B e f o r e :
- and -
The Children 'O' and 'Y'
through their Children's Guardian
3rd and 4th Respondents
Mr Julien Foster, Counsel for the First Respondent
Miss Geraldine More O'Ferrall, Counsel for the Second Respondent
Miss Anne Oakes, Solicitor for the Third and Fourth Respondents
Hearing dates: 7th May to 10th May 2019 and 24th May 2019
Crown Copyright ©
His Honour Judge Middleton-Roy:
"The welfare of the children has already been harmed and this has impacted on their behaviour, education and wellbeing. It is essential that steps are taken immediately to make appropriate changes. This will be achieved by complying with the written agreement. If it is not complied with, there will be little option other than for the local Authority to return the matter to Court so that other more interventionist options can be considered."
The Relevant Law
"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 -
(i) the care given to the child, or likely to be given to him if the order were not made, not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give to him; or
(ii) the child's being beyond parental control."
Meaning of harm
"harm" means ill-treatment or the impairment of health and development including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;
"development" means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development;
"health" means physical or mental health.
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
(b) the child's physical, emotional and educational needs;
(c) the likely effect on the child of any change in her circumstances;
(d) the child's age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant;
(e) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering;
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child's needs;
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question.
"domestic abuse" includes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial, or emotional abuse. Domestic abuse also includes culturally specific forms of abuse including, but not limited to, forced marriage, honour-based violence, dowry-related abuse and transnational marriage abandonment;
"coercive behaviour" means an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim;
"controlling behaviour" means an act or pattern of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
(i) the children suffered emotional harm from witnessing domestic violence between their parents;
(ii) the children's education needs were not being met;
(iii) the mother did not accept her parenting had impacted on the children;
(iv) the child O had been excluded from school transport due to her and her mother's behaviour;
(v) the child O started the academic year later as the mother did not return a signed transportation agreement;
(vi) the mother did not accept the reasons for the child's exclusion from school and sought to blame other parties;
(vii) the child O was at risk of social isolation due to her behaviour and the mother had removed her or not brought her to groups or clubs;
(viii) the child Y has been exposed to frequent bad language and challenging behaviour from his sister which he had begun to imitate and was also at risk of social isolation;
(ix) the children were exposed to their mother's negative views, adult conversations and poor engagement with professionals;
(x) the mother's interaction with professionals had declined since May 2017;
(xi) the mother had been increasingly agitated and angry and was observed on several occasions using inappropriate language in the presence of the children or wishing to discuss adult topics in their presence;
(xii) the mother was discussing O's exclusion from school with the Social Worker in O's presence;
(xiii) the mother refused to join the Child Protection Conference in September 2017;
(xiv) the mother spoke with the children about the PLO meeting in September 2017 telling them, "they're not taking you away";
(xv) the children were exposed to the deficits in their mother's parenting which was having a significant effect on the children's development and welfare;
(xvi) the mother refused to participate in a psychological assessment;
(xvii) the mother refused to engage with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services;
(xviii) the mother is unable to prioritise the children's needs and exposes them to her changing mood;
(xix) the mother's own traumatic childhood impacts on the parenting she provides the children.
1. On the relevant date, the mother failed to comply with the written agreement dated 15.05.2018 despite significant support and as a result there had been no meaningful change to the care given to O and Y, resulting in the children continuing to suffer significant emotional harm and neglect. In particular:
a) The mother failed to access the therapeutic intervention needed to address her significant therapeutic needs and fails to appreciate the need for such work;
b) The mother failed to engage with services to improve the children's functioning and presentation and to address their therapeutic needs. In particular, the mother failed to ensure the children received support from CAMHS and remained resistant to support;
c) The children witness the mother's mood swings and unregulated emotional responses. The father has been present when the mother has displayed this behaviour in the presence of the children;
d) The mother projects her negative views of both the father and professionals onto O. The father has been present with this has happened. In particular, the children's views about contact with their father have been significantly negatively influenced by the mother.
2. The mother continues to be obstructive and resistant to support services to ensure positive and meaningful change to the care given to O and Y resulting in the children continuing to suffer significant emotional harm and neglect.
