COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION)
ON APPEAL FROM WORCESTER DISTRICT REGISTRY
HIS HONOUR JUDGE RUNDELL
SITTING AS A JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT
WR07 C0053, Z00502 & Z00503
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
LORD JUSTICE HUGHES
| Re T (children: placement order)
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for the Appellant Father
Miss L Meyer QC and Miss Michelle Friel instructed by Respondent Local Authority
Miss Nergis-Anne Mathew instructed by MFG for the Respondent Mother
Mr. G Rogers instructed by The Family Firm for the Children by their Guardian
Hearing dates : 6th March 2008
Crown Copyright ©
Lord Justice Hughes :
"…suffice it to say that this harm arose from various sources, neglect by way of provision of food, lack of stimulation, failure of proper supervision and inadequate medical and dental attention, inappropriate chastisement on father's part. There is very clear evidence in the past of an anger management problem and a lack of self control on his part, and the parents' fragile and inconsistent relationship, which must have bee obvious to the children."
"It is my opinion that [the boys] are not yet ready to form more secure attachments in an adoptive placement and so it would be very difficult to place them for adoption in the immediate future, either together or separately. In part the high level of contact that has been maintained with their parents, to enable them to return home if possible, has meant that they have not begun to develop the capacity to make more secure or adaptive relationships."
"In my experience of these matters, children who struggle to make attachments are amongst the most difficult to bring about successful placements for. Adoptive parents can at times cope with enormous difficulties relying as they do on their determination and stamina, but children who struggle to make relationships, to give anything of themselves back, can very often cause the process to flounder.
It might be that with the therapeutic care Miss Courtney suggests, the boys will make progress with their relationships; that is certainly to be hoped. If this is not the case, it might be that the care authority will need to consider whether they would fare better in long-term foster care rather than adoption. It might not be the finding of adopters that would be difficult but making the placements work that could be more elusive.
Generally speaking (and it is a generalisation) foster carers tend to be adults who have completed their families is some way and are not looking towards substitute care to bring the unique rewards of parenthood. I think that this is less likely to be the case with adopters who might have a different investment in and different expectations of the whole venture. Fostered children are more likely to receive a continuing service from the local authority than are adopted children whose new families often see the retreat of the social workers with varying degrees of haste."
In his oral evidence the Guardian said this:
"…they need a new family; that is best served by being a proper legal member of that family. The feasibility of getting that far is the matter, I think, that's more in question."
A moment or two later he put it this way:
"If someone could embrace them and put up with all the difficulties that would follow at this stage, (inaudible) perhaps they're adoptable; I cannot [semble imagine] many who would do that and it is going to be much more helpful to give the children the experience which helps them relate to a family and is going to be more rewarding for everyone, everyone concerned and one doesn't want to set them up for failure…..when I used to be involved with adoption placements, it always appeared to me that the most difficult placements to make and to make work were ones where children found it so difficult to give of themselves, who held back, because people in the very nature of things, in relationships, adoptive relationships, and probably all other relationships, we're looking for something from other people……want something for ourselves out of it, and in the absence of that there are adults who find it very difficult to sustain parenting in that way."
"If, as I am driven to the conclusion, the children cannot return home, no other family member is available to care for them, and therefore the choice is adoption or long term foster care. In normal circumstances children of these boys' ages are better off being the subject of adoption. It would provide them with lifelong security of a family and less chance of a disruptive placement, and it seems to me no reason why that general principle should not apply here."
The Judge went on to deal with a separate argument advanced on behalf of Father based on there being a possibility that one explanation of the boys' behaviour might be a disorder on the autistic spectrum (as to which see below). Dealing with the further argument that the boys would be very difficult to place, the Judge held:
"It seems to me that the fact that it may prove difficult to place the boys is no reason not to make a reasonable attempt to do so, given that such outcome, if successful, is plainly in their best interests."
"Miss Friel on behalf of the Local Authority argues that the grant of placement orders today would invest confidence in the local authority, confidence that the authority would choose the time for adoption, and would choose the appropriate potential adopters. It is just possible, I suppose, that in certain circumstances the Local Authority might wish to move swiftly and place the children at short notice with particularly appropriate adopters sometime after the six month period of therapeutic parenting. In my judgment, having approved the plans I consider it is in the children's interests to make such order now to give the Local Authority the greatest possible certainty and flexibility for the future."
"…if they are satisfied that the child ought to be placed for adoption."
Lord Justice Thorpe: