THE FAMILY COURT SITTING AT READING
Before Her Honour Judge Owens
CASE NO: RG17C00656
30th January 2018 to 1st february 2018
SCST v D & W
Mr Brookes-Baker, Counsel, for SCST
Ms Harris, Counsel, for the First Respondent Mother, RD
Mr Bond, Counsel, for the Second Respondent Father, JD
Miss Shrimpton, Counsel, for the Third Respondent Father, PW
Ms Mitchell, Counsel, for the Fourth and Fifth Respondents, acting through their Children’s Guardian
This judgment is being handed down [in private] on 1st February 2018. It consists of 24 pages and has been signed and dated by the judge. The Judge has given permission for the judgment (and any of the facts and matters contained in it) to be published on condition that in any report, no person other than the advocates or the solicitors instructing them (and other persons identified by name in the judgment itself) may be identified by name, current address or location [including school or work place]. In particular the anonymity of the children and the adult members of their family must be strictly preserved. All persons, including representatives of the media, must ensure that these conditions are strictly complied with. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court. For the avoidance of doubt, the strict prohibition on publishing the names and current addresses of the parties and the child will continue to apply where that information has been obtained by using the contents of this judgment to discover information already in the public domain.
I am dealing with applications for Care and Placement Orders in respect of A and K. A’s father is JD. K’s father is PW. A is aged six years old and K is aged four years old. RD is the mother of both children. RD is no longer in a relationship with either JD or PW. This is a final hearing originally listed to encompass aspects of fact-finding in relation to threshold and welfare in relation to disposal. However, threshold has now been agreed and I will outline later in more detail the basis for that agreement and the remaining issues in the case.
Background and evidential summary
The Applicant Trust applied for interim care orders on 31st May 2017. HHJ Oliver granted interim care orders on 31st May 2017 and the case was timetabled by him to an IRH on 20th October 2017 and thence to this final hearing with some further case management hearings being conducted by HHJ Moradifar. I first dealt with the proceedings at a Directions hearing listed on 16th January 2018.
A was subject to Child Protection procedures outside of this area between 2011 and 2012. Her father (JD) had been convicted of a sexual offence against a child which gave rise to those Child Protection procedures. He is therefore a Schedule 1 offender and was deemed to pose a sexual risk to children as a result. He was to have no contact with A.
The family moved to this area and in 2013 both children became subject to Child Protection due to concerns that RD had continued to have contact with JD, concerns that she was misusing alcohol, and she had failed to engage in work designed to improve her awareness of sexual risk.
RD then began a relationship with PW and K was born in 2013. By November 2014 the children were again subject to Child Protection Plans. They had been found at home in the care of RD and PW in extremely poor home conditions. RD and PW were intoxicated at the time. PW has two older children from a previous relationship and those had been removed and adopted due to neglect. PW was assessed in the course of those proceedings as suffering from a severe affective disorder and depressed mood which significantly compromised his ability to parent to a good enough standard.
On 28th May 2017 the police were called by neighbours who were concerned that the children had been left on their own during the day and that RD was intoxicated. The police attended the property and spoke to RD and saw the children. RD was indeed intoxicated and the flat was chaotic, messy and unclean.
A neighbour reported that RD had failed to collect the children from school and nursery on Friday 26th May 2017 so the neighbour had collected them and taken them to her own home for the night. RD arrived at 4pm the following day, smelling of alcohol and unsteady on her feet. RD took the children home. Later enquiries have shown that K was collected by her mother on 26th May 2017 and at that stage the school had no concerns that RD might be intoxicated. The neighbour was so concerned that she went to the home at 9pm that night to check on the children. She found RD intoxicated and unable to care for the children or feed them. The neighbour stayed until the children had gone to bed. She returned on Sunday 28th May 2017 to find the children alone and K in a distressed state.
The police placed the children under police protection on 28th May 2017, leading to the children being accommodated. This followed A disclosing that she had been assaulted by her mother, left alone and not fed properly. The police investigation into child neglect is currently ongoing.
