J. A. Clyde-Smith, Esq., Commissioner, and Jurats Clapham and Olsen
The Minister for Health and Social Services
A (the mother)
B (the father)
IN THE MATTER OF THE CHILDREN (JERSEY) LAW 2002
AND IN THE MATTER OF X, W, V AND U (CARE ORDER)
Advocate S. L. Brace for the Applicant.
Advocate C. G. Hillier for the First Respondent.
Advocate A. T. H. English for the Second Respondent.
Advocate S. M. Le Cocq for the Third Respondent.
Advocate B. J. Corbett for the Fourth Respondent.
Advocate H. J. Heath for the Fifth and Sixth Respondents.
1. Following a five day hearing, the Court declined to make final care orders in respect of three of the four children of the first respondent, ("the mother"), namely W who is aged 13, V who is aged 11 and U who is aged 6. We now set out our reasons.
2. The Minister's application for a care order in respect of the elder child X, who is aged 15, was adjourned until 28th July, 2014, because of the sudden illness of her lawyer, Advocate Tremoceiro, on the eve of the hearing. He had sole conduct of her case and had built up a good working relationship with her. The adjournment was in accordance with her wishes (the Court having spoken to her in chambers).
3. The Court had earlier ordered the appointment of a guardian, Mrs Elsa Fernandes, and a legal representative, Advocate Heath, for all four children, but it had become clear that the views of X and W would diverge both from the guardian and each other, and they were therefore appointed their own legal representatives.
4. The mother holds sole parental responsibility for all four children. Advocate English who represented the second respondent, B, who is U's father, was released from the Court at the start of the hearing, having explained that his client, who was not in Court, did not oppose the Minister's application for an order under Article 27(4) of the Children (Jersey) Law 2002 ("the Children Law") to refuse contact between him and U and the dismissal of his own application for contact. He remains committed to establishing contact with U, but accepts that there are a number of steps that he has to undertake before that can happen. We need say no more in relation to this for the purposes of this judgment, save that we granted the Minister's application.
5. W and V's father, Mr C, died in 2004. X's father has never had any contact with her. He is reported to be living in Scotland and to be married with a son.
6. The children were taken into voluntary care, X on 12th December, 2012, W on 11th January, 2013, and V and U on 17th January, 2013, and those were the relevant dates for the purposes of establishing the threshold criteria for the purposes of Article 24(2) of the Children Law. The children have remained in voluntary care since then. It was not in dispute and it was clear to the Court, that the threshold was met as at those dates in respect of W, V and U (X's case having been adjourned). The Court was able to undertake a more limited inquiry in this respect following the guidance given in Devon County Council v S  2 WLR 273.
7. By way of summary, the mother accepted that the children had been exposed to:-
(i) A history of domestic abuse with different relationships, more latterly with the second respondent, B.
(ii) Witnessing and intervening in domestic abuse.
(iii) A history of alcohol abuse.
(iv) Physical abuse (including the mother's subsequent conviction for a common assault on X).
(v) Emotional harm, particularly in relation to W, which culminated in her self-harming on 11th January, 2013.
There had been concerns over the care given by the mother over a period of some ten years and there had been numerous interventions.
8. Despite the mother's agreement, it was clear that she found hearing about the harm done to the children in Court very distressing. In evidence, she said she realised just how badly the children had been neglected for which she took full responsibility. For the purposes of this judgment, we do not need to dwell further on the circumstances leading up to the children being placed in voluntary care, but it is necessary to bear in mind (as we did) just how bad the situation was and how long lasting the nature of the concerns. In fact, the mother has made remarkable progress since then, to which we will come in a moment.
9. V and U have been with the same foster carers, a Mr and Mrs D, from the outset and are well settled there but voluntary care has proved a very different experience for X and W. They were initially placed in foster care together, but the foster carers struggled to manage their behaviour. W was moved from that placement to E, which is attached to Brig-y-Don, in April, 2013. The foster carers continued to experience difficulties with X's behaviour, resulting in her being moved to Brig-y-Don in June 2013. X is currently placed at F, where she has been since April 2014. W has since had a further foster placement, but this too broke down in February 2014 and she is currently accommodated back at E. She is the sole occupant of E, which is manned by three key workers on a rota. She has no contact with the children at Brig-y-Don for her own protection.
