Court of Appeal: Better For Three Sisters To Be Adopted Into Different Families Than Remain In Foster Care
A Local Authority appealed against a judge’s refusal to an make order placing three sisters aged 3, 4 and 8 for adoption. The Local Authority had brought care proceedings in respect of the three girls. Both the father and mother had suffered from mental health problems and the father had been a serious criminal conviction.
Following allegations of domestic violence a child protection orders had been made. The father admitted that he had been living with the family when the mother had dishonestly maintained that he had not been living with them.
She had obtained a non-molestation order against him and the parties had separated leading to private law proceedings in which a prohibited steps order and order for indirect contact were made. It was thought that the children were sufficiently protected by those orders and the non-molestation order but the father continued to live with them.
He agreed that he would not care for the children or be alone with them but he had breached that agreement. The local authority brought care proceedings and the children were removed to a foster care.
A psychologist reported that the children had been seriously damaged and were in need of a safe, stable and permanent home that could only be provided by adoption. It was however acknowledged that it would prove difficult to place all the children with the same family.
The initial judge ruled that it was imperative to keep the children together, and as an attempt to find an adoptive placement for them together was likely to be unsuccessful they should remain in foster care.
The local authority appealed this decision, as they felt that the judge had wrongly elevated the need to keep the children together. Had he given this judgement necessary consideration he would have seen that that long-term fostering was not in the children’s best interests and was also contrary to the recommendation of psychologist.
The Court of Appeal ruled the evidence before the initial judge indicated that placing the children with their natural parents was out of the question. The judge’s decision to opt for long-term foster care he left the uncertainty of the parents potentially applying to discharge the order placing the children in the care of the Local Authority and back into their care or even apply for a contact order to see or have contact with the children.
It was also clear that the children could be separated although that would not be ideal. Furthermore, adoption was far more suitable for the children, particularly the two younger ones because of their young age, rather than continuing long-term adoption.