The children were seen to have a number of marks and injuries including scratches to the face, arms and bruising around the eye. They have also had marks to arms, face and hand which appeared to be possible cigarette burns. The initial Child Protection Medical concluded that they were indeed cigarette burns. In the course of the proceedings Dr Freelander, a Consultant Plastic Surgeon, was instructed to consider the suspected burn marks on the children’s hands. He concluded that the marks were consistent with and most likely caused by burns (E9). However, on 13th November 2017, RD raised concerns that there was an injury on A’s hand which resembled the marks that Dr Freelander had assessed to be burns. Both girls have remained in foster care since they were accommodated on 28th May 2017 and contact has only taken place under supervision. Dr Freelander produced a further report dated 2nd January 2018 which concluded that the mark was unlikely to have been present when A was examined on 30th May 2017. Dr Freelander was of the view that it was 1-3 months old and was likely to be a burn caused by a lit cigarette. The foster carer was of the view that the mark was present when A came into care. As a result of the concerns around this mark, Dr Millard, a Consultant Dermatologist, was instructed following the hearing on 16th January 2018. His report, dated 29th January 2018, frankly raised rather more questions than it answered. He concluded that he was unable to assist with the likely timing of the mark being caused but nonetheless went on to say that the mark on A’s hand looked much more acute (recent) and that the mark seen on K’s hand on 30th May 2017 was also acute despite being clearly present on 30th May 2017. As a result of the evidence from Dr Millard, the absence of evidence from the foster carer and others on this issue and taking account of the relevant case law, the Trust re-formulated threshold to remove any reference to the cigarette burns, accepting that the evidence would make it difficult for them to discharge their burden of proof in relation to those allegations.
The Trust also made the final threshold document much more succinct, in line with the President’s guidance about such documents. This final, succinct document was accepted by the parents (particularly RD in respect of whom the factual issues for threshold relate). However the Guardian wished to add more specific detail with regard to the nature of the physical and emotional abuse experienced by the girls and particularly A. I heard submissions on this point and, having considered in particular A County Council v DP, RS, BS (by the Children’s Guardian)  2 FLR 1031, concluded that the revised document amply encompassed the ambit of the physical and emotional harm suffered by both girls and by detailed cross reference to the evidential examples incorporated the sort of details that the Guardian was anxious to have on record should there be any later application to discharge the care orders which all agreed were necessary in this case at this point. I also pointed out in my judgment on the issue that any future application to discharge would involve disclosure of not just the threshold document itself but any relevant evidential documents from these proceedings which would, in my view, address the concern that the Guardian had about a limited threshold document not sufficiently recording the level of concerns about RD’s parenting of the girls.
I have read the Bundle and watched the VRIs of M and U and, as proposed and agreed by all advocates, have dealt with the remaining issues in this case by oral submissions on the written evidence before me.
As I have noted above, the Trust amended their final threshold document at the commencement of this final hearing and threshold was accordingly resolved by consent. The final care plans for the girls are for care and placement orders with both girls to be placed together in line with the sibling assessment conclusions.
The respondent parents also significantly changed their positions so that all accepted that care orders were necessary in respect of the girls and no longer sought to put themselves forward as potential carers for the children at this stage. The only remaining issue in this case was therefore whether or not the Trust final care plans for adoption were in the best interests of the girls. The parents’ cases were that long term foster care was in the girls’ best interests and therefore it could not be said that nothing else but adoption would do for them. They therefore did not agree to the making of placement orders as sought by the Trust. The Guardian supported the final care plans for adoption and therefore agreed that placement orders should be granted in this case.
Relevant legal considerations
In addition to considering section 31 (2) of the Children Act 1989 with regard to threshold, I have had regard to the welfare checklists contained in section 1 of the Children Act 1989 and section 1 of the Adoption & Children Act 2002, and have also had regard to the case of Re B-S. I have also been mindful of how draconian an option adoption is in these sorts of proceedings and therefore have to consider that nothing else will do in order to approve the final care plans and grant the placement orders sought.
Having considered the final agreed threshold document and the written evidence in this case, I adopt the final agreed threshold document as my threshold findings in this case and am satisfied that threshold is crossed for the purpose of section 31. An anonymised version of the final threshold document recording my findings is appended to this judgment.