10. All four children wish to return to the care of the mother.
11. The Minister's care plan for W was for her to remain in the care of the Minister in her current residential placement, E, under the protection of a care order whilst the viability of a suitable foster care placement could be twin-tracked alongside a suitable placement in residential care. The plan provided that should that future placement break down, the Minister would consider an alternative placement which would ensure her safety and protection until a more permanent solution could be identified. The plan recognised that W would need to be directly involved in the planning for her long-term placement as it was recognised that children of her age need to be on board with and agree to their care plans. It noted that she may require psychotherapeutic intervention in the future to help her address and understand her childhood experiences but before any meaningful work could be undertaken, she needed to be in a settled placement. In the meantime, W was in regular contact with her school counsellor with whom she had a very good relationship.
12. Currently W had supervised contact with the mother every Thursday and every alternate Tuesday in addition to monthly contact with the mother and her siblings. She also enjoys a high level of unsupervised indirect contact with the mother by mobile phone (they talk daily by phone) and social media. It was felt that this level of contact did not promote W's sense of security and stability and was potentially harmful to her. It was proposed therefore to reduce contact with her mother to six supervised contact visits a year (a very substantial reduction), one of which would be with her siblings. She would have contact with her siblings without the mother every two months. In line with permanency planning telephone contact between her and her mother would be reduced to once every two months, to be made with W's carers present as the Minister was concerned about unsupervised unmonitored contact taking place between her and the mother without the Children's Service's knowledge. No contact by social media would be allowed. It was proposed that she would not communicate with her siblings by any form of social media. Letterbox contact between W and her siblings and the mother was to be provided to the Children's Service in the first instance to ensure the content was appropriate.
13. The care plan for V and U was that they should remain with Mr and Mrs D who had recently been approved as their long-term foster carers under the protection of a care order. In addition to the monthly family contact, they currently have supervised contact together with the mother on Wednesdays and Fridays in alternate weeks. They also had individual supervised contact with the mother every other week. This level of contact was not considered to be in the interests of V or U and accordingly it was proposed that contact be reduced to six supervised visits for each child per year with one annual supervised contact with all of the children.
14. V and U would have telephone contact with the mother once every two months and there would be no contact via any form of social media. Letterbox contact would be provided to the Children's Service in the first instance to ensure the content was appropriate.
15. The care plans were essentially based upon the advice of Dr Willemsen, a clinical psychologist, who had assessed both the mother and the children. His first report of 21st May, 2013, was commissioned by the Minister. The mother (who is 35) presented with significant emotional problems as the result of an insecure childhood in which she had an insecure attachment to her mother. These emotional difficulties were reflected in her relationships with men, friends and her children. She was diagnosed as alcohol dependent. At that time (May 2013), she was drinking one to two bottles of vodka over three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday each week. The documentation had shown that drinking had been a problem virtually throughout her adulthood and certainly throughout the main part of the children's lives. The use of alcohol made her emotionally unavailable to her children and affected her relationship with men. She used alcohol to relieve herself of distress. She suffered from recurrent depressions. These diagnoses did not explain her struggle with her children and her struggle in adult relationships. These are due to her inability to make herself emotionally available. She had a deep-rooted distrust in people, rooted in her distrust of her mother, who it seems was also unable to emotionally hold her daughter.
16. Dr Willemsen did not see the prospect of a great deal of change in the mother in the foreseeable future. She would need to address not only her significant alcohol use, but also her emotional difficulties. She would need to address her volatile relationships and her inability to protect the children from her need to be with a volatile man and she would need to address the emotional abuse and physical harm she perpetrated. The chronology indicated how deep-rooted these problems were and the consequences for the children were, in his view, deeply worrying.
17. He advised that until the mother was able to contain herself better, she would not be able to refrain from engaging in destructive relationships. She was more able to keep herself together because the children were in care, but the report showed that she would relapse, pull herself up, relapse again etc. The increased input from Social Services made herself feel more contained and therefore more stable for a while, but she would not be able to do this for a long period of time. When the Social Services reduce their input she would feel unloved, not looked after and excluded and these feelings would cause her to reinstate an abusive relationship.
