[View without highlighting]
[Printable RTF version]
IMPORTANT NOTICE: This judgement was delivered in private. The judge has given leave for this version of the judgement to be published on condition that ( irrespective of what is contained in the judgement) in any published version of the judgement the anonymity of the children and their family is strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media must ensure this condition is strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.
In the Family Court
In the matter of the Children Act 1989
and in the matter of the Adoption and Children Act 2002
||Case Number: WV16C00507
||13 October 2017
B e f o r e :
||Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
HTML VERSION OF JUDGMENT
Crown Copyright ©
- This case concerns the welfare of three children, PQ & R born in 2013 2015 and 2016. The children's mother is S and the father O . The parents share parental responsibility for their children.
- Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council applied for care orders for the children on 22 August 2016
- They have also applied for placement orders in relation to all three children planning if granted to seek an adoptive family who will care for all 3 children together for a time limited period and if not for them to live in long term foster care together.
- The children are separately represented with a children's guardian called Jackie Cutler and their own solicitor. Each party has been represented before the court at the final hearing, the Applicant by Mr Boora, the Mother by Mrs Williets, Father by Mr Bott and the children by Mr Fiddey. I am grateful to them for their assistance.
- Two weeks ago I heard oral evidence over two days. Since that time I've taken the opportunity to re-read the large bundles of written evidence and consider my notes of the oral evidence I heard. I've also had the opportunity to read written submissions.
- I should begin by explaining why this court process has taken such an extraordinary amount of time to be dealt with. Normally care proceedings should be dealt with within 26 weeks at most for the obvious reason that decisions about children should be made within their timescales. In this case the mother had put forward the maternal Aunt as a potential carer. The local authority did not engage proactively in this process and at a point in February of this year decided that they should look at further assessment of her. The timetable was extended at that time as a result and further extended in April and again in May and August. As matters proceeded it appeared that the aunt and her partner could be approved as foster carers for the children and this would be an outcome which social services felt might meet their needs.
- Unfortunately on 5 June of this year the court had to extend the time limit again as the Aunt had withdrawn from the process. At this point social services plans altered and a placement plan was promoted meaning a final hearing to take place in June had to be vacated. It was relisted for two days in August but unfortunately the children's Guardian was unwell and the hearing had to be relisted at the end of September. This means the case has taken 60 weeks to completion.
- At this court hearing the court was provided with a letter from the Aunt saying that she intended to be a support person for the mother
- In the meantime the parent's own circumstances altered. They separated having undertaken a parenting assessment as a couple and by the time of the final hearing the father had been living with a new partner for some months. In May he had applied for an independent assessment of himself and his partner with whom he had then been living for a matter of weeks. It wasn't formally refused but was put off until the end of the final hearing. Mother too more recently applied to be reassessed.
- The standard of proof
- In family cases this is the civil standard of proof namely more likely than not- in other words if I accept this is proved factually it has happened. I must always examine the whole picture carefully when assessing evidence and remind myself that while people can lie about one or more things this could be for reasons for example of shame or embarrassment and may not necessarily mean other evidence is not true.
- The law
a. A care order or supervision order may only be made on the application of a local authority if the Court is satisfied that the "threshold criteria" under Section 31(2) Children Act 1989 are established. Section 31(2) provides that:
i. "A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied (a) that the child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm; and (b) that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to the care given to the child or likely to be given him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him;
b. Section 31(9) defines "harm" as meaning ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development and "development" as meaning physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development and "health" includes both physical and mental health.
c. If the threshold is established, the court then has to pass on to the 'welfare' stage with a view to considering what, if any, order is to be made. Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 requires me to treat the child's welfare as paramount and to apply the 'welfare checklist' in arriving at my decision.
d. The placement application means I also need to consider the welfare checklist set out in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in which the children's welfare throughout their lives is my paramount consideration
e. The "welfare checklist" is set out in section 1(3) of the Act and requires the court to particular regard to:
f. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
g. his physical, emotional and educational needs;
h. the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
i. his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
j. any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
k. how capable are each of his parents, and any other person or relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
l. the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question."