Psychological Assessment of the Mother
"Her cognitive profile would suggest that she struggles with all aspects of cognition that were tested….this is likely to impact on many areas of her functioning including verbal comprehension…she has needed support in learning for a considerable portion of her childhood and early adulthood…I also note that [M] may struggle with some aspects of social communication…it is highly likely that there is an interaction between [M's] cognitive difficulties and her psychological and emotional presentation."
a. the mother's cognitive difficulties impact on her ability to engage with support offered to her;
b. she may become overwhelmed with information;
c. she may struggle to process a lot of information quickly, which may make her anxious;
d. her responses to anxiety seem to include avoidance and lashing out at individuals;
e. she can manage aspects of the children's lives without consistent support;
f. the stress she feels is likely to impact on her intellectual functioning;
g. the more stress she is under the more difficulty she will have managing complex tasks like remembering appointments and managing on a day-to-day level. This may have an impact on the children but it may also have an impact on her engagement with services;
h. at the current time the mother lacks trusting professionals because she sees that they have only caused her difficulties or fail to support her;
i. it is highly likely that if the mother finds a task particularly difficult or overwhelming because aspects of it require understanding of complex information, she may become avoidant, as avoidance seems to part of her personality structure;
j. those trying to help and support the mother may find that she appears to understand and agree with their input but not to manifest any change in behaviour over time;
k. the mother has traits in her personality that tend towards avoidance and dependency. In general people with avoidant personality traits tend to distance themselves from painful or negative experiences and they adapt to doing this by fearing or mistrusting others. They tend to be quite vigilant anticipating bad things might happen. They may struggle to relate to others because they like to keep a distance and may lack trust;
l. the impact of the mother's learning disability on her ability to parent the children is a complex issue;
m. it is not solely her borderline learning disability that impacts on her managing routine tasks or caring for the children. It is also likely to be a combination of psychological factors including personality traits, layered upon cognitive difficulties;
n. the mother may be developing a co-dependent relationship with her daughter, O;
o. the mother may struggle to adopt a parental role with O especially when it comes to managing negative or difficult behaviours;
p. the mother's scores during assessment indicated aspects of bipolar or manic episodes. These may be a result of her impulsivity and irritability. Further evidence for this can been seen in the mother's inappropriate language and presentation in meetings and her aggressive behaviour towards school staff;
q. the mother scored at a significant level for delusional disorder: People who suffer with delusional states can be paranoid and can struggle with ideas of persecution. In these states their moods can be hostile and they may feel picked on and mistreated. People who suffer with these kinds of difficulties may be hyper vigilant, suspicious and alert to possible betrayal;
r. there are aspects to the mother's presentation that are suggestive of a preoccupation with beliefs that all services are negative and may be out to cause her and her children harm. Her reactions to this level of anxiety may sometimes be to attack before she feels attacked;
s. There is a clinical indication of PTSD. It is possible that some of the anxiety she suffers is related to trauma.
"In my original report I recommended [the mother] should engage in treatment in order to help increase her ability to reflect on her role in relationships. I suggested that treatment needed to be carried out by appropriately qualified psychotherapist or psychologist. I can see no evidence from the information that I have received that [the mother] has engaged in such psychotherapeutic work. She has not allowed my assessment to be made available to services that might be able to provide appropriate therapeutic support. I understand she may have accessed some support through 'Mind' and through domestic violence work but in my opinion, this is unlikely to meet the significant therapeutic needs that [the mother] has. It is also the case that without access to my report, therapists or other professionals she might be engaging with may not be aware of aspects of this case and of [the mother's] functioning and what it is advised she should be focussing on resolving. The report from the last Core Group of 15.01.2019 suggests that [the mother] has not provided the current social worker with any significant information in order to assess the nature of any therapeutic work that may be being undertaken."