18. The prognosis in relation to her alcohol dependency was poor. She would need to become abstinent in the first instance and to remain engaged with the Alcohol and Drugs Services in the long term for years. Her alcohol problem was deep-rooted and was not something that would be resolved in the short term, as in six months to a year. The prognosis against a background of virtually life-long drinking was not good. Once she is alcohol free, she may wish to think of beginning work with a therapist. He thought she would have to be abstinent for at least a year, after which the risk that she would relapse would decrease. She would be an alcoholic in recovery for years once she manages to stop drinking and the risk of relapse would probably remain relatively high when she becomes abstinent, as she had relied on alcohol throughout a major part of her life.
19. In his view, she understood her children's needs, but struggled to intervene, in particular in relation to the emotional abuse. This she found more difficult to see, understand and deal with. In particular, she did not seem able to contain her children emotionally. This inability to feel contained is observable in two generations. She did not feel contained by her mother, and the children are not contained by her. This is a worrying development for each of them. Apart from not feeling contained, the children suffered emotional abuse through distressing comments the mother would make about them, through the projections she submits the children to, especially W, through exposure to domestic violence and through exposure to physical harm.
20. As long as she was unable to contain her own distressing feelings, she would not be able to help her own children, who find mechanisms to deal with distress themselves - X by apparently becoming grown up and independent, W by becoming angry and frustrated, V by becoming secluded and U by becoming demanding and commanding, as if the world revolves around her.
21. The mother did seem motivated to change, but he noted that she had been frequently motivated in the past, and she would then become disengaged and the previous behaviour would repeat itself. Currently, the mother posed a risk to the children, which would need to be managed by placing them in care.
22. Turning to the children, Dr Willemsen advised that W had an insecure attachment of a disorganised nature. She typically approaches and avoids her mother at the same time. She may be at risk of developing unstable relationships should an intervention not be put in place. He was concerned that W's psychological harm was significant and that she needed to be placed permanently and receive psychotherapy as soon as possible. It is noteworthy that over a year later neither has taken place.
23. V's attachment was also insecure, and she hid many of her feelings, and he thought her attachment was ambivalent. He was also concerned about U, but could not point out exactly what her current pattern was.
24. He advised that the attachment of the children to the mother was strong. There was little doubt that despite the difficulties in the family, the mother loves her children a great deal. The relationship and attachment between the children was also strong, though there was a difficulty in the relationship between X and W, which was characterised by a great deal of friction and competition. W was particularly jealous of what was probably a more partner relationship that X had with the mother, which made her feel excluded. He described the family as X and the mother being the adults/parents, X being the quasi partner, with W being the excluded partner and V and U being the children who needed caring for. The situation was emotionally abusive, he said, for all children, and leads to a confusion about authority and ordinary hierarchy. The children would relate to each other unhealthily. They would look after each other in an unhelpful and inappropriate way.
25. If the children were returned to the mother, and the mother did not change, he thought the children would be at risk of developing unstable relationships in adolescence and adulthood, in which violence and volatility as well as emotional instability may be prevalent. He recommended that the children be long-term fostered.
26. Proceedings were not issued by the Minister until 20th December, 2013, when assessments were ordered from the Alcohol and Drugs Service with hair strand testing and a further report jointly commissioned from Dr Willemsen.
27. In his report of 1st April, 2014, Mr Gafoor noted that although the mother had made contact with the Alcohol and Drugs Service in 2009 and 2010, she had failed to engage, but she had re-entered treatment in March of 2013, shortly after the children had been taken into voluntary care. She avoided alcohol during the week, due to contact visits with the children, but continued to drink excessively at weekends until August 2013, when she had commenced work with the local bus company, that necessitated random alcohol testing. She had been abstinent from alcohol since then, but had also taken herself off anti-depressant medication, which she had taken for the past fourteen years. A liver function test was normal with no evidence of recent excessive alcohol intake and proved negative for illicit substances. He concluded that she had a history of excessive drinking over the past fourteen years which had culminated with physical dependency, but to her credit, she had shown remarkable progress in treatment during the last seven months in that she had ceased drinking and attended regular appointments.
28. In a further report of 9th June, 2014, he advised that whilst the mother had volunteered two brief episodes of drinking that year, she had not reverted to daily problematic drinking as in the past, which was a positive development. His overall view was that she was making a concerted effort to overcome her alcohol dependency. The hair strand test which covered the period from mid-November 2013 to mid-February 2014 supported the mother's self-reported abstinence from alcohol during the eight weeks prior to the hair collection.