m. The checklist in s1(4) adds the consideration that the court must consider
n. At (c) the likely effect on the child ( throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person and
o. The relationship the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including
p. The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child or its doing so
q. The ability and willingness of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child's needs and
r. The wishes and feelings of any of the child's relatives, or any such person, regarding the child
s. I have to consider if any court order is necessary for the welfare and safety of a child and also carefully examine social workers plans for children to see if I can support them
t. Intervention by the state in private family life can only take place if it is a proportionate response to the facts and I must decide if the orders social services seek are necessary and that no other orders would do to meet the welfare needs of the children.
- The threshold
- Social services have to prove a set of facts called the threshold criteria under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 in order to give the court any jurisdiction to make decisions about the welfare of children. Those facts relate to parenting. The applicant has to prove the children were suffering or likely to significant harm and the harm or likelihood of harm was attributable to the care being given or likely to be given to them if an order was not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give them. This roundabout expression says social services have to prove facts which shows that the parenting of the children was likely to cause harm. The date on which they have to prove that is when the court case began.
- In the document they filed they stated that there had been serious concerns about the children being neglected since they were placed on the register called a child protection register in July 2016.
- They stated
a) There had been no material improvements in the care of the children since being on the child protection register and the children were neglected Mother does not accept this- Father says, " he provided very good care to the children when they were in his care."
b) Frequent domestic violence which was from the Mother, Father failed to take steps to protect the children. Mother disputed serious or frequent, said call outs were sometimes unnecessary but accepted the children shouldn't have "seen us arguing.". Father said he had done what he could but had nowhere else to go.
c) Mother had mental health difficulties and failed to keep appointments and take medicine impacting on her ability to parent the children. They mention here her learning difficulties which Mother accepted but said were not severe and not a reason to remove the children. Father accepted this.
d) An incident in August each parent accepted
e) Strange men in the house Mother said one man while children were asleep but accepted this was wrong- Father accepted
f) The impact of the financial abuse of the Mother by a man called J meant household bills including food were not paid she denied this- He accepted
g) Basic neglect lack of supervision and lack of emotional warmth - Mother denied father accepted
h) Leaving children with Mother breaking an agreement with social services Mother said the children were asleep Father denied this. Interestingly he did not put forward in his response to the factual document the detailed explanation with names of the people he says he organised to be present while he was out at nightclubs.
- Discussion of the history
- I note from the chronology there were concerns from before the birth of their eldest child due to the Mothers learning difficulties and concerns about her missing appointments for necessary pre-birth care. At this point the risks were identified as mild learning difficulties - in fact it is now clear they are more significant than that- Mothers failure to engage with health services and her difficult family background. At this time the Father who was then residing in and working in London but about to move to join the Mother was identified as a protective factor as was her family. The case was deescalated despite the midwife's concerns.
- The child protection conference in 2016 was concerned about a large range of troubling issues and began at a time when the Father was on police bail for rape which later ended with no charge. His immigration status which remains unresolved was mentioned but the main concerns were the vulnerability and exploitation happening of the Mother and the risks to the children from this from other men, not the Father, abusive behaviour in the parental relationship observed by the children, neglect including lack of supervision of the children and Mothers struggle with even basic caregiving, together with limited family support and money difficulties.
- I note from the social work report schools observations that Mother could not get the children to school on time when her partner was not present
- The conference report describes the parents as having an open relationship. This was not accepted by the parents in their oral evidence and to an extent I suspect rather ignored the causes of some difficulties. Both parents admitted in court they did not have an open relationship. Father plainly chose to see other women and in 2016 had a relationship with his current partner X for some months. She did not appear to be aware he was living with the Mother of his children and the Mother was unhappy about it. Mother has stated her relationships with men on the internet began as a result whatever the cause they were seriously risky and her continued involvement including spending family money on an unpleasant man called J. He caused risky situations and serious rows with her partner about the money which she spent on this man, she says out of sympathy and also serious pressure and for example threats to harm the Father if she did not comply. And of course at this time the Father was arrested for rape and the accepted circumstances of this are that he was seeing another woman, having met on a website called plenty of fish, ( a website the Mother also frequented) for sex only and he and a friend both had sex with her after a night out at a nightclub, which each said was consensual, disputing the account the woman gave. This case was never proceeded with and I will therefore assume the Fathers account of this is true. Oddly this behaviour gives his current partner X no concerns at all about the security of what she said she believes is their current monogamous relationship.