"In my opinion although [the mother] has been given significant support to engage in therapy, she has not demonstrated a capacity to appreciate the need for such work and has not engaged in such work. Sadly, a significant amount of time has now passed since my original report of 6 April 2018. It is regrettable that no targeted therapeutic input has been started. If therapeutic work had been accessed after the last hearing then [the mother] would now be well into her therapeutic process and may have been benefitting from improved psychological functioning which in turn may have been helpful in her parenting of the children. Unfortunately [the mother] has not shown a capacity to engage seriously in work and therefore no change has been sustained. The factors that would indicate positive change would be improved capacity for [the mother] to reflect upon her relationship with the children and with professionals, and most importantly an improvement in her own psychological functioning. None of these have been evidenced in the information I have seen…. the concerns of professionals continue to be extremely high and the children's behaviour continues to cause high levels of concern such that O was excluded from her school in Summer 2018. A Child Protection Summary document, suggests that 'there is serious escalation in the children's behaviour at home particularly at school for O'. This is prior to her school exclusion. It also notes that a new social worker will be given to [the mother] in order to help support a better relationship between [the mother] and services. However, I note that despite this happening, relationships with Social Services have not improved. [The mother] has been extremely rude to the current social worker…Concerningly O is likely to have heard negative language with regard to Social Services. It appears to indicate that [the mother] may be delaying access to CAMHS for the children. It is then concerning that the CAMHS referral was closed in June because they weren't able to gain consent from [the mother]. In general, it would appear that [the mother] remains highly resistant to support and perhaps this again is part of her avoidance or anxiety especially about issues regarding consent. This appears to be something that is very important to her…I can see no evidence that [the mother] has been able to accept any of the concerns of the local authority. The fact that she did not inform [O's] new school that [O] was subject to a supervision order or indeed that the family had a social worker indicates that she may lack a true understanding of the seriousness of the concerns of the Local Authority."
Psychological Assessment of the child, Y
"My original concerns with regard to [Y] remain the same. He is a child who in my opinion continues to be at significant risk of harm and it may be that this risk is increasing as his sister's behaviour remains unchanged…He doesn't like to reveal much of his home life at school, and I think this is because he sees school as a safe place and doesn't want to think about or be asked about difficult things. Given this reluctance to talk about home I think the fact that [Y] did tell me that his sister hurts him and his sister hurts his mum, is particularly relevant information which needs to be taken seriously."
Psychological Assessment of the child, O
"[O's] Full Scale IQ score is 70, giving her a percentile rank of 2. This indicates that out of 100 children only 2 would perform at the same or lower than [O]. [O] has particular difficulties in working memory and her scores here indicate she has particular weaknesses in these areas. This would be in line with her diagnosis of ADHD. [O's] ability places her just within a Learning Disability range. In tests of general ability index, which is an estimate of general intellectual ability that is less reliant on working memory and processing speed [O] performs at a Borderline Learning Disability range. In addition to her learning disabilities [O] in my opinion has complex emotional and behavioural difficulties. It is highly likely that there is an interaction between [O's] emotional state and her behaviour, this interaction should also be seen in a context of some of the limitations she has as a result of her learning disability."
1. On the relevant date, the mother failed to comply with the written agreement dated 15.05.2018 despite significant support and as a result there had been no meaningful change to the care given to the children, resulting in the children continuing to suffer significant emotional harm and neglect. In particular:
(a) the mother failed to access the therapeutic intervention needed to address her significant therapeutic needs and fails to appreciate the need for such work;
(b) the mother failed to engage with services to improve the children's functioning and presentation and to address their therapeutic needs. In particular, the mother failed to ensure the children received support from CAMHS and remained resistant to support;
(c) the children witness the mother's mood swings and unregulated emotional responses. The father has been present when the mother has displayed this behaviour in the presence of the children;
(d) the mother projects her negative views of professionals onto the child O; and
2. The mother continues to be obstructive and resistant to support services to ensure positive and meaningful change to the care given to O and Y resulting in the children continuing to suffer significant emotional harm and neglect.
