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27 February 2019
In a recent case, instructed by JWP Solicitors, the Honourable Mr Justice Cobb has ruled in support of the Local Authority, that measures should be taken to contact the Grandparents of a child being considered for a Placement Order.
The baby boy is currently in foster care, and subject to an interim care order, public law proceedings having been launched in respect of him as soon as he was born. Both parents have a long history of substance misuse and alcohol abuse, and there is a history of alleged domestic violence, including an alleged incident in the last few days.
The father of the baby boy (now aged 5 months), had voiced opposition to his parents being contacted and to them and the wider family being assessed as potential alternative carers. At the time of judgement, the Grandparents were not aware of the existence of the baby boy, though they were aware of the existence of his 2 siblings.
In making his Judgement, Justice Cobb concluded:
“…I am clear that the wider family should not simply be ignored on the say-so of a parent. Generally, the ability and/or willingness of the wider family to provide the child with a secure environment in which to grow … should be carefully scrutinised, and the option itself should be “fully explored”.” In considering the impact of his judgement on the baby boy’s future, he added:
"I am satisfied that if H were to be adopted, he would benefit from knowing, as he grows into adulthood, that his parents sought to care for him, even if they are adjudged unable to do so. He would further benefit from knowing that his wider birth family – his grandparents – were aware of his existence, and were given the opportunity to claim him and care for him, even if in the event they are unable to do so. While there is a risk that he may feel abandoned or let down by a family unable or unwilling to claim him, I am of the view that it is better for H if he is adopted that he knows they were aware of his situation and considered it than they lived in ignorance of him. In my judgment the worst outcome for H is that he would learn, many years down the line, that his father was too awkward or ashamed or embarrassed to reveal his existence to his family, and that the court – without cogent or compelling reason – condoned arrangements to keep his birth a secret from those who would have had an interest in him and might actually have claimed him”.
“By notifying the wider family of H’s existence now they will have the chance to contribute to life story work for H, even if they cannot care for him. This will enable those who raise H through adoption (if that is his fate) to help him to make sense of his life’s journey.”
This judgement provides a clear and helpful review of the obligations of a local authority or adoption agency to identify and assess wider family members where a placement order application is being considered.
To read the full judgement Please Click Here
James Hasson was instructed by JWP Solicitors to represent the Local Authority in this case.
JWP have a combined experience of over 80 years in childcare cases