children’s services for incidents that included A being allowed to play out still quite late, arguments and shouting in the home, and poor supervision of the youngsters. Later the authority applied for adoption orders.
Meanwhile, A, the older girl, was sent to live with the family of the head teacher at the middle daughter’s preschool, under a special guardian order. They applied for an order specifying that this placement be supervised for a period of six months.
Meanwhile, the parents argued that social workers had not established a valid case for adoption under the Children Act 1989 and that they could properly care for the children with support. The issues were considered at a lengthy, three-week hearing in November, before His Honour Judge Dancey, in the Family Court sitting at Bournemouth. He was asked to choose between adoption of the younger children, or returning them to their parents under a care or supervision order.
Expert witnesses involved in the case, along with the legally appointed guardian, all backed adoption, insisting the parents were unable to meet the children’s needs.
Extended family members had been considered as alternative carers for both A and her younger brother and sister, but none were suitable.
In his ruling, Judge Dancey declared:
“The first and most important thing to say is that these parents love their children very much indeed.”
He noted the strenuous efforts made by the mother, quoting a social worker’s report about her:
“She is a very lovely lady who loves her children very, very much indeed and wants the very best for them and does her very best for them. She has a very active love – not just a warm and fuzzy feeling. She tries her best to make sure they have the care she can offer. She wants the best for them, even at the sacrifice of what she would like.”
He also said that the parents had shown a willingness to cooperate with the local authority to address concerns, and that they had conducted themselves during the hearings with “utmost dignity and bearing.”
They had attended court punctually, every single day, the Judge continued.
“I have immense respect for the way they have behaved in enormously trying circumstances.”
Nevertheless, inn a carefully considered and lengthy ruling, Judge Dancey listed the many incidents that had led to the youngsters’ removal into care.
These included on in which:
“…the parents were clearly at a low point. The mother felt as though she was stuck and needed a push while the father said he was “knackered”. He was the main carer for the mother and said he did not know where to start. They were falling out a lot and he was getting frustrated with her as she could not do anything right. They talked about having “screaming matches” and snapping at one another, although the father thought the mother had been shouting at the children less.”
He concluded that the children should indeed be adopted, saying:
“The problem is that [the mother] can’t meet the needs of the children on her own. [The father] doesn’t give her the support she needs. I don’t think [the parents] really understand how worried the local authority are. I know they want to work with people to make things better. But I don’t think [they] can really change things in a lasting way even with support. I think if the children come home things will get worse again. [The parents] will probably get too stressed. And that might mean they get depressed again.”
You can read the full ruling here.