- The Mother having also used internet sites to meet men it is plain some complete strangers have visited her house while the children were there to have sex with her as well as this man J. She was unwilling to accept the others had visited in court but the picture of her behaviour, Father's acceptance of it and the noted reports lead me to accept this is what happened.
- Both describe themselves as separated when in 2016 the father spent some months in a relationship with X and the Mother was seeing J but in reality they both continued their dysfunctional relationship living in the same home I am confident. All of this must have been confusing for the children.
- As the mother has learning difficulties the court was assisted by a report from a Dr Allen which specified the level of them and the kind of assistance she should have in order to give her best evidence. On 21 September of last year he reported to the court. He reported that her full-scale IQ was 68 placing around the 2nd percentile of the population, performing below 98% of an age maxed group. She is able to read and understand written text but has only functional literacy. He described her as performing at an extremely low level. He was clear she could understand the legal process but she would be assisted by using clear language, regular breaks during meetings and speaking slowly.
- It is obvious this has affected her parenting capacity and I accept this ought ordinarily to be enhanced by family and / or professional support.
- The father came to this country to visit a relative and has stayed on and now has limited ability to stay and is applying to be able to stay permanently I presume on the basis of his now family life. This has impacted his ability to claim benefits. The parents relationship began and moved on very quickly and they had three small children in quite quick succession.
- Social services were involved briefly when the eldest was born because of the mothers lack of parental capacity to do basic care. The impact of having three small children meant the care was not consistent and was often neglectful. Examples included poor condition of the children, inconsistency in medical and school attendance, leaving children home alone etc are all in the records and I find this aspect proved.
- The combination of poor mental health in the mother and her failure to follow medical advice, is accepted and resulted in escalation of difficulties including self harm and suicidal thoughts and must have been a factor in the incidents of domestic violence between the parents and abusive behaviour which also caused concern. These latter matters are not disputed and are in themselves serious since small children were in the house and overhearing or seeing scary behaviour. I cannot accept the Fathers contention that he did what he could about this.
- The father had his own lifestyle outside the family home which plainly included going clubbing until early hours as well as being involved with other people. In respect of both parents the court is not concerned about their private lives and how they conduct them unless it impacts on the care of the children which at this time was neglectful.
- The court was told about a very serious incident that took place on 12 August of 2016 when there had been an argument between the parents, mother screaming and shouting in front of the children, when she picked up a knife and took it upstairs threatening to harm herself. The police were called. Mother admitted at this time she regularly felt like harming herself. It followed reports to police on the 4th August by the Father that he had been hit and slapped by the Mother on a number of occasions.
- When added to the existing concerns about strangers at the home, domestic violence and mental health the Father agreed with social services that he would be the prime carer in early July 2016 but despite this he left the children in the sole care of the mother, or with unapproved carers on his account social services believe with the Mother on her own. He disputes this though Mother is recorded as accepting it was true and telling him not to lie. Where there are clear contemporaneous records I prefer the recordings to the account either parent now gives.
- Despite a further working agreement I find Father did this again. He continues to dispute that he left the children in the sole care of the Mother apart from one 5 minute shopping trip out when social services arrived but stated that on other occasions he left the children in the care of adult friends of him. These people have not been checked by social services nor do I accept he had given them their details. The idea that he had more than one friend willing to housesit his children from late at night until the early hours is wholly improbable in any event. He was well aware at this time that Mother was not a safe sole carer. I note too the name of the carer he suggested was in the house has altered from Harry in his statement to Vicky in his oral evidence
- My determination that the fathers account that he acted responsibly in July and August is untrue is relevant to his wish to be further assessed for the care of the children now.