29. In his second report of 30th April, 2014, Dr Willemsen acknowledged the progress the mother had made since he had last seen her. She had stopped drinking. She was employed. She seemed to him "abler to word herself" and was able to acknowledge that a great deal of volatility had taken place in her life particularly in her relationship with B. It was not clear that she had significantly progressed in terms of developing better coping mechanisms and understanding her own emotional deprivation and the effect on the children. The services had largely provided a sense of containment, rather than an effective intervention. Whilst it was important to keep herself together, he did not consider that her personality had substantially changed. Relationships between the mother and the children were similar to when he last saw them a year ago. U tried to manipulate her mother, V was still quiet and withholding, and W and her mother spoke without being too emotionally engaged with each other.
30. He supported the Minister's care plans. Noting that W's recent placement had broken down, the way forward, he said, was a small therapeutic unit or foster placement in which she is the only child. He thought she was sensitive to exclusion and her risk to self-harm and her general negative view of herself would need continued attention. Placement for V and U should continue as it is. Although he had not assessed Mr and Mrs D, from what he had seen, they were very much in touch with the emotional needs of the children who seemed to fit in with their family.
31. In terms of contact, he recommended that this should be reduced in respect of all three children to the maximum of six times a year to take place during holidays and it should remain supervised. That reduction, he acknowledged, seemed a large decrease, but in his view the children needed to be able to develop a life within the families they live in especially V and U. The mother wanted to maintain the current level of contact, but in his view this wish, apart from her love for the children, was also an expression of negation; a wish not to see just how much the children needed to develop their own lives and develop secure attachments. This was particularly so for V and U, who may benefit from the placement they are in, and the length of time there is left to live their lives with their carers.
32. In his view, six times a year was still a high frequency, but because the children had such strong bonds, because the mother would probably be available and because the family are so aware of each other, this frequency may work.
33. Dr Willemsen gave evidence on the third day of the hearing and unfortunately was not present to hear the evidence of the mother, to which we will come in a moment. In evidence, he explained what he meant in his reports by lack of containment, namely an inability on the part of the mother to attune to the distress and emotions of the children, which would lead in turn to their being unable to contain their own emotions.
34. He had not been aware of the frequency of telephone contact between W and the mother. He was worried about her going home to the mother. She needed to be separate from the mother, from whom she absorbed negativity. She needed to be able to identify, accommodate and express negative and angry feelings towards the mother, which she could not do with the mother.
35. He was not sure that we were in time for W. She needed to be told that she was not going home and for that decision to be supported by the mother. W could then settle down and therapeutic work could be done. If W kept hoping to return to her mother, it would be difficult for that work to be done. Her wish was to be with her mother - not a therapist.
36. He described the current care plan in relation to her therapeutic needs as reasonably standard but CAMHS would not suffice. W's needs were so severe that the Minister needed to tailor the services that would be provided for her. The current plan had not been fully formulated in this respect. It was so important that the "ties be severed" for W who was holding on to an idealised view of life with her mother. Once living at home with the mother, she would very difficult, self-harming, scapegoated. There would be many tensions and he could not see her working with that. If she went back to the mother, she would be "lost therapeutically".
37. It was necessary to identify her future placement first. That would need to be established within a year, so that they had two years in which to work with W. Just being left in a residential home would be a worry and multiple placements that failed would confirm her feelings of being unwanted and rejected. He acknowledged in cross examination that in terms of the balance of harm, it would be better for W to return to her mother than face a further placement breakdown. Reiterating that there was very little time for W, he said that contact with the mother was not helpful, as it was so focused on the mother. He would want contact reduced so that W was ready to engage with psychotherapy.
38. In terms of the mother's alcoholic use, it was clear to him that she had now taken charge and diagnostically was no longer alcohol dependent. He said it was really quite a change and she now needed to address the next question, namely why she had drunk to excess. The drinking was a symptom, not a cause, and for that she required therapy. What she had achieved was an important step, but the emotional problems remained - the lack of attunement with the children. Her emotional unavailability remained the core of the problem. Psychotherapy was a long process and required a minimum of a year to see if it would work but he was still worried about relapse as the past was not behind her. The children should not wait for this, and he would not support them returning to the mother. They needed permanency in long term foster care, supported by the mother and by a reduction in contact.
39. Whilst he acknowledged that the mother was able to provide good enough basic care for the children, they now needed reparative care. The gap was just too wide for the mother to deal with and therefore her parenting could not now be regarded as good enough.
