Judge ‘unable to approve’ care plans

fostering and adoption

Plans for the adoption and fostering of a large family of neglected children need more work, a family court judge has concluded.

The four siblings aged ten, four, three and two, were taken into care in December last year. A fifth sibling was born to the same mother in March and taken away by social workers straight after the birth.

The father of the oldest child is uninvolved and absent. Both he and the father of the youngest four both come from Pakistani families.

Sitting in the Family Court at Derby, Judge Bellamy noted:

“The parents have a long-standing history of drug abuse including crack cocaine and cannabis. The drug abuse has compromised their ability to provide appropriate care for the children.”

The older children were lagging behind their peers thanks to their parents’ neglect. But care proceedings did not begin until the family home was raided by the police. The parents were found in possession of crack cocaine and were duly arrested.

The initial plan was for the children’s maternal grandmother to take over their care. She moved into the family home and the parents were not allowed to see the kids without being supervised.

But things went further awry when social workers assessed the grandmother and concluded that she would not make a suitable carer after all. They then applied to place the children into foster care – but before the hearing could take place, the parents abducted their children and the grandmother was suspected of involvement.

A few days later the Police located the errant family at a hotel in Derby. The confused youngsters were immediately placed with foster carers.

Meanwhile the grandmother pursued her efforts to take on care of the kids. She asked for an independent social worker to assess her parenting skills – but he also reached a negative conclusion, at which point the grandmother dropped her application.

Finally, in August, the local authority put forward care plans, proposing that the oldest child remain in foster care while the younger four were adopted.

The Judge considered the issues associated with this plan, including separating the siblings. He concluded that allowing the child to see his brothers and sisters even after adoption was a possibility that required further investigation despite being unorthodox, declaring:

“Before the court can come to a view on that issue the court needs to have reliable professional evidence as to the emotional impact on Child A of the separation and contact proposals in his present care plan. If there is a likelihood that his distress may be at a level that could cause him emotional harm then the court needs to be satisfied, firstly, that the plan is proportionate and, secondly, that the local authority has identified the resources needed to help Child A through what could be a very difficult transition.”

He concluded that he was unable to approve the care orders sought until a further, more detailed assessment of the options open to the family was undertaken.

“Cases involving large sibling groups present significant challenges to local authorities in terms of care planning. They also present a significant challenge to the court. The fact that a sibling group involves more than one father, that there is a relatively wide age gap between the oldest and the younger four half-siblings, that the children are all of dual-heritage adds to the complexity.”

He added:

“In this case I am satisfied that I am not able to approve any of the final care plans for these children at this moment in time. Before I can do so it is important for the court to know whether these foster carers are willing to offer a long-term home either for the four children who are with them now or just for Child A.”

Read Re A, B, C, D & E here.

‘Grandmother and Child’ statue by Alan Wilson, photo by mrrobertwade via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence 

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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