B e f o r e :
|IN THE MATTER OF:|
|RE H & R (ADOPTION)|
MISS GRIEVE appeared on behalf of the Mother.
MR WAINMAN appeared on behalf of the Children through their Guardian.
Crown Copyright ©
Wednesday, 26th February 2014
HER HONOUR JUDGE BROWN:
"I would like to see my children because I have brought their lives into this world. Wherever they live, so long as they are happy I will have peace of mind. I am aware the guardian and the social worker and everyone involved thinks it is best for the children to be adopted and I have now come to accept that. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in caring for my sons, including the guardian, the social worker and the foster parents. I would like to see my children, not that I want to know where they live but I want to see them to make sure they are happy and well and then I will feel satisfied. I will not seek to disrupt their lives. I support the decision of the guardian, of the social worker and the court and of the adoptive parents but on the other hand I would like to see the children to have first hand knowledge of how well they are studying and how tall they have grown and whether they are happy. I am aware I have made many mistakes in the past but after this transformation over the past one and a half years I have come to accept the judgment of the court and the suggestion of the guardian and the social worker but I would also like the court to consider my needs in seeing the children once a year so that I can feel happy and I would treasure the time of seeing them that they are happy. I would like my children to know that they are fortunate people in this world; they have two mothers. They have one mother who is the biological mother giving birth to them and another mother to nurture them and bring them up. They would be the most fortunate people in the world."
It is very much to Mother's credit that she has taken this stance and it will be of very great comfort to both boys to know that Mother has been able to put her needs to one side and prioritise their best interests. Whilst incredibly hard for Mother to do this, I commend her for it. However, even with Mother's standpoint on the adoption I must be satisfied that adoption is in the best interests of each boy separately for the rest of his life.
"On 20 December 2013 I met the adoptive parents and observed H and R. It is my view that the adoptive parents are able to meet all of the children's needs and in particular their understanding of the Chinese culture. I was informed that the children settled quickly with no emotional or behavioural problems. I observed the children to relate well and spontaneously to the adoptive parents, who responded in a caring and affectionate manner. The adoptive parents informed me that the children have been welcomed by the wider family and have integrated into the local community. H has attended school, has made friends and is making good academic progress. R is benefiting from the stimulation and socialisation provided by his attendance at nursery."
"We do not know if our views on contact on the facts of this particular case presage a more general sea change in post adoption contact overall. It seems to us, however, that the stakes in the present case are sufficiently high to make it appropriate for the court to retain control over the question of the children's welfare throughout their respective lives under sections 1, 26, 27 and 46(6) of the 2002 Act; and, if necessary, to make orders for contact post adoption in accordance with section 26 of the 2002 Act, under section 8 of the 1989 Act. This is what Parliament has enacted. In section 46(6) of the 2002 Act Parliament has specifically directed the court to consider post adoption contact, and in section 26(5) Parliament has specifically envisaged an application for contact being heard at the same time as an adoption order is applied for. All this leads us to the view that the 2002 Act envisages the court exercising its powers to make contact orders post adoption, where such orders are in the interests of the child concerned."
That is an important passage because it reminds me that I have the jurisdiction to make the defined section 8 contact order and indeed in certain circumstances to control contact by the court post the adoption.
"I want contact simply to make sure that they are well and to reassure them that I am well. I do not want to disrupt the contact. I will abide by any conditions and I have moved a very, very long way from the position in the past."
I understand the mother's views, I sympathise with the mother's views and I feel a great deal of compassion for her. However, I also have to consider the views of the professionals, the local authority social worker, the children's guardian and not least the prospective adopters. The prospective adopters do not support direct contact. I have been informed that they have been asked as recently as I think yesterday. I have of course been referred to the case of Oxfordshire County Council v X, Y & J  EWCA Civ 581. Paragraph 36 says the following:
"It is a strong thing to impose on adoptive parents, it is "extremely unusual" to impose on adoptive parents, some obligation which they are unwilling voluntarily to assume, certainly where, as here, the adoption order has already been made. Was there a proper basis for taking that extremely unusual step? In our judgment there was not. The judge found that the adoptive parents were genuine when they expressed their concerns, so what was the justification for imposing on them something they conscientiously and reasonably objected to, particularly when, as we have seen, they say that they have not ruled out the possibility of letting the natural parents have photographs in the future? As we have said, they are not to be saddled with an order merely because a judge takes a different view. The adoptive parents are J's parents; the natural parents are not. The adoptive parents are the only people with parental responsibility for J. Why, unless the circumstances are unusual, indeed extremely unusual – and here, in our judgment, they are neither – should that responsibility be usurped by the court? We can see no good reason either on the facts or in law. On the contrary, there is much force in the point they make, that they wish their status as J's parents to be respected and seen to be inviolable – not for themselves but in order, as they see it, to give J the very best chance for the adoption to be successful."
"The adoptive parents assured me that they will listen to the wishes and feelings of the children as they grow older in all matters pertaining to their development. If they do not respond appropriately to the wishes expressed by the children in that regard the boys might exhibit behavioural problems. The adoptive parents are willing to seek professional help on this issue if they feel some direct contact with the birth parents becomes appropriate. I think that the children are highly likely to be confused and distressed if direct contact becomes prescriptive by means of a court order. The children do not require a physical link to their mother and maternal family to have an understanding of them. I would be concerned as to the effect on the children of ongoing direct contact between Miss S and the boys given their reported reactions to contact immediately prior to and following the wish you well contact. As noted at paragraphs 9 and 10 above, I am concerned that the positive, trusting relationship the boys have formed with the prospective adopters would be undermined by being forced to see their mother when it appears clear they do not want to see her at this time."