(a) on 16th or 17th July 2016, the father was abusive towards the mother and/or the children; and
(b) in March 2016, the father kicked the child, O; and
(c) on 16th or 17th July 2017, the father punched the child O on the head; and
(d) on 25th December 2015 and/or 16th or 17th July 2016, the father broke the children's toys; and
(e) On or about 16th July 2016 the father lashed out at the child, O; and
(f) On or before 16th July 2016, the father pushed the child, Y against a radiator and Y hurt his head.
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of her age and understanding):
(i) The child, O, has made clear to the Children's Guardian that she does not want to be taken away from her mother, brother and cats and she does not want "to go into care." The Children's Guardian noted that O has become more verbal and has become increasingly hostile with her comments. I am grateful to O for having written to the Court expressing her wishes and feelings very strongly, with the assistance of her teachers. Her letters make for powerful reading and I accept that the letters are a true reflection of her wishes and feelings. I accept that she very strongly does not want to leave her mother's care and does not want contact with her father. I very much respect those strong wishes and feelings O has expressed, particularly as she is at an age where her wishes carry weight. I take those wishes and feelings into consideration. When considering those strongly held wishes, I must also take into consideration the level of understanding of the child, having regard to the professional conclusions of the psychologist, Dr Phibbs. In my judgment, whilst very much respecting the child's wish not to want to leave the care of her mother and her wish not to be separated from her brother, the overwhelming weight of concerns mean that the child's wishes may not be capable of being realised, without causing her further significant harm;
(ii) I note also that O expressed a wish in the letters handed to me during the Final Hearing to meet the Judge so that her words could be heard. On this occasion, the Children's Guardian considered that it would not be in O's best interests to come to Court to meet with the Judge;
(iii) In most cases, a child or young person's wishes and feelings are expressed to the Court in written form and/or in oral evidence by the Children's Guardian, as they have here. Part of the important role of the Children's Guardian is to discuss with the child, in a manner appropriate to their developmental understanding, whether their participation in the process includes a wish to meet the Judge. This is not a case where the Children's Guardian considers that the child should be separately represented. In situations where a child does express a wish to meet the Judge, that wish should be conveyed to the Judge as quickly as possible. In this case, it was conveyed during the Final Hearing through the child's letter, leaving very little time to make suitable arrangements. I make no criticism of the child for that;
(iv) In very many cases, this Court encourages children and young people to feel more involved and connected with the Court proceedings in which important decisions are made in their lives, to give them an opportunity to satisfy themselves that the Judge has understood their wishes and feelings and to understand the nature of the Judge's task. The main purpose of a meeting between a child and the Judge is to benefit the child;
(v) In the particular circumstances of this case, I agree with the professional opinion of the Children's Guardian that a meeting between the child and the Judge would not accord with the child's welfare interests. I wish to make clear, however, that I have heard the child's very clear words expressed not only through the Children's Guardian but also through the child's heartfelt and powerful letters she has written assisted by her teachers. I wish her to be reassured that I have understood her wishes very clearly indeed.
(b) the child's physical, emotional and educational needs: As set out in detail earlier in this judgment, O, is reported to have several complex health concerns including moderate learning difficulties, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, moderate coordination difficulties, complex emotional and behavioural difficulties and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. O was permanently excluded from school in June 2018, she was absent from formal education for several months since then. In her current school she has been excluded twice in the few months since she started at that school. She has been permanently excluded from five previous educational provisions. She has an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) to support her additional learning needs. Dr Phibbs assessed her as demonstrating a significantly disordered attachment pattern, which impacts on her ability to form adaptive relationships with peers and adults because of her childhood experiences of inconsistent parenting she received in her formative early years. I accept the analysis of the Children's Guardian when she concludes that it is imperative that O is afforded the opportunity to be protected from exposure to further incidents of the mother's unregulated emotional responses and failure to meet the child's holistic needs by engaging with identified support services. It is necessary that O can thrive within a safe and nurturing environment where her psychological, physical, educational and emotional needs are prioritised and consistently met.