The next stage of my consideration of this case has to be the welfare checklists in the Children Act 1989 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002. The first relevant heading in each is the wishes and feelings of the children concerned, taking into account their age and understanding. A is now six years old and K is four years old. It is not disputed that there is a bond between girls and their parents and that the parents love the girls. The security of that bond in light of the experiences which both girls had at the hands of their mother and the limited time that they have spent with their fathers is questionable, I find. The Guardian is of the opinion that the girls definitely have an insecure attachment to their mother (E184). Prior to reaching this conclusion the Guardian carefully detailed in his final report that in his view the presentation of the children and various strategies that they displayed on coming into care was as a result of the children learning “strategies to keep themselves safe in what must have been a frightening environment in the care of their mother. My impression is that the children were hypervigilant and watchful as well as eager to please an unpredictable and hostile adult, to avoid being harmed. These strategies suggest that the children developed insecure attachments with RD” (E184). The Guardian also noted A’s ambivalence about seeing her mother (E184) and the allocated social worker also noted a degree of ambivalence from both girls in relation to attending contact with their mother (for example as noted in the social worker’s statement at C104 and C111).
Both fathers in this case have also been absent from their respective daughter’s lives for significant periods of time when one considers the girls’ comparatively young age (and one should note that to young children what may seem a shorter time to an adult appears longer). Contact with their respective fathers has therefore only re-started comparatively recently for the girls as a result of these proceedings. It was noted in the risk assessment of JD that A’s description of him indicated a level of emotional bond “likely to be linked to the relationship she had been able to build with him in the first years of her life, along with the fact that he has been absent from her life for the last three years, which is likely to have caused A to idealise him, particularly in the context of PW’s presence in her life” (E93). Balanced against this evidence, the contact notes clearly do show some very positive interactions between the girls and their parents and it is accepted by both the social worker and the Guardian that (ambivalence about their mother aside), there is a lot of quality contact for the girls evidenced during contact sessions. Given the length of time that the girls lived with their mother, and despite the fact that their young age makes it more difficult for them to fully articulate their views independently, both would no doubt want to return to the care of her mother if that was safe and in their welfare interests. A has told the Guardian that she “would like to live with her mother, A then said with much more enthusiasm that she would like to live with her foster carer ‘for ever’” (E184). Despite the ambivalence that this comment from A shows, both girls clearly would want to have a safe, secure and permanent placement as soon as possible, as the evidence from the allocated social worker and the Guardian demonstrates.
The next relevant heading is the physical, emotional and educational needs of the girls. As assessed by the allocated Social Worker the girls “remain at high risk of developing later emotional and behaviour (sic) problems due to the trauma, abuse and disturbed attachments they have suffered in their mother’s care” (C111). A has also been observed to have had a pre-occupation with ensuring that K’s needs were met (C63-64). In addition there were issues initially with K’s speech development being delayed when she first came into care (C64). This has improved dramatically since she has been in her current foster care placement to the extent that she no longer requires a referral to SALT (C65). Both the allocated social worker and the Guardian are of the opinion that the girls will require some form of reparative parenting to mitigate the impact of the abusive and neglectful parenting that they experienced at the hands of their mother over a period of years. Whilst neither girl therefore has particular physical, educational or emotional needs necessarily beyond those of children who have experienced the chronic neglect and abuse which they have, as the social worker notes “due to their early childhood experiences, both A and K will require a carer who is dedicated to providing them with the care, responsiveness and stimulation that they require in order to thrive as they progress into their later childhood and teenage years” (C65).
There is a potential for a change of circumstances for both A and K whatever decision I make, I find. Not returning to the care of their mother represents a change of circumstances, albeit one that is mitigated by the fact that they have been in their current foster care placement for the past 8 months of these proceedings. It was submitted by the advocates for the parents that a placement in long term foster care would enable the girls to remain in their current placement. If this were to be the case it would potentially mean that this would represent virtually no change of circumstances for them. However, it is by no means clear whether it is likely that the girls could remain in their current foster care placement. The information that the current foster carers may be willing to put themselves forward as long term foster carers is relatively new and is no more than an indication of willingness as Mr Brookes-Baker confirmed. They are agency foster carers who may not easily be able to simply switch to becoming Trust long term foster carers, particularly since there may be significant financial disadvantages to them in becoming Trust long term foster carers. They are not therefore in the category of long term foster carers who are immediately in a position to offer a permanent place to A and K, I find. If they are not in such a position it therefore means that long term foster care as a placement option may not mean that they are able to remain in their current placement and would potentially therefore involve a further change for the girls. Approval of the care plans for adoption and granting the placement orders sought would also potentially entail further change for the girls since it would entail a move to an adoptive placement for them. Either way, the potential negative impact of such changes would ultimately be mitigated by the high quality attachment which they have been observed by the social work and Guardian to have developed with their current foster carers (for example as noted by the Guardian at E184).