- There are now four separate applications before the court. Each parent seeks further assessment of the current circumstances. The local authority applies for a care order and for a placement order. From this it can be seen that each parent accept that as of today it would not be appropriate for the children to be placed in the care of them. The children's guardian supports the local authority's applications and opposes the application made by each parent.
- Both parents have engaged in some education since the court proceedings began, and mother's mental health is plainly much more settled. I consider the steps they have made are positive ones and demonstrate their commitment to the children who they plainly love very much.
- Now they are physically separated and since April the father has been sharing a home with his partner X and her child.
- The evidence
- In court I was able to hear evidence from the key workers in the case who had formed the assessment of the parents. I heard first from social worker TT who has been the social worker for the children since October 2016, almost a year. She had written a great deal of the evidence for the court and the assessments. In her evidence she confirmed that a potential adoptive couple had been identified for all the children and she hopes to progress this. She confirmed it was the plan three children should live and that the six-month research would be for an adoptive placement for all three together. If this was not possible the children would not be separated but they would look at long-term fostering.
- There was some discussion about whether a together and apart assessment had been completed and she confirmed that three months ago she did complete this work but it has not been filed. She was clear the children need to grow up together and this is a view shared by the parents.
- I found this witness to be fair and considered in her conclusions. She was prepared to acknowledge that in her analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of adoption she did fail to mention the positive attachment to have the mother when it should have been there. She was fully prepared to acknowledge the progress that the mother had made. She gave a clear picture about the father's proactive stance at contact, his love of the children who are comfortable in his company and his ability to meet his children's needs at contact. She accepted the children had a secure attachment with both parents
- She remain concerned about the mother's ability to care for the children on her own, as she is at present. The reasons for this are set out primarily in her written evidence. This explains the mother is a vulnerable person and has been exploited in the past by a number of different people. The Mother was not always, in her evidence to me, as clear about this as she might have been. She has remained rather obsessed by the father and her behaviour towards him, when she is unable to regulate emotional controls, is a continued and serious risk to the well-being of children who would live in that environment.
- There are also reports that she and the father continue to have a sexual relationship and on balance I consider this is more likely to be true. While it is hearsay evidence from maternal grandmother given to the social worker directly I consider given that this woman was clearly aware of the implications of what she was saying, and the plans for the children, it is more likely to be correct. It fits in with other observed interactions and their regular continued communication.
- The social worker explained that she had not assessed the father and his new partner. Of course at the time the father applied for an assessment he had been in a resumed relationship with his new partner for only weeks. The delay in the court process has meant this is now longer but she did not consider, and I agree, that given the history of this relationship it could be regarded as a permanent or committed one. She did accept there are no concerns about the child of his current partner.
- She continue to rely on the risk of emotional difficulties arising due to continued contact between the parents and mentioned second-hand reports about an incident between the parents after a social worker meeting when the mother was in a very distressed state and behaved aggressively but also insisting that the father would take her home which he did agree to. In June Mother had gifts for the father and waited for him. Police were called in May due to at least an argument.
- She was concerned that they were in text communication still, this having been very frequent and more recently father had described her as crazy which would upset the mother very much. This kind of hostility causes her concern and raises risk if either was the carer of serious disruption in my assessment.
- She accepted the professional conclusions of the assessment done of both parents. She was concerned that father did not see any need for change and did not feel he done anything wrong.
- I heard too from the independent social worker JH. She had conducted an in-depth assessment under the PAMs rules, specially devised to ensure any parent, including one with a level of learning difficulty, could be fairly assessed, which she described as giving parents every opportunity to show their skills. She considered the information collected was still valid despite the separation later and considers the concerns she expressed remain today.