(c) the likely effect on the child of any change in her circumstances:
(i) O has remained in the primary care of her mother and has not previously been removed from her care. O is of an age and stage of development where she has an understanding that her future will be determined through these Court proceedings. She has said that if she no longer remains in the care of her mother, "she would be crying and she would not allow them to take her or her brother." O told the Children's Guardian that it would be, "really, really upsetting.' She told the Children's Guardian that she feels 'safe and happy at home' with her mum and her brother. I have no doubt that a change of primary carer for the child and a change in her living arrangements, including separation would be highly upsetting for her;
(ii) The professionals all recognise that it is probable that O will refuse to leave her mother's care. The Children's Guardian was of the opinion that O would benefit from preparation and narratives to assist her but recognised that O will become oppositional to removal because of the enmeshed relationship with her mother and the mother's own opposition to removal. Dr Phibbs frankly noted that things would get worse before they settled.
(d) the child's age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant; O is a 13-year-old girl, of White British heritage. Her very specific background and characteristics have been set out in detail in this judgment, having regard to Dr Phibbs' professional evidence.
(e) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering:
(i) O has been exposed to the mother's negative views about professionals, exposed to adult conversations and has suffered significant harm as a consequence of the mother's poor engagement with professionals. The mother projects her negative views of professionals onto the children. The mother has a deep mistrust of social care professionals, which has heightened the children's anxiety and emotions when meeting with and having to engage with new professionals;
(ii) O has suffered significant emotional harm from witnessing domestic abuse perpetrated by her father against her mother and brother. Further, O has suffered significant emotional harm by being directly subjected to domestic abuse perpetrated by her father. Furthermore, O suffered direct physical harm by being kicked by her father;
(iii) Dr Phibbs concluded that O demonstrates a significantly disordered attachment pattern, which impacts on her ability to form adaptive relationships with peers and adults because of her childhood experiences of inconsistent parenting she received in her formative early years. Dr Phibbs further commented on the enmeshed, co-dependant relationship that exists between her and her mother;
(iv) In her oral evidence, Dr Phibbs told the Court that if O does not get help now, she would have grave concerns about O's mental health and there would be a risk O may harm people, escalate her behaviour and there is a risk of criminality having regard to the violence she has displayed towards people in authority;
(v) I agree with the Children's Guardian's analysis when she told the Court that the children's exposure to parental conflict, inconsistent parenting and a negative, mistrusting primary carer means that they have experienced times of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and stress. Their understanding of the world around them is that it can be an unsafe and unpredictable place to be in and that their parents cannot be consistently depended on to meet their needs;
(vi) The risk of harm of O remaining in the care of her mother has been set out in detail in this judgment. The professionals conclude unanimously that the risk of harm to O of removal is a lesser risk. The Children's Guardian acknowledges that removal will be extremely traumatic for both children, especially for O. Removal will be a significant, emotionally harmful experience and will take some time to overcome. The Children's Guardian acknowledged that removal is extremely harmful, "but with experienced good quality carers and access to therapeutic interventions and support it is hoped that some of that harm could be alleviated …it is damage limitation;"
(vii) In my judgment, I find no reason to depart from the unanimous conclusions of the professionals, the Social Worker, Dr Phibbs and the Children's Guardian. Removal of O from her mother's care, contrary to O's firmly held wishes and vehemently opposed by her mother, will cause emotional harm. However, balancing the harm of remaining in her mother's care, in my judgment, the balance falls plainly in favour of removal. Whilst the harm caused by removal may be alleviated by therapeutic intervention and specialised support through experienced carers, it is highly unlikely that the harm caused by remaining in the mother's care would be addressed effectively, given the mother's opposition to professional support for the child and for herself.