The next relevant heading in both checklists relates to harm which A and K have suffered or are at risk of suffering. I will consider this in more detail under the heading of parenting capability as the two are inextricably linked in this case in my view.
Parenting capability or ability is the next significant aspect of both checklists. As I have also noted above, this links directly to risk of future harm. As was conceded by RD in her acceptance of threshold in this case, both of her children have suffered chronic, appalling and deeply damaging physical and emotional abuse as a result of her neglectful parenting, inappropriate use of physical chastisement and her problems with alcohol. Whilst it is greatly to her credit that she has acknowledged this at the commencement of the final hearing, it is unfortunate that she was unable to fully acknowledge the deficits in her parenting much, much earlier for the benefit of her children. Doing so might have enabled her to take positive steps to address her issue much sooner and more importantly perhaps have prevented A and K from enduring years of significant harm.
It is abundantly clear that the girls have suffered years of neglectful and abusive parenting. As was submitted by Mr Brookes-Baker, the police disclosure demonstrates numerous call outs in the period 2014 to 2016 to the family as a result of RD’s drinking and the children being neglected and at risk of abuse in consequence (for example J39, J44, J47 and J49). The incident on 28th May 2017 is therefore part of a very well-established pattern of poor parenting on the part of RD, I find. A parenting assessment of RD was completed on 14th September 2017 (E30-65). The conclusion of that assessment was that she was unable to parent the girls to a good enough standard whilst her issues with alcohol misuse remained unresolved (E64). It also concluded that she was unlikely to be able to achieve change within the children’s timescales. It is conceded by RD that the likely timescale required for her to tackle her issues sufficiently so as to be able to potentially adequately parent A and K is outside of the timeframe required by the girls. This, coupled with the evidence from both the Trust and the Guardian about RD’s parenting capacity, leads me to conclude that sadly the girls remain at risk of significant physical and emotional harm if they were to be exposed to their mother’s parenting in the foreseeable future.
PW was also subject to a parenting assessment conducted in September 2017 (E66-90). The conclusions of that parenting assessment were also negative with regard to his ability parent the girls to a good enough standard. A further parenting assessment of PW was conducted in December 2017 (E104-132) using the PAMS model in light of concerns about PW’s cognitive functioning. The conclusion of that assessment was that both PW and his partner had “good intentions but …lack the necessary insight and skills to care for K who will need a level of reparative parenting” (E122). PW has also accepted that he is unable to parent K to a good enough standard and therefore she would remain at risk of significant harm if she were to be exposed to his parenting in future.
A risk assessment of JD was conducted October 2017 (E91-94). JD has serious and relevant convictions for offences involving sexual activity with a child under the age of sixteen years (J16), making and possession of indecent images of children and extreme pornographic images (J20) and has been sentenced to imprisonment for failing to comply with the resultant notification requirements (J21). The conclusions of the risk assessment were that his status as a risk to A was high but that in the context of a supervised setting the risk of sexual harm to A would be low (E93). In light of this and his acceptance that he has failed to protect A from the consequences of her mother’s alcohol abuse in the past, it is clear to me that he remains a significant risk of harm to A in the future.
In fairness, all three parents in this case have accepted by their final positions at this hearing that they are not in a position to put themselves forward as carers for the girls in any form. I accept that that acceptance is a brave one in light of the way in which it significantly narrows the range of realistic placement options for A and K.
The next relevant headings are the likely effect on A and K of having ceased to be members of their birth family and the relationship which they have with relatives, and likelihood of such relationships continuing and the value to them of this. Clearly, A and K are loved by their mother and each of their fathers as the Trust and Guardian acknowledge. Contact is something which the girls enjoy, albeit there is the issue of the ambivalence which A has demonstrated in relation to contact with her mother as I have already noted. JD has demonstrated particular commitment to contact given the considerable distances involved for him in travelling to and from contact. It does also need to be borne in mind that the contact which the girls currently enjoy is closely supervised. Despite the close supervision, there have been instances of RD exposing the girls to her emotions inappropriately or acting in a way that demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the harm which her actions have caused – for example on 27th November 2017 raising her voice to the girls causing A to become anxious, and on 13th December 2017 RD became agitated causing to A take on a mothering role. Ceasing to be members of their birth families would have implications in terms of both girls sense of identity, as the allocated social worker and Guardian acknowledge in their final evidence (see for example C73 and C74). This could, however, be addressed through life story work (including careful preparation for adoption as the Guardian suggests at E187 in light of the girls’ ages) and the proposed indirect contact, I find.