40. Miss Jade Allchin, who had been the social worker for the children since September 2013, accepted that there had been positive developments with the mother in that she was consuming much less alcohol and was no longer in an abusive relationship, but she had not addressed the emotional issues and followed up with the psychotherapy recommended by Dr Willemsen in his first report. Indeed, she had not taken up an appointment made for her in November, 2013 with the [Psychological Department]. Whilst there had been issues at supervised contact sessions, the contact logs showed that they had been positive overall but she agreed with the advice of Dr Willemsen in relation to the children not returning to the mother and contact being reduced.
41. On hearing the evidence of Dr Willemsen, she informed us that an emergency care planning meeting would be held immediately after the hearing in order to look at all of the options available for W in terms of her future placement. It was of concern to us that the Children's Service had not been alerted much earlier to the seriousness of W's psychological state. Miss Allchin was not able to assist at this stage as to precisely what those options would be, but they would seem to range from W remaining at E and receiving psychotherapy from a private psychologist, to a placement with a foster carer with private psychotherapy, to a possible residential placement out of the Island. Despite these uncertainties the care plan was choate in her view.
42. The two failed placements had shown that W was a hard child to place and Miss Allchin acknowledged that there was a high risk that the next placement would break down. The first placement with X had broken down quickly. The foster carers found it difficult to manage them both. The second placement was felt to be a good match but that proved wrong. W was not able to manage another child, or it would seem dual parenting and Miss Allchin had therefore identified the need for a single carer with W being the only child. That foster carer would need to be skilled and "thick skinned". W was difficult to parent and the staff at E had found it hard. She would pick and choose who she would speak to and they needed help working with her.
43. She acknowledged W's very strong wish to return home; indeed, that was the wish of all of the children and they all wanted more contact with the mother, not less. However, it was not safe for them to do so. The risks were too great. At least they were now safe from harm.
44. The guardian recognised, as did Dr Willemsen and Miss Allchin, that the mother had strengths within her parenting ability, namely her ability to meet the majority of the children's basic needs, her demonstration of affection, her concerns for their safety when they are out in the community and her ability to stick to routines within the home. Her difficulties remained with her ability to manage the children's emotional needs and development.
45. She accepted and agreed with the advice of Dr Willemsen and supported the care plans and reduction in contact. She agreed that the children could not return home, and therefore contact with the mother needed to be reduced to allow them to become detached and to settle. The mother could not offer the children the reparatory care that they needed, certainly within their timescales.
46. The guardian was pleased that the Children's Service was expediting the process for W's placement, but she felt that the care plan for W was choate and sufficient in the circumstances. She was asked by Advocate Corbett to give the Court a description of W. She described her as a charming, funny, engaging girl with a good sense of humour. She was talented, bright and doing very well in her education. She lacked confidence and clearly had difficulties. She suffered from intense jealousy and struggles with sharing. She was easily upset and could be sulky (for hours) and could be rude and abusive. The guardian had concerns about a single carer and felt that the risk of breakdown in such an intense relationship was high.
47. W had told the guardian that while she wanted to go home with the mother, it was on the basis that all of her siblings would be returned to the mother's care and there was therefore a question as to whether W would wish to return if the younger two children were to remain with Mr and Mrs D. She was, however, a good girl who could follow instructions and was not rebelling at the moment. Contact with the mother could be reduced over time, with the mother's backing, but she recognised that it would be difficult for the Children's Service to monitor telephone or social media contact between them. A reduction in contact could only really be achieved with their co-operation; in particular, W needed to buy into the plan.
48. The Court was very impressed with the mother's evidence. She came across as intelligent, articulate and searingly honest. She acknowledged how bad things had been for the children. She had been selfish and exercised poor judgment in the past and she took full responsibility for what had happened. All she wanted now was to help the children and if the Court was against her wish that they return to her, she would give her blessing to their placements away from her.
49. In December 2013, she had been in a mess. She was drinking on a daily basis and not eating or sleeping properly. She was in an abusive relationship and was at an all-time low in her life, so much so that she had no option but to place all four children into voluntary care. That had been a wakeup call for her and it was clear that there has since then been a transformation in her life:-
(i) There has been a dramatic drop in her alcohol consumption as confirmed by the reports from Mr Gafoor and the hair strand analysis. She set out in her statement precisely when she had consumed alcohol from May 2013, volunteering that in 2014 she had consumed alcohol twice, once in April and once in May. The first occasion had been a planned evening out and the second was following the inquest of her brother. Neither incident could have been detected had she not admitted them herself. In addition all employees at the local company had to undergo random testing (because they dealt with the public) and her tests (which had been filed) were all negative. In addition to the stress of the proceedings, she had other stressful matters concerning her family to deal with, but had not turned to drink for comfort.