- Her opinion was to achieve real change takes time, it cannot take place overnight, needing to follow a period of stability and learning. This was required for the children's needs to be met and the very fact that the parents were separated and father had a new relationship did not affect her assessment of him or the mother.
- She was extensively questioned about her qualifications. I considered the statement that her work was designed to achieve the best overview of parents' abilities to be a true one. It seemed to me that her work was conducted carefully and thoroughly and her observations of contact detailed and helpful.
- She had made allowances for the mothers learning difficulties but still noticed her struggles to engage in conversation with the children. She explored her parenting in a variety of different ways, which she explained. She had not found either parent completely forthcoming.
- I consider the way in which she conducted the assessment and time she spent on it all appropriate. I accept her conclusion that the father has a higher capacity than the mother does and in some areas his capacity is adequate. However it is of concern that there was so many areas in which his and their capacity was poor, particularly when the assessment records the highest skills of either and he does not have learning needs. In such circumstances it is surprising his capacity is so limited. She commented too that the father had not been able to adapt his behaviour to protect the children in the past. This remained a concern for her.
- Her concerns were many and I found her report insightful and thorough. She was told in reality Mother does not have support from her own Mother and had a difficult upbringing with Mother saying she had learnt such parenting skills as she had from the Father. At this time the Mother intended the relationship with Father should continue but described difficult arguments about his wish to go out at weekends and also that he used controlling behaviour such as examining her phone
- She had observed Mother struggled with anything more than the most basic interactions with the children. Both parents had difficulties with supervision and boundaries. The kitchen in the home was dirty and unhygienic, their skills and understanding of good healthcare poor . Both found it hard to control their behaviour in front of the children and surprisingly poor abilities with money and planning, and limited understanding of keeping children safe and abuse of children. Mother was observed parenting" from the sofa" and relying on others to keep the children safe from hazards.
- This worker found it hard to accept each parent was giving her an honest account in particular over the confusing statements they made about the nature of their relationship. Father told her Mother had met a number of men maybe 4 or 5 to have sex with, Mother only J. He had chosen to go out when strangers attended the home of his children to have sex with the Mother. Father continued the lifestyle of a single man going out all night to nightclubs in circumstances when he knew Mother didn't like it and it remains unclear how he financed this or saw it fitting into his responsibilities as a co-parent with someone who obviously struggled. While Father described Mother as using racially derogatory language to him including in front of the children she denied it and he had not challenged it. Given the history his account is much more likely to be true. His ineffectiveness in challenge given his children are of mixed race is a concern.
- She too accepted that mothers work with the freedom program and Triple P parenting course was all positive. However she would need some evidence that learning over time had some beneficial effects.
- She considered the passive responses and minimising concerns of the father were concerning. An example was his denial that he needed to protect the children from domestic violence. He didn't fully understand either why the presence of strangers at the home meeting the mother for sex was worrying. If you didn't understand the problems that meant change was unlikely she told the court. Her overall conclusions was that each parent did not accept there was any reason for concern save for domestic violence last summer and they did not as a result show they were motivated to parent differently. It is concerning that even with no children at home basic home conditions were so poor and not suitable for children.
- The observations included some positive contact but concerns about what was described as Mothers ambivalent bond with the children. While the Fathers abilities in general were higher than Mothers he did not show the commitment to ensure the children were safe.
- She continues to give a timescale of 2 to 3 years to achieve the changes needed and at the end of that period it would be appropriate to reassess the capacity of each parent. Before such time that the children could not be returned and in her view without this change would be minimal and unsustainable.
- She has had the opportunity of reading the parent statements and felt that they did not demonstrate they had accepted the need to change. I agree with her opinion while also accepting the education they have undertaken is positive.
- She had also wondered if father's relationship with his new partner was his attempt to try to secure the care of the children to persuade the social services he could have their care.
- I heard from the mother. She told me she was now living on her own and was able to see a psychiatric nurse if she needed to. Recently she had been feeling down and had taken herself to see her Doctor who has prescribed tablets and referred her to a counselling course to help with her feelings. This is a positive development.