The wishes and feelings of any of the children’s relatives with regard to adoption is the next relevant heading. It is clear that none of the parents or wider family members in this case support adoption as an outcome for A and K. This is entirely understandable in light of the obvious love that they have for A and K. However, I have to consider these proceedings from the perspective of the children and with their welfare as my paramount consideration. With that perspective, taking into account the fact that they cannot safely return to the care of their birth families as the negative assessments of the parents and other wider family members in the Bundle demonstrate, the fact that the parents and wider family members are opposed to adoption does not necessarily mean that adoption must be ruled out as an option in this case. The wishes and feelings of the wider family members is a relevant factor when considering their ability to support adoption as an outcome and in particular their ability to accept any adoptive placement to such an extent as to allow for more contact than is proposed in the final care plans.
Given my conclusions above, the realistic options in this case are as follows:
1. Placement in long term foster care
The first of these options has the positives that it would meet A and K’s identity needs by enabling them to remain legally part of their respective birth families, they may potentially be able to remain with their current foster carer with whom they have established a very close bond, and there may be scope for more contact in a long term foster care placement than in an adoptive placement. A and K would receive ongoing support from the Trust and, even if they could not remain with their current foster carer, would be cared for by carers who would have been selected to meet their needs fully.
The disadvantages to this option are that long term foster care is significantly less stable than other permanency options potentially are. Foster carers, even those who are undertaking long term care, are able to retire or cease to be foster carers at any point (and may do so for unforeseen personal circumstances at any point when they are caring for children despite their intentions when children are first placed with them). Continued involvement from the Trust does also bring with it a level of intrusion and scrutiny into A and K’s lives which is not usual for children not in long term foster care and which can be difficult for children to cope with. On top of the already identified potential for A and K to develop later emotional and behavioural problems this could lead to longer term issues if they were to lack a sense of belonging and feel insecure as both the evidence of the allocated social worker and Guardian demonstrate.
Given A and K’s ages, any long term foster care placement would last for twelve years in A’s case and fourteen years in K’s case. Long term foster care is only technically available for the duration of a child’s minority after which they would become a care leaver and may no longer be able to remain living with their foster carers. Direct contact may also be problematic in long term foster care for many of the same reasons identified in relation to post adoption direct contact so there is no guarantee that long term foster care would enable direct contact to take place. There is also the practical difficulty in this case that it is not known whether or not the girls could remain in their current placement so this option may still entail a further move for the girls to another long term placement. In addition, as I have noted, the inherent risk of lack of stability in a foster care placement may mean further moves for the girls over the years. As the allocated social worker has noted, whilst subject to long term foster care, there is also a high likelihood of changes in their allocated social worker (C72-73) which would add to the instability of such a placement from the point of view of the girls themselves. Legally the girls would also not be part of any foster family and a sense of fully belonging is assessed by both the allocated social worker and Guardian as important in terms of providing the girls with permanency and security in order for them to fully develop (C73 and E186).
It was also submitted by Mr Brookes-Baker for the Trust that it is likely in time that the girls will divulge more about their experiences of being parented by their mother, and are likely to require additional support to deal with this. This does indeed seem likely based on the lengthy period of neglectful and abusive parenting which A and K were exposed to. Long term foster care in this case also therefore carries with it the potential disadvantage that any emotional difficulties which the girls may experience associated with processing their earlier experiences would be done in a placement that carries less inherent potential for security and stability, and in circumstances where they may well have more contact with their mother.