(ii) She was now in full time employment with a local company, who were fully aware of her situation and supportive. Being employed was in itself very therapeutic.
(iii) Her relationships with her parents and sister had greatly improved. She could now talk to her mother in particular about her own childhood, about which she was gaining some insight.
(iv) She attended weekly sessions with her counsellor at the Alcohol and Drugs Service, who although not a trained psychologist had been immensely helpful. It was, she said, her form of therapy in which she could be honest and if necessary emotional and she always came out feeling brighter. She had learnt to deal with her problems rather than to let them escalate.
(v) She had long since terminated her relationship with B and had no intention of starting a new relationship. Her priority was the children.
(vi) She had engaged with the Children's Service, attending all appointments (as confirmed by Miss Allchin) and not sought in any way to undermine the voluntary care arrangements. She was very open about the difficulties she found in working with Miss Allchin, who was ten years younger and who had no children of her own, but in the interests of the children she continued to engage.
50. Overall, the mother felt that she was 80% better and although she accepted her two eldest children would be difficult to cope with, she could manage with all four children with help. She did not expect the children to be returned to her overnight, accepting that it would have to be a planned and gradual process.
51. W needed to come home to her; she was very isolated at E with too many adult relationships. If that were not possible, then to have contact with her mother and siblings drastically reduced as planned would be harmful. If W called her, she just could not reject the calls and if they happened to meet (which was very likely) she could not walk away from her.
52. If the children could not come home she was anxious for contact to continue and to be unsupervised. All contact over the 18 months since the children had been taken into voluntary care had been supervised at the meeting centre in Grands Vaux, which she felt set her up to fail. One and a half hours in a room with four children who had been separated from her and who were competing for her attention was bound to be difficult. Even the Christmas 2013 contact had been supervised at Grands Vaux. It was an unnatural environment that would not be replicated in a family setting.
53. She accepted in cross-examination that not taking up psychotherapy when offered in November last year had not been in the children's interests. She explained to us that at the time she felt overloaded with professionals and appointments but would now take that up. She recognised that her emotional needs did need addressing. In a very frank exchange with Advocate Brace, she accepted that deep down she didn't think she would get all four children back, although she felt she could cope with help. Asked whether the risk of her not coping was one which should be taken, she agreed that it probably was not fair to the children.
54. Our decisions in relation to the children were guided by the principles set out by the Court of Appeal in Re F and G No 2  JCA 051 and informed by the submissions of counsel, all of which we found very helpful, but for the purposes of this judgement we will refer to those submissions only in part.
55. Taking V and U first, the advice that we had received was clear, namely that they could not return to their mother's care. Notwithstanding the commendable transformation in the mother's life, it was of short duration. She has been in control of her drinking from only last December - half a year ago - and set against the very profound and enduring historical problems, it was simply too soon to entrust the children back to her care. The risks were too high. The advice to this effect was clear and we felt bound to accept that advice.
56. As to the relationship between the Court and experts, the Court of Appeal in Re F and G No 2  JCA 051 adopted what was said by Wall LJ in Gateshead MBC v JM  EWCA Civil 12 at :-
"(i) Experts do not decide cases. Judges do. The expert's function is to advise the judge;
(ii) the judge is fully entitled to accept or reject expert opinion;
(iii) If the judge decides to reject an expert's advice, he or she:
(a) must have a sound basis upon which to do so; and
(b) must explain why the advice is being rejected.
(iv) similar considerations arise when a judge prefers one expert's evidence to that of another. Judges must explain why they prefer the evidence of A to that of B."
Advocate Hillier, for the mother, was unable to give us a sound basis to reject the advice we had received in this respect.
57. One of the factors we were required to consider under the Welfare Checklist was the ascertainable wishes and feelings of V and U and although it was clear that they were happy in their placement with Mr and Mrs D, both of them wished to return to their mother. Assuming normal age maturity, the older the child, the greater the weight that needs to be given to his or her wishes and we were conscious in this respect that V was 11 and U only 6. It is understandable that they should wish to return home but it was clear that part of it was out of loyalty and a concern for the mother and how lonely she would be without them. However giving effect to their wishes would mean returning them to a parent who had failed to meet their needs so badly in the recent past and placing them at risk of further significant harm. Their welfare in our view required their wishes to be overridden.
