In the matter of the Children Act 1989
and in the matter of the Adoption and Children Act 2002
B e f o r e :
|Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council||Applicant|
|Mother S||1st Respondent|
|Father O||2nd Respondent|
|Children PQR||3rd Respondents|
Crown Copyright ©
a. A care order or supervision order may only be made on the application of a local authority if the Court is satisfied that the "threshold criteria" under Section 31(2) Children Act 1989 are established. Section 31(2) provides that:
i. "A court may only make a care order or supervision order if it is satisfied (a) that the child concerned is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm; and (b) that the harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to the care given to the child or likely to be given him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give him; ..."
b. Section 31(9) defines "harm" as meaning ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development and "development" as meaning physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development and "health" includes both physical and mental health.
c. If the threshold is established, the court then has to pass on to the 'welfare' stage with a view to considering what, if any, order is to be made. Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 requires me to treat the child's welfare as paramount and to apply the 'welfare checklist' in arriving at my decision.
d. The placement application means I also need to consider the welfare checklist set out in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 in which the children's welfare throughout their lives is my paramount consideration
e. The "welfare checklist" is set out in section 1(3) of the Act and requires the court to particular regard to:
f. the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of his age and understanding);
g. his physical, emotional and educational needs;
h. the likely effect on him of any change in his circumstances;
i. his age, sex, background and any characteristics of his which the court considers relevant;
j. any harm which he has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
k. how capable are each of his parents, and any other person or relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting his needs;
l. the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question."
m. The checklist in s1(4) adds the consideration that the court must consider
n. At (c) the likely effect on the child ( throughout his life) of having ceased to be a member of the original family and become an adopted person and
o. The relationship the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant, including
p. The likelihood of any such relationship continuing and the value to the child or its doing so
q. The ability and willingness of any of the child's relatives, or of any such person, to provide the child with a secure environment in which the child can develop, and otherwise to meet the child's needs and
r. The wishes and feelings of any of the child's relatives, or any such person, regarding the child
s. I have to consider if any court order is necessary for the welfare and safety of a child and also carefully examine social workers plans for children to see if I can support them
t. Intervention by the state in private family life can only take place if it is a proportionate response to the facts and I must decide if the orders social services seek are necessary and that no other orders would do to meet the welfare needs of the children.
a) There had been no material improvements in the care of the children since being on the child protection register and the children were neglected Mother does not accept this- Father says, " he provided very good care to the children when they were in his care."
b) Frequent domestic violence which was from the Mother, Father failed to take steps to protect the children. Mother disputed serious or frequent, said call outs were sometimes unnecessary but accepted the children shouldn't have "seen us arguing.". Father said he had done what he could but had nowhere else to go.
c) Mother had mental health difficulties and failed to keep appointments and take medicine impacting on her ability to parent the children. They mention here her learning difficulties which Mother accepted but said were not severe and not a reason to remove the children. Father accepted this.
d) An incident in August each parent accepted
e) Strange men in the house Mother said one man while children were asleep but accepted this was wrong- Father accepted
f) The impact of the financial abuse of the Mother by a man called J meant household bills including food were not paid she denied this- He accepted
g) Basic neglect lack of supervision and lack of emotional warmth - Mother denied father accepted
h) Leaving children with Mother breaking an agreement with social services Mother said the children were asleep Father denied this. Interestingly he did not put forward in his response to the factual document the detailed explanation with names of the people he says he organised to be present while he was out at nightclubs.