The second option, adoption, has the potential advantages of providing long-term stability for A and K, ensures placement for them for the whole of their remaining childhoods and into adulthood. It was submitted by advocates for the parents that research highlights the risk of adoptive placement breakdown in this case given the ages of the girls and the length of time that they have been in their current foster care placement. They also highlighted the evidence of the Family Finder in that currently only one potential couple of prospective adopters have been found from an original search which showed eight potential couples. The search is undoubtedly complicated by the girls’ ages and ethnic backgrounds, as the evidence of the allocated social worker and Family Finder acknowledges. However, it must be borne in mind that the limited number of prospective adopters at present may be due in no small part to the limited nature of the searches that can be undertaken prior to any placement orders being granted (C138).
The Trust amended plan is to search for an adoptive placement for up to twelve months, in line with the recommendation of the Guardian (E186-187). The evidence of the Family Finder is that there are already prospective adopters who may match to A and K. This is, as she notes (C144) extremely positive and frankly more than one often has in cases such as this. I am therefore satisfied that, whilst there are concerns about the time that it may take to find an adoptive placement for the girls, there is much evidence to show that it is more likely than not that a suitable placement may be found for them sooner rather than later.
In terms of the concerns expressed by the advocates for the parents about the likelihood of adoptive placement breakdown, those have been acknowledged by the Trust and Guardian. However, neither A nor K currently have complex emotional and behavioural needs (which in itself is somewhat surprising given their experiences). They are at increased risk of developing these, as the evidence of the allocated social worker and Guardian shows. That evidence also shows that achieving a secure, permanent placement is the best means of preventing the girls developing complex emotional and behavioural problems. Despite the research, looking at the facts of this particular case and the uncontested evidence before me, I am satisfied that any risk of adoptive placement breakdown is not so great as to mean that it is not in the welfare interests of the girls for it to be considered.
In addition, as noted by the allocated social worker in her sibling assessment at E29, “research also indicates that siblings placed together do experience better outcomes that if they were placed in separate placements”. This would therefore also ameliorate any risk of adoptive placement breakdown, I find.
In relation to adoption, like long term foster care, A and K would be matched to carers who would be able to meet their needs. Life story work and indirect contact would meet their identity needs. A and K would also be protected from further significant harm arising from the inadequate parenting of their mother, though this advantage would also potentially attach to long term foster care. The disadvantages of adoption are that their relationship with their birth families would be severed both legally and practically as I have noted earlier. Given the impressive written evidence of the Family Finder, despite the undoubted challenges to finding an adoptive placement posed by the girl’s ages and ethnic background, it seems clear to me that she is rightly optimistic about the potential for finding a match and that this may be achieved in less than the proposed maximum timescale of twelve months. I have also taken into account, as all agree, that there is much evidence of how many positives there are in relation to these two girls. Ms Mitchell for the Guardian emphasised this in noting the pen portraits of the girls contained in the sibling assessment at E24-25. Those pen portraits show the girls to be bright, lovely and engaging and very close to each other. That sibling assessment has quite rightly led to the plan for the girls to be placed together. I am therefore confident that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a suitable adoptive placement could be found fairly swiftly for both girls together.
It was submitted by the advocates for the parents that the analyses of the realistic options in this case by both the allocated social worker and Guardian were lacking in detail and therefore created a gap in the evidence. It is true that the Guardian’s final analysis and recommendations does not separately consider each of the relevant welfare checklist headings nor contain a very lengthy table setting out the Re B-S analysis of the placement options. However, in the case of the Guardian it has to be remembered that Cafcass require the use of a standard template for the completion of reports, as Mr Bond for Mr Davies acknowledged. I find that it is artificial to focus solely upon the references to the welfare checklists (which occurs at E174) and the Re B-S table (E185) and one has to read the Guardian’s report as a whole which then does provide the full and balanced consideration of the options in precisely the sort of holistic way that the current law demands.
Similarly, the allocated social worker’s final evidence, which is contained in two statements (C48-81 and C101-116) has to be read as a whole. That evidence does acknowledge the positives for the girls as well as the negatives of the placement options for them. It is, I find, a full and balanced consideration of the options and is not in fact deficient in the way that was submitted.