58. Jade Allchin had prepared a helpful analysis of the range of powers available to the Court and the pros and cons of the options open to us. Having regard to that, we agreed that a care order was necessary in order to give shared responsibility to the Minister and thus to secure their placement with Mr and Mrs D away from the mother.
59. Where we had much more difficulty was in the contact proposals whereby there would be a drastic reduction in the contact between them and their mother and also with their siblings.
60. We could understand that where a child is being freed for adoption severing the relationship with the natural mother was a necessity as she would be replaced by a new mother who would step in and "own" the child. In this case, the attachment of the children to the mother is strong and it was recognised by the Minister that she will remain part of their lives. She had been supportive of their placement with Mr and Mrs D where they had been for 18 months and there was no evidence that we were aware of that she had sought or would seek to undermine that placement. We felt the views of Mr and Mrs D on this issue would be relevant and to be taken into account, but we had no input from them.
61. If the mother engages, as she says she will, with psychotherapy and maintains her newfound sobriety and stability and if the current level of contact was not undermining their placement, we questioned why the children's' relationship with their mother could not continue as at present, with the potential of the mother becoming more involved in their lives in due course. In a sense we felt that the children's mother, a mother with whom they had a strong bond, was close to being written out of their lives against their wishes (and in particular the wishes of V who after all is 11) and in such a way as to make any such greater involvement in the future either very difficult, if not impossible. We also questioned why, in view of the changes the mother had made, contact should be supervised.
62. There were areas of contact that had not been explored, such as the mother's involvement in their schooling and in their health. The mother would retain parental responsibility (albeit subject to the control of the Minister pursuant to Article 26(1)(c) of the Children Law). Would she be attending parents' evenings, meetings with the teachers and school functions such as prize day and sports day? Would she be involved in their health care? A practical issue would arise in relation to incidental contact, for example, where the mother works and through which V and in due course U will go to and from school. The mother could hardly turn her back on them should they meet in this way. V already has a mobile phone but how is contact through a mobile phone or through the social media between the members of this family generally who have such a strong attachment to be controlled and how real is a very restrictive regime on physical contact in the light of that?
63. Whilst the children's wishes as to where they should live had to be overridden because of the risks that would entail, was it really necessary to override their wishes (and in particular the wishes of V) in respect of contact, certainly to this drastic extent?
64. We were very cognizant of the advice given to us in relation to contact by Dr Willemsen, Miss Allchin and the guardian and understood that we may ultimately have no option but to accept it, but our reservations over what was being recommended in relation to contact were such as to require us to ask the Minister to reconsider the issue. We took into account that any delay is likely to prejudice the welfare of the children, but this would be a short and purposeful adjournment.
65. In this case, we had one psychologist who assessed both the mother and the four children. We make no criticism of that but suspect that he would inevitably have spent less time with each child than a child psychologist separately appointed. We felt we might be assisted on the issue of contact by a second opinion from a child psychologist before implementing such a reduction in the contact these children have with their mother who has, we think, transformed her life, with whom they have a strong bond, who is to remain a part of their lives and who, as Dr Willemsen says, loves them a great deal.
66. If the mother continues to make the impressive progress she has shown in the last year it is likely that the children, particularly the elder ones, will continue to seek her out whatever orders the Court makes and we had concerns about the effects on all of them of such drastic forced estrangement which might well be unachievable.
67. As a consequence, we approved the care plans of the Minister in respect of V and U, save in so far as the contact arrangements are concerned and we therefore adjourned the Minister's applications for final care orders. To secure their placement with Mr and Mrs D we made interim care orders.
68. Turning to W, the position is different in three important respects:-
(i) She is that much older at 13, and therefore her wishes are to be accorded more weight.
(ii) She has gone through two failed placements and is now living alone in a flat, albeit under adult supervision.
(iii) No decision has yet been made as to where she will be placed in the future so that unlike V and U she has no idea what will happen to her.
