IN THE EAST LONDON FAMILY COURT
B e f o r e :
Sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court
| LONDON BOROUGH OF WALTHAM FOREST
|- and -
'Hannah' (a child) by her Guardian
Mr Ian Bugg for the Mother
Ms Susan Stamford for the child through her Guardian
Hearing dates: 6th February 2017
Crown Copyright ©
HER HONOUR JUDGE CAROL ATKINSON :
a. That no person, other than the mother, holds parental responsibility for the child;
b. That neither Mr H nor Mr F is to be a respondent to any future application brought pursuant to the ACA 2002;
c. That the local authority need not and should not take any steps to inform or consult either Mr H or Mr F regarding the child's birth or the intention to place her for adoption;
d. That the local authority need not and should not take any steps to inform or consult the maternal family regarding the child's birth or the intention to place her for adoption.
The appropriateness of the chosen legal route
"47. Recent developments in this case underline the importance of a local authority: (i) considering carefully the issues of possible family placement at the earliest opportunity, (ii) assessing critically from the outset what the mother and father say about their families, not merely just accepting at face value their dismissal of family placement here or abroad (see In re C v XYZ County Council above), and (iii) being proactive in addressing the potential complications." [emphasis mine]
"50. Accordingly, where a local authority in any case of this kind is in doubt about either the need to investigate and/or assess family members, and/or its obligations under the 1963 Vienna Convention to notify the relevant consulate, and/or the appropriateness of engaging the central authority of the foreign state to request co-operation (perhaps for the purposes of assessing a potential kinship carer), it may wish to consider making a pre-emptive application to the court under Part 19 of the 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 of the 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 (SI 2005/2795); the procedure under Part 19 helpfully permits an application to be made without naming a respondent (FPR 2010 r 19.4 and FPR Practice Direction 19A, para 2.2).
51. Clearly a significant advantage of making a pre-emptive application in the appropriate case is that delay can be avoided, even though there is a small (but in my view acceptable) risk that cases which are in reality straightforward acquire artificial or imagined complications. I do not suggest that a Part 19 application is likely to be appropriate in every case of this kind; the local authority will need to exercise a judgment on the particular facts, having regard to the individual circumstances of the subject child. But it may have been well deployed in this case to avoid the situation which has arisen many months after the adoptive placement has been made."
"(1) Where a child's father and mother were married to each other at the time of his birth, they shall each have parental responsibility for the child.
(2) Where a child's father and mother were not married to each other at the time of his birth—
(a) the mother shall have parental responsibility for the child;
(b) the father shall have parental responsibility for the child if he has acquired it (and has not ceased to have it) in accordance with the provisions of this Act."
"(1) Where a child's father and mother were not married to each other at the time of his birth, the father shall acquire parental responsibility for the child if—
(a) he becomes registered as the child's father under any of the enactments specified in subsection (1A);
(b) he and the child's mother make an agreement (a "parental responsibility agreement") providing for him to have parental responsibility for the child; or
(c) the court, on his application, orders that he shall have parental responsibility for the child."
The relinquished child and confidentiality
a. There is a value to society in affording a mother the confidentiality necessary to her in deciding to make provision for her child through the route of adoption although confidentiality cannot ever be guarantee;
b. There is no absolute duty upon the local authority, the guardian or the court to notify, make inquiries about or consult with members of the extended family though the duty to make inquiries might arise if necessary in the child's best interests;
c. The local authority should examine the mother's account of her circumstances critically in deciding whether and, if so, what inquiries are necessary;
d. Although it may be unnecessary in the case of a relinquished child to carry out 'the profound investigations' usually seen as necessary before the making of an adoption order, a thorough analysis of the realistic options is still required before a decision can be made that "nothing less will do".
e. In some cases, an analysis of the circumstances will lead the local authority to conclude that it is unnecessary to inform the natural family, but in other cases the authority will decide that it must consult the extended family to carry out the necessary evaluation of the realistic options.
f. Each case turns on its own facts, but the child's welfare will always be the paramount consideration.
Applied to the facts of this case