The essential issue which I have to consider at this point is whether nothing else but adoption will do for the girls at this point. Given my findings above about the risk of harm which RD would continue to pose to A and K, and that RD cannot make the necessary changes within the girl’s timescale, I am satisfied that nothing else but adoption will do for A and K. There is a risk that an adoptive placement may not be found for them as the Trust and Guardian acknowledge, but that is catered for in the plan to search for up to twelve months for an adoptive placement and then, if none has been found, to commence parallel searching for a long term foster care placement. The Trust will need to be mindful of the need to avoid drift for A and K but this is not a reason for not concluding that nothing else but adoption will do at this stage. The risks to A and K of not achieving stability and security in a long term foster care placement do outweigh the advantages, I find, and adoption will provide them with the emotionally attuned carers and stability that they so clearly need. It is a necessary and proportionate step to take, therefore, in light of the risks to their physical and emotional safety if placed in long term foster care when balanced against their need for long term safety and stability. I am therefore satisfied that it is in A and K’s welfare interests to dispense with the consent of their parents to the making of a placement order.
The final aspect of my considerations relates to contact post the making of the placement orders up to the girls being placed. The Trust plan is to reduce contact for all of the parents and is set out in the final care plans at D21-22 for K and D33-35 for A. The Guardian supports these plans, but the parents would like more frequent contact prior to placement. Contact has to be assessed from the perspective of what is in the best interests of the children, not what may meet the emotional needs of the parents. There is the potential for the girls to be matched to an adoptive placement quite quickly if the planned adoption day meeting in February 2018 goes well. The evidence of the allocated social worker and Guardian is very clear that the girls need to achieve stability and permanency sooner rather than later so it is important that a balance is struck between allowing them time to adjust to reducing contact and allowing them the time and space to undertake preparatory work in readiness for adoption. Post the making of the placement orders the purpose of contact for the girls will need to shift to meeting their identity needs rather than maintaining their full relationships with their families. In addition, allowing more contact up to placement would risk undermining any successful transition to an adoptive placement, I find, as there may be difficulties in the families accepting adoption as an outcome as I have earlier noted. I am therefore satisfied that what is proposed in terms of contact post the granting of orders today is in the welfare interests of the girls.
Given my findings above, I am satisfied that it is in A and K’s welfare interests to grant the applications for care and placement orders. I will therefore endorse the care plans, dispense with the parent’s consent to the making of placement orders and grant the care and placement orders sought.
PURSUANT TO S.31 (2) (a) & (b) (i) CHILDREN ACT 1989
The Trust asserts that where the threshold sought below includes information later acquired and later events to show the state of affairs at the relevant date in accordance with the principles in Re G (Care Proceedings; Threshold Conditions)  2 FLR 1111.
At the date protective measures were taken, on the 28th May 2017, there were grounds to believe that A and K had suffered and were likely to suffer significant harm; and that the harm, or likelihood of harm, is attributable to the care given or likely to be given to them by their parents not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give them, pursuant to S.31 (2) (a) & (b) (i) Children Act 1989.
The Trust relies on the following, in particular, in support of the contention that the s.31 (2) (a) & (b) (i) Children Act 1989 threshold is crossed:-
1. The mother has a history of alcohol misuse and directly exposing the children to the impact of this, which has resulted in the children being placed at the risk of physical and or emotional harm. Despite reporting that she had not consumed alcohol since the 20th October 2017 two sets of testing for the periods September 2017 to middle of December 2017 and October 2017 to the beginning of January 2018 establish that she has consumed chronic excessive levels of alcohol during those time periods. [J39, J44, J47, J48, J49,].
2. The mother has been unable to consistently meet the needs of the children, particularly when she is under the influence of alcohol. Examples being an inability to maintain a clean and appropriate home environment and provide regular meals to the children [F0k, F0I, F0m, F3, F24, F51, J39, J44].
3. The mother has left the children alone and unsupervised at home on more than one occasion, the most recent example being on the 28th May 2017 when Police were called to children's home , due to concerns relating to the children being left alone and the mother being intoxicated. The Police found the mother intoxicated and the home conditions chaotic, messy and unclean. The mother admitted leaving the children alone and she was arrested on suspicion of neglect and the children were made the subject of a PPO [F3, H4, J116, J123, J124, E59].
4. The mother has inappropriately chastised the children on more than one occasion. This has resulted in the children either sustaining bruising and or scratches or being at risk of physical and or emotional harm. [F0f, F0i, 52, F30, J115, J117-120, E54, E55].
5. The mother has failed to adequately supervise or adequately protect the children to the extent that they have sustained bruising and scratches as documented in the Child Protection Medical Assessment on the 30th May 2017.