69. Advocate Corbett, in a forceful submission, was very critical of the care given to W by the Minister. She was taken into care 18 months ago. As early as May 2013, Dr Willemsen had recommended that she be placed permanently and receive psychotherapy as soon as possible. Neither of these had happened, to the point that Dr Willemsen was now saying that it was almost too late for her therapeutically. The proceedings, Advocate Corbett said, should have been issued once that advice had been received, so that a guardian and lawyer could be appointed at an early stage and her interests safeguarded. Instead, proceedings were not issued until January 2014. Dr Willemsen had not been involved in advising on the options available to her prior to the hearing and should have been.
70. The current plan was inchoate as we had no idea what would happen to W - all options were apparently open. Advocate Corbett's instructions were that W wanted to go home - those instructions had not been qualified in any way. She wanted to be listened to and to ignore her wishes would make her feel defeated and excluded. Her welfare included her knowing that she had been listened to.
71. The mother had made great strides. She pointed out that the mother had been sent a "letter before proceedings" dated 19th March, 2013, which set out certain steps that could be taken by her to stop proceedings from being issued. The mother had complied with all of those steps bar commencing psychotherapy. The mother's candour was significant and showed she had insight. This 13 year old girl wanted to be with her mother. They could work with CAMHS and with a private psychologist from home. The mother had shown herself to be cooperative with the Children's Service and that cooperation was very unlikely to stop.
72. Advocate Heath submitted that not acceding to W's wishes was not to defeat her. It was to take away from her a very difficult decision, i.e. to separate from the mother. It absolved her from responsibility and enabled her to put herself first, whilst ensuring her safety, security and long-term emotional health. The Minister, she said, was between a rock and a hard place. EHCR rights made it incumbent upon a Minister to work with families prior to issuing proceedings and she was open to criticism for bringing them too early and not working with the mother.
73. Advocate Brace did not accept that the care plan was inchoate. She said it gave a clear picture of the way ahead and the Court should trust the Minister to deal with her future placement. She rejected the criticism over the delay in proceedings being issued, pointing out that the Children Law allows children to be placed away permanently without the intervention of the Court.
74. As Lord Nicholls said in Re S; Re W  1 FLR 815 at paragraph 95:-
" In this context there are sometimes uncertainties whose nature is such that they are suitable for immediate resolution, in whole or in part, by the court in the course of disposing of the care order application. The uncertainty may be of such a character that it can, and should, be resolved so far as possible before the court proceeds to make the care order. Then, a limited period of 'planned and purposeful' delay can readily be justified as the sensible and practical way to deal with an existing problem."
We think that is the position here. Whilst we had the advice of Dr Willemsen, Miss Allchin and the guardian that W should not be returned home, it was not clear (in contrast to V and U) what would replace that home. In her 18 months in care, W had been through two failed placements and was now living in a flat on her own. A further failed placement would clearly be harmful and the advice of Dr Willemsen was that of the two, returning home was the least harmful option. Set against the background of two failed placements and the potential harm of another failure, the decision as to that further placement (which required W's buy in) was critical and could be resolved with a limited period of planned and purposeful delay. In our view the plan was inchoate in this respect, and we therefore adjourned the Minister's application for a care order. However, in the light of the advice we had received, it was necessary to secure the current placement away from the mother by an interim care order giving the Minister parental responsibility.
75. In the event of a final care order being made at the adjourned hearing on the basis of W being placed away from the mother, we would have the same concerns as to the current proposed drastic reduction in contact between her and her mother and for the same reasons as we have put forward for V and U but even more so bearing in mind her age and wishes. We note for example that Dr Willemsen had only two one hour sessions with W alone and we wondered whether that could be sufficient to base his recommendation for such a drastic reduction in contact with the mother. It is clear that a psychologist will be involved in undertaking her therapy and we think it would be helpful if that psychologist could have some input into the issue of contact with the mother and how it should be handled. Simply cutting the mother substantially out of the life of W against her wishes now without a clear picture as to W's future placement appeared to us to be harmful if not cruel.
76. In conclusion we adjourned all three applications for a care order to the 28th July, 2014, and made interim care orders. We approved the care plans for V and U save in relation to contact which we asked the Minister to reconsider and we found that the care plan for W was inchoate. When handing down our decision we said that the Minister's plans to reduce contact for all three children should be held over pending the adjourned hearing. We saw no need for us to make any order setting the current level of contact in stone as we would wish to retain the Minister's usual flexibility in the interim.
Children (Jersey) Law 2002.
Devon County Council v S  2 WLR 273.
Gateshead MBC v JM  EWCA Civil 12.