SITTING AT LEEDS
B e f o r e :
|In the matter of TJ (Relinquished Baby: Sibling Contact)|
Brett Davies (Solicitor-Advocate) for the Local Authority as Adoption Agency
The mother was not present nor represented
Miss Julia Nelson (instructed by Ison Harrison) for the child (TJ)
Hearing dates: 24 January 2017
Crown Copyright ©
The Honourable Mr Justice Cobb:
"That the Adoption Agency shall be permitted not to disclose the existence of TJ to any member of TJ's birth family including his former half-sibling (half-sibling by birth now adopted) or members of that child's family, and that this adoption application may proceed on the basis that the only respondents are (a) the mother, (b) the Adoption Agency and (c) TJ by his Children's Guardian".
"…a pre-emptive application to the court under Part 19 FPR 2010 ('Alternative Procedure for Applications'). By this process the Local Authority can request the court to make a "decision on a question which is unlikely to involve a substantial dispute of fact' (rule 19.1(2)(b)). It is I suggest the mechanism which is contemplated by rule 14.21 FPR 2010 for the invoking of the inherent jurisdiction where no proceedings have started and an adoption agency or local authority requires "directions on the need to give a father without parental responsibility notice of the intention to place a child for adoption". In this situation, Part 19 provides an obvious mechanism. The Local Authority here suggests that clarification of whether there should be notification to consular officials, and/or notification to or assessment of extended natural family is directly analogous with the issue of the possible non-notification of a father without parental responsibility. Part 19 of the FPR 2010 derives from Part 10 of the Family Procedure (Adoption) Rules 2005; the procedure under Part 19 helpfully permits an application to be made without naming a respondent (rule 19.4 FPR 2010 and FPR PD19A, para 2.2)."
i) section 1(4)(c) of the 2002 Act, namely the "likely effect on [PL and TJ] (throughout [their lives]) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person";
ii) section 1(4)(f) of the 2002 Act: the "relationship which [PL and TJ have] with relatives".
The positions of the parties
"… I do not think that [TJ] would suffer harm as a result … It is not uncommon within adoption situations for children to grow up without a full awareness of their birth family and then seek out a relationship with members of their birth family. The applicants are able to use the life story work that has been prepared for [TJ] in order to assist him in understanding his birth family and the decisions that were made for his life, including his mother's wish to conceal his birth."
Of course, PL would have no reason to believe that he had a half-brother by birth, even though TJ will know that he does.
"… [TJ]'s existence was made known for the purpose of allowing indirect contact between [TJ] and [PL], there exists the very real possibility that, despite the best of intentions in relation to confidentiality, details of [TJ]'s birth will become common knowledge. This then brings with it the potential for serious emotional consequences to many people as a result of this information becoming available".
"it should be self-evident that a prospective adopter with whom a child has been placed under a placement for adoption order will automatically be "any other person" within the context of s 1(4)(f). Such an individual will have the child committed to their care for the express purpose of establishing themselves in the important, if not the most important, relationship of parent to the child both in reality and, if the anticipated adoption takes place, in law. Such an individual will have parental responsibility for the child, shared with the adoption agency and any parent, upon the moment that the adoptive placement commences (ACA 2002 s 25(3))."
The underlying message from the statement of Mr. and Mrs. X is that they would strongly prefer that PL's father is not informed of TJ's existence as a possible prelude to creating a contact relationship between PL and TJ; insofar as they can contemplate it at all, they are however absolutely clear that any contact between TJ and PL would have to be limited to indirect contact.
"Where parents have relinquished their baby and expressed a wish that he or she be adopted outside the natural family, the degree of interference with family life rights is less than where the parent-child relationship is severed against the parents' wishes. The fact that the parents have taken this decision is an important consideration when determining whether the interference is necessary and proportionate. It follows, therefore, that approval of adoption in such cases does not depend on the local authority or court reaching the conclusion that nothing else will do." (emphasis by underlining added).
"… dignified and confidential arrangements for the adoption of their child, and are anxious about even the slightest leak of information to the natural family; they often wish to achieve permanence for the child, and finality for themselves, with the minimum of delay"
The mother's wish for a dignified and swift decision is reinforced in the instant case by her stated fear that if PL's father is informed of TJ's existence, the harassment of which she complained in the past will resume. The Children's Guardian, who saw the mother recently, assessed her as being open and welcoming, and ostensibly genuine in her approach and in her thinking.