(f) how capable each of her parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child's needs:
(i) The father does not put himself forward to care for the children;
(ii) In respect of the mother, the professionals recognise that there are strengths in the family system. The mother dearly loves her children. She speaks extremely positively about them and their capabilities. The Children's Guardian has observed the mother demonstrating warm and loving behaviour towards both children. No concerns have been raised regarding the mother's ability to meet the children's basic physical needs. Despite the significant difficulties the mother suffers, including the barriers to her understanding and the difficulties she has overcome such as the breakdown of her marriage, the children's own specific health needs and the background of domestic abuse that she and the children have suffered, the mother has done some extraordinary things in raising the children. She feeds and clothes the children, she runs a busy household and she takes the children on positive activities. However, the children's emotional needs remain the significant issue. In some of her answers given in her oral evidence, the mother demonstrated that she wants the children to receive the right mental health treatment and to receive the right treatment for herself but she remains entrenched in her view that the professionals, and in particular Dr Phibbs, are wrong and she does not wish to embark on treatment on a false prospectus;
(iii) O has been permanently excluded from a number of schools as a result of being verbally and physically aggressive towards staff and other students. The mother was reported to have been obstructive and difficult in working with the Special Educational Needs Team to identify a school placement for O. The mother refused social care information being shared with a potential school, causing delay for O. There have been significant delays with the mother being highly obstructive to the children receiving necessary support and treatment. I accept the analysis of the Children's Guardian who told the Court that without such intervention, the children will remain in anxious and complex emotional states and at risk of the continued negative impact of the maladaptive and dysfunctional family dynamics;
(iv) The Local Authority completed a parenting assessment of the mother in April 2018. The assessment concluded that the mother should engage in a bespoke package of parenting support to enhance her parenting capacity. I accept the evidence of the Children's Guardian who told the Court in her analysis that the confrontational relationship with the previous social worker and mistrust of other professionals has been used to deflect from the mother's non-engagement in the work identified in the parenting assessment and by Dr Phibbs: "Sadly, there is little indication that [the mother] has changed in any substantial way that would suggest the gaps in her parenting have been satisfactorily addressed to ensure the children's needs are adequately met;"
(v) The mother has provided various accounts explaining why the Written Agreement was not complied with in its entirety. She has and continues to view the Local Authority's involvement as an unwanted interference with her family life. The mother has said that she wishes to concentrate on the children's needs, rather than progressing recommended therapy for herself. However, the services identified for the children have also been blocked by her. I accept the analysis of the Children's Guardian when she told the Court that the mother is unable to link the benefits of her receiving therapeutic intervention on her functioning and parenting capacity, which would ultimately enhance the care that the children receive. Further the mother cannot comprehend the benefits of the children accessing therapeutic interventions to assist with their day to day functioning or heightened emotional states.
(vi) Whilst O has commenced a new school placement, there was a lengthy period of absence, when the mother was not proactive in working with the Special Educational Needs Department to identify an appropriate provision. The mother's lack of cooperation contributed to O not having a school place for a lengthy period;
(vii) Since commencing her new school placement, O was excluded from school for one day on 15th February 2019 and for a further three days from 20th to 22nd March 2019. In respect of this most recent exclusion, O is reported to have stabbed at the faces of another student and a staff member with a pencil. When the student left the room, O is reported to have blocked the staff member from also leaving the room, requiring support from other staff members to be able to leave. O is reported to have punched another staff member in the stomach when they went to provide support to O. O is reported to have stamped repeatedly on the foot of the Passenger Assistant when boarding the taxi and to have threatened to stab the Passenger Assistant;
(viii) Dr Phibbs concluded that the mother has complex difficulties resulting in the interaction between her personality traits (avoidant and dependent), clinical syndromes (anxiety, mood swings, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Delusion Disorder) and learning disability. The mother disagrees with the conclusions of Dr Phibbs assessment of herself and the children. She has been obstructive to the report being disclosed to other professionals to inform a treatment plan for therapeutic intervention;
(ix) In respect of the mother's ability to manage O's behaviour, Dr Phibbs told the Court, "I don't see any evidence of that. The parenting work has not been taken up. I am concerned that Y said O has hit the mother. The mother says Y is not telling the truth. The mother is potentially concealing that…avoidance of working with professionals has got in the way, including avoiding therapy. The cumulative impact of that neglect and emotional abuse of the child over time is significant…The mother's responses to social care have been extremely negative, including her behaviour and language at school, which is unacceptable and difficult when people trying to help and support her. She is vitriolic in her language when people explain to her how they will support her with a package. O was often 'parroting' language coming from her mother. Any discipline or concerns raised by school, the mother deflected to the person criticising, saying the school is not giving the support. O is now doing the same thing at school, criticising others, rather than acknowledging her own behaviour. I have seen no evidence the mother has been able to instil boundaries. That is coming to a particular fore now that O is approaching adolescence;"
(x) I find no reason to depart from the unanimous professional conclusion that regrettably, despite her clear love for the children and their clear love for her, there is substantial evidence of the mother not being capable of meeting the significant and complex emotional needs of the children.
