Children sleeping in car with mother returned to Slovakia

fostering and adoption

Two children, aged four and five, have been returned to Slovakia from England by a social worker.

They had been brought from their native Slovakia by their mother in December 2015. She claimed it was for a ‘holiday’, but she had not made any proper arrangements noted Mrs Justice Theis at the High Court. She had left her third child behind in Slovakia with her own father.

The mother and young children lived in unsatisfactory conditions in the UK for several weeks – including at one point, a car. Then in January last year, the family presented themselves at a local hospital. Doctors found that the four year-old had suffered “significant injuries” – and the mother was unable to give a convincing explanation for these.

The children’s father was arrested on suspicion of causing the injuries – and for separate sexual assaults.

Care proceedings followed and the two children went to live with a foster family under temporary (‘interim’) care orders. The mother contested jurisdiction, claiming that the English courts did not have legal authority in the case because the family was Slovakian. At a hearing in May, both Kent County Council and the family court judge accepted this argument – but the children were not returned to her. Instead, plans were considered for the children to be returned to their native country.

Kent County Council contacted the Slovakian authorities and following a telephone conference, it emerged that social workers there no longer supported the idea of placing the children with their grandmother. Instead they suggested that the children be accompanied back to Slovakia by an English social worker. There they would be placed in a children’s home.

Following some discussion, this plan was approved by the English courts, after the Serbian authorities confirmed that the necessary arrangements had been put into place.

Mrs Justice Theis noted:

“The court was satisfied in accordance with Schedule 2 paragraph 19 [of the] Children Act 1989 that returning to Slovakia was in the children’s best interests and that every person who had parental responsibility consented to them returning there. Detailed directions were made providing for the necessary steps and practical arrangements to ensure a safe and seamless transfer of the children.”

The Judge added:

“I would like to conclude by commending both the authorities here and in Slovakia for the constructive way they approached this case, their creative and co-operative approach ensured there was limited delay in the children returning to Slovakia…”

You can read Kent CC vs C & Others in full here.

Photo by Stephan Hochhaus via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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