Information Note on the Courtís case-law 212
Strand Lobben and Others v. Norway - 37283/13
Judgment 30.11.2017 [Section V]
Respect for family life
Decision by domestic authorities to allow adoption of psychologically vulnerable child by foster parents: no violation
Facts - In 2008 the first applicant, who was single and had been identified by the child welfare authorities as being in need of guidance on motherhood, gave birth to a baby boy (the second applicant). After the birth she moved into a family centre with her son so that her ability to give him adequate care could be monitored. Three weeks later she withdrew her consent to stay in the centre. Concerned about her parenting skills, the child welfare authorities obtained an emergency care order and the child was placed with foster parents. The authorities later obtained a full care order. In 2011 they successfully sought an order by the County Social Welfare Board for the first applicant to be deprived of her parental responsibility and for the childís foster parents to be allowed to adopt him. That order was upheld by the City Court, which found that particularly weighty reasons existed for consenting to the proposed adoption. Although the first applicantís general situation had improved (she had married and had a baby daughter for whom she appeared to be able to care), the situation was different with her son, whom several experts had described as a vulnerable child who was easily stressed and needed a lot of quiet, security and support. In the City Courtís view, the first applicant would not be sufficiently able to see or understand his special care needs which, if not met, would give rise to a considerable risk of abnormal development. The childís fundamental attachment was to his foster parents, with whom he had been living almost since birth, and adoption would give him a sense of belonging and security for longer than the period a foster-home relationship would last. The first applicant was refused leave to appeal against the City Courtís decision.
Law - Article 8: The Court reiterated that measures replacing a foster-home arrangement with a more far-reaching measure, such as deprivation of parental responsibilities and authorisation of adoption, with the consequence that the applicantsí legal ties with the child are broken, should only be applied in exceptional circumstances and can only be justified if they are motivated by an overriding requirement pertaining to the childís best interests.
The City Court had been faced with the difficult and sensitive task of striking a fair balance between the relevant competing interests in a complex case. It had clearly been guided by the interests of the child, notably his particular need for security in his foster-home environment, given his psychological vulnerability. Taking also into account the City Courtís conclusion that there had been no positive development in the motherís competence in contact situations throughout the three years in which she had had rights of access, that the decision-making process was fair, and having regard to the fact that the domestic authorities had the benefit of direct contact with all the persons concerned, the Court was satisfied that there were such exceptional circumstances in the present case as could justify the measures in question and that they were motivated by an overriding requirement pertaining to the childís best interests.
Conclusion: no violation (four votes to three).
(See also the Factsheet on Childrenís rights)
© Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights
This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.
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