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question: This is addressed later in this judgment.
(a) the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding): Y is not of an age or stage of development to fully understand the current proceedings or the wider implications for him. Y has struggled to express his wishes and feelings to the Children's Guardian during home visits and, despite non-intrusive questions, he would not respond or would answer with the word 'cat'. Y declined to complete Cafcass worksheets to aid those discussions. The Children's Guardian reports that the process was further obstructed by the mother not consenting to the Children's Guardian's visits with the child at school. Y has previously indicated that he wishes to remain in the primary care of his Mother, sister and pets.
(b) the child's physical, emotional and educational needs: Y attends a primary school for children who have moderate learning difficulties, speech, language and communication difficulties and autism. Y is provided with transport and an escort to attend school. There are no concerns about his school attendance. He has been reported to be meeting his targets and has developed appropriate peer relationships. As with O, I accept the Children's Guardian's analysis that it is very important that the children are afforded the opportunity to be protected from exposure to further incidents of the mother's unregulated emotional responses and failure to meet the children's holistic needs by engaging with identified support services. As with his sister, it is necessary that Y can thrive within a safe and nurturing environment where their psychological, physical, educational and emotional needs are prioritised and consistently met.
(c) the likely effect on the child of any change in his circumstances: very similar factors apply to Y as they do for O. Additionally, Y is reported to have said he, 'hates his dad and does not want to see him.' The Children's Guardian asked him about indirect contact with his father consisting of letters cards and gifts. Y responded that he would rip them up.
(d) the child's age, sex, background and any characteristics of the child which the court considers relevant: Y is an 9-year-old boy, of White British heritage. He has been diagnosed with global developmental delay and is functioning at approximately half his chronological age. He has a diagnosis of asthma and is prescribed an inhaler. Dr Phibbs completed an assessment of Y and reported that he was showing signs of indicative of 'insecure attachment patterns.'
(e) any harm which the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering: Similar factors apply to Y as they do in relation to O. Additionally, the Children's Guardian asked Y if he gets on with O. He is said to have replied, 'not all the time,' and that they argue and fight. When this happens, Y stated that he tells his mother, who responds by telling them both off. I accept the Children's Guardian's analysis that the Y's previous exposure to parental conflict, and his exposure to ongoing inconsistent parenting and a negative mistrusting primary carer means that he will have experienced times of uncertainty, fear, anxiety and stress. His understanding of the world around him is that it can be an unsafe and unpredictable place to be in and that his parents cannot be depended upon consistently to meet his needs. Y has become guarded and apprehensive during the Children's Guardian's visits and Y has refused to communicate, when asked simple questions such as, 'how was your day? The Children's Guardian told the Court that she is extremely concerned that Y made disclosures to Dr Phibbs even in his highly anxious state, that O hurts him and hurts their mother. In the Children's Guardian's initial analysis, it was recorded that Y said he and O fight and argue sometimes but he went further with Dr Phibbs. The Children's Guardian is concerned that if his disclosures are not taken seriously, he will further retreat to his avoidance state. Dr Phibbs gave a stark description of what would happen to the children if they remain in their mother's care. The Children's Guardian concurs. I find no reason to depart from the unanimous professional conclusion.
(f) how capable each of his parents, and any other person in relation to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting the child's needs: Again, similar considerations apply to Y as they do in relation to O.
(g) the range of powers available to the court under this Act in the proceedings in question. This is addressed below.
(a) The child O is placed in the care of Hertfordshire County Council under a Care Order;
(b) The child Y is placed in the care of Hertfordshire County Council under a Care Order;
(c) The father's application for a Child Arrangements Order is dismissed.