- She described how she had been on a parenting course, completed a first-aid course and done some cooking courses. She said she'd been trying to sort herself out with support and help with the family. This included her mother her sister and her auntie's. Now she told me she was not giving money to anyone and has no debts.
- She accepted her upset and behaviour would have affected the children. She claimed that she accepted the relationship of her former partner with his new partner X and wanted them to get on together the sake of the children if the children came home. She claimed to have no contact with him and wanted to look after children on her own
- She was asked why social services were worried and told the court this was because she had been involved with a worrying man and her then mental health problems. She accepted she had chosen not to take medication. On occasion she said she had controlled herself with the Father but sometimes not. She said to the court friends and family were available for support but in reality this has not been the case before so it seemed unlikely to be the case now.
- She had not understood why her then partner had left her and thought it was perhaps so he had a better chance of keeping the children this was Ms H's suspicion and one which I agree is likely to be true. Her description of getting involved with J to make her partner jealous felt like a teenager's behaviour rather than an adult Mother. When describing the occasions when it was alleged she was on her own to the court she said as Father did on one occasion he was out for 5 minutes and otherwise his friends were there. This was said unconvincingly. She said because he was feeling down and unhappy he went out just the once I prefer the earlier accounts she has given of this in which he was out most of the weekend.
- She accepted she had enquired about whether his now partner was coming to court that day and been upset and also had threatened to punch her "but I didn't mean it." I think I can conclude from this that if either was to care for the children risks of trouble in front of them remain.
- She described why her sister had decided not to proceed with the assessment and said with her partner working elsewhere and thinking he was cheating on her she had withdrawn. This leads me to consider that she would be unable to provide real support now since she has to prioritise her own family. She accepted her sister had also problems in 2016 and had not been able to support her then.
- In many respects she is not a reliable historian which raises concerns about how anyone working with her might help to protect her and children.
- Father told me there was now no sexual relationship with the Mother and described them as friends whatever the status of their relationship I am sure it is not a settled calm one.
- He told me movingly how hard separation from his children was and said the training which included a course about domestic violence had made him a better man. He also said he understood and could manage the Mother which I find hard to accept given her threat the day before to his partner and the fact in the past she has hit him.
- He was angry about "failing" the PAMs assessment, telling the court it had not been fair and wanting to see the booklet. He claimed all was good before J arrived but I am confident before then he would be nightclubbing with his friends leaving Mother alone and he must have been well aware of her limitations.
- He accepted he used to see other women from the internet but did not do so now. It was unclear to me why not. "I don't do this no more." He admitted a relationship with X since 2015 who he met on the internet developed after a few months, and they were together for a time in 2016 before he resumed his relationship with the Mother, then left the Mother "I moved back to X" as he felt together they wouldn't keep the kids. He then claimed he had only met two women on the internet X and the woman who claimed he had raped her, which is not believable.
- With the woman who had once spent a weekend with his children and had a child of her own he considered the two of them could care together for all his children and he sought an assessment of them. The clear understanding I obtained from this was that this new relationship was intended to result in his caring for his children once he realised the difficulties were serious. I did not consider him a reliable historian and this again raises difficulties about working with him as does his clear refusal to accept there might be any proper concerns about his care of the children.
- His partner gave evidence before me. She was obviously keen on her new partner and had a remarkable lack of curiosity about his history even though it appeared she had read much of the material in the case. I could not understand why she thought he would be monogamous with her when he hadn't been before and indeed that is how she met him. I failed to understand why she would trust him 1000% as she told me. She suggested if their relationship failed she could take on the care of his 3 children on her own.
- In May and now I find it unlikely this relationship is a sustainable one long term and consider the Fathers new partner is either rather gullible or her judgement clouded by her feelings for the Father. Her statement that her son "misses the girls" with whom he had spent one weekend was incredible. She said about the Fathers relationship with the woman who accused him of rape "at first I was quite angry. It's one of those things; I can't stop him doing what he wants." She had not been told by him about the allegation of rape and stated she was not concerned about it "I didn't want to know the details" "people get things wrong, not everybody's perfect"; these are not the words in my assessment of a potentially safe carer of 3 vulnerable children. I cannot see an assessment of them together is necessary and I refuse it.
