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England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decisions >> M (Children)  EWCA Civ 61 (02 February 2016)
Cite as:  Fam Law 280,  EWCA Civ 61,  1 FLR 548
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ON APPEAL FROM Cambridge County Court and Family Court
His Honour Judge Yelton
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE SIMON
| Re M (children)
Debra Gold (instructed by Cambridgeshire County Council) for the 1st Respondent
Suzy Shackleford (instructed by CB4 Law) for the 2nd Respondent
Hearing date: Tuesday 19th January 2016
Crown Copyright ©
Lady Justice King :
"2. The parents adopted the children in 2013 and before their placement in 2010 both children had suffered significant psychological, emotional and behavioural difficulties as a result of neglect and abuse suffered before they were removed from the care of their natural parents.
3. The parents have smacked, shouted, and physically restrained the children which has been perceived as unfair and excessively punitive by the children. Their parenting style has been re-traumatising for the children due to the children's experiences with their natural parents and the parents have failed to consistently provide the high level of nurturing expected in their care which these very vulnerable children need.
4. It is acknowledged that these parents love the children, are committed to them and took on a huge task in caring for them."
Support for the parents when the boys lived at home
"251 it is clear that both children have been exposed to significant developmental trauma within their birth family which is likely to have impacted significantly on all aspects of their development but specifically their ability to feel safe, contained and able to trust the adults around them.
252. The experience of multiple placements in a short period of time is likely to have provided a further insult to their precarious and fragile emotional worlds, resulting in ongoing experience of lack of consistency, containment and predictability in their attachment relationships. These experiences have supported the development of an internal working model of others as untrustworthy and rejecting and the self as unlovable.
253. The children did appear to develop meaningful relationships with their foster carers prior to being placed with the Ms. It is likely that the loss of these relationships reactivated feelings of rejection and associated rage. In addition, the children have since learnt that their biological mother has died. The impact of this for JK was not explored in the current assessment, JA's response to discussions of this topic was in keeping with his emotionally inhibited stance.
254. The placement with the Ms appears to have always been indentified as high risk due to the nature of the siblings' difficulties, their trauma bond and the concerns that their individual needs necessitated individual placements. The early reports from the placement planning meetings suggest that the foster carers were concerned about the adopters' commitment and JK was presenting with early rejection behaviours towards the adopters. Mr M was expressing concern as to how the couple would manage the extremes of behaviour and concern was raised concerning Mr M's perceived inflexibility and the long term prognosis of the placement."
"The M's and it was not up to them; it was up to Suffolk County Council were very anxious to adopt both of the boys together. As I have already indicated they did so in 2013. They say that after that and it really is a function of the way in which things are operated the amount of direct help to them fell away."
" .appear to have become increasingly based on reactive controlling strategies rather than promoting and sustaining a sense of playfulness and acceptance which could foster attachment repair.
Post adoption the M's report an increase in a dangerous aggressive behaviour from JK. This combined with a loss of professional support and a sudden bereavement for Mrs M are likely to have been important factors that undermine their coping, resources and parenting resilience."
"it seems clear that in fact the parents were accepting that that had happened on more occasions than they do now in the course of their oral evidence. I do not need to go further into it than that. It is there and anyone can read it."
"31. In considering whether or not I should make a care order, I have to consider all the alternatives and there are really only two alternatives so far as JA is concerned. With JK, I have already indicated, the matter is more or less agreed. In relation to JA, there are only two alternatives. One is that he is the subject of long term fostering. The other is that he goes back to live with his adoptive parents. In my view, it is in his interest and it is not in the interest of many children with the particular problems that he has and may have in the future, that he remains in long term foster care and under a care order.
32. I have considered, in coming to that conclusion, the Human Rights Act and the interference with the family life of the M's. I am absolutely satisfied that they will continue to support both boys in so far as is within their power so to do, but it seems to me that it will not be in JA's interest to return him to live with them at the present time or in the foreseeable future."
i) The alleged lack of support or otherwise given to the parents and the impact it had upon their care of the children.
ii) Findings as to the regime in the household: were there a few perhaps understandable examples of over chastisement at a time when the parent's were unsupported and JK's behaviour was unbelievably difficult? Alternatively, was this a rigid and controlling environment where the parents, notwithstanding their love for the boys, were unable to accept help and responded to the challenges posed by the children with a rigid and punitive regime which went far beyond 'strict' in any ordinary sense of the word and served only to re-traumatise the children?
iii) The extent to which the parents undoubted willingness to co-operate with the local authority in the future, and if so advised, to apologise to the children for what had happened, was underpinned by a true and genuine understanding of the effect that their parenting style had had on their children.
iv) What support could the local authority provide in the event that JA was to return home on his own?
4 Assessments etc. for adoption support services
This section has no associated Explanatory Notes
(1) A local authority must at the request of
(a) any of the persons mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (c) of section 3(1), or
(b) any other person who falls within a description prescribed by regulations (subject to subsection (7)(a)),
(c) carry out an assessment of that person's needs for adoption support services.
The section requires a local authority at the request of a parent, to carry out an assessment of their need for adoption services. The local authority is thereafter under no obligation to provide the services it has assessed as being needed - see Section 4(4) ACA 2002 which provides:
(4)Where, as a result of an assessment, a local authority decide that a person has needs for adoption support services, they must then decide whether to provide any such services to that person.
One can only hope that, even in the straightened times in which we live, local authorities appreciate that failure to find the funds necessary to support those who adopt disadvantaged children is all too often a false economy, and ultimately it is the children who pay the price when an adoptive placement breaks down.
Lord Justice Simon :