- Lastly I heard from the Guardian who explained why she supports the social services plans for the children and had prepared a child focussed report. She described how all three children have complex needs as a result of living in a chaotic and dysfunctional home which will require time and individual care to meet, not within the parenting capacity of their parents. The children enjoy the contact with their parents. She saw the overriding issue being able to safeguard and prioritise the children over the adults needs, and in relation to Mother not being emotionally overwhelmed. She conceded some improvements in Mothers practical skills but reminded the court this was only one part of the picture. She had not found the Father to demonstrate any real understanding of the difficulties and his part in them when she spoke to him.
- Mother argues a further assessment of her is necessary saying that her situation has changed and she is better able to manage and any assessment should identify the kinds of professional and family support that would assist her.
- I do not find this necessary. I accept while not caring for the children Mother has accessed some helpful education and some medical care that is positive. But the incidents of calling the police , altercations with Father and the text at court all suggest that she still struggles to contain her emotions causing risks. At the core of my concerns is her basic vulnerability. Her "relationship" with J was extraordinarily worrying to her and her family's well-being but she did not have the understanding or resources first of all not to seek it out and then to continue it. She chose not to report his threats to police or professionals to help. She also did not see that having strange men she did not know at her house with small children at home was dangerous for her and for them. I cannot see such understanding can be altered by simply a limited passage of time nor, in the absence of full time support, such real risks be prevented by professional support. In reality in difficult times in the past her family have not provided the support she needed so there is no reason to think it would now be available to her. In addition she is only able to manage basic home care while caring only for herself. My assessment is that she struggles to care for herself and to keep herself safe so I cannot consider any kind of help save full time, which is not suitable, would resolve those problems.
- The social services plans are for adoption which they remain optimistic can be achieved for all 3 children, the eldest of whom is more badly affected by her history than her siblings. I accept the evidence I heard about this but agree that if there are no viable possibilities on the horizon after a 6 month search the plan can be changed and at such point the placement order ended. The children would then remain in foster care and be able to carry on seeing their parents. However foster care is less secure than adoption a child remains subject to care regulation and even an overnight stay with a friend requires approval there are more risks of moves and the devotion of legal parents who are your parents for the rest of your life plainly has significant advantages in terms of security and stability. They are more likely to fund the deposit for the first flat, provide rescue in a drama for young adults.
- After balancing the possibilities of care for these children my analysis is there are no realistic alternatives to meet the children's welfare needs throughout their lives but adoption. I bear in mind and balance that each child has a loving relationship and attachment with their parents but has also been harmed by neglect and would be at risk of harm in their care.
- I am not persuaded the parental capacity for basic safe care has altered in any fundamental way since the court case began and therefore the children are at risk if in the care of either parent of witnessing arguments, abuse and violence when their parents meet and of having their basic care needs neglected. I accept the recommendations that some time would be needed to see if the parents can affect change and achieve more understanding of what has gone wrong. I consider the love and attachment the children and parents have to each other but conclude the needs of the children for stability consistency and safety cannot be met by either parent at this time and in the foreseeable future. The period of time for identified change is too long for the children to wait, and in any event the prospects of change limited in my assessment.
- In balancing the obvious losses of any child of its family of origin which includes what you look and sound like, the stories of family history and relatives who love you with the real possibility of safe family life for these three children I consider there are no other welfare options that can meet their needs throughout their lives but adoption which sadly means the loss of their legal relationship with their parents and I consider a proportionate interference with the private life of the parents given the welfare needs of the children.
- I therefore approve the care plans and dispense with the parents consent to the placement orders I make on the grounds the children's welfare requires it.
Copyright Policy |
Donate to BAILII