A social worker has been criticised after presenting some of the most “factually impoverished and unhelpful evidence” a judge had heard from a professional in court.
The social worker had held the case for the two children subject to care proceedings for six months, but was “unable to explain the decision-making process through which he came to conclusions about these parents”.
Judge Moradifar said: “He was argumentative in the witness box and unable to provide a balanced analysis of any of the issues during his involvement in the case. His evidence was an astonishing display of how little he knew about this case.”
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The judge was more positive about the children’s current social worker, and said she gave “more measured and balanced evidenced about the mother”.
The comments came in a care proceedings case where the local authority proposed that two children should be made subject to care orders and placement orders for adoption. The plans were opposed by the children’s parents.
The mother, who was a care leaver and had suffered “horrific” and “highly damaging” experiences as a child and teenager told the judge she had not been adequately assessed, and that there was more information that could be found about her parenting capacity. The judge said she had presented a well-thought out proposal about how the children could be rehabilitated into her care.
However, due to problems with her parenting style and her requirements for lengthy therapy identified in a psychiatric assessment, Judge Moradifar decided to give both children placement orders, with a plan that they be adopted together. The parents would have contact with the children until they were placed with an adopter, and letterbox contact thereafter, with direct contact explored as a possibility if it could be managed safely.
Judge Moradifar added: “The process that has been engaged by the local authority over many years and until this hearing has not given the mother a fair opportunity to demonstrate her parenting capacity.”
The judge was critical of the local authority’s complaints about the mother’s lack of engagement. The issues were based on historical events, and the last time the mother was offered therapy was in 2015.
“It is important to note that [at] the times these services were offered to the mother, she was a teenager or a care leaver. She was deeply troubled and at that time misusing drugs and alcohol. I found there was a real lack of analysis by the local authority witnesses when giving evidence on these issues,” Judge Moradifar said.
A psychiatric assessment of the mother said she had suffered “highly damaging” life experiences and remained “vulnerable to making poor life choices, whereby she will compromise her safety and that of any child in her care”.
A therapy programme would take two years, and the psychiatrist believed the mother had “limited capacity to change” and the prognosis for the effect of the therapy was “uncertain”.
The court also heard from a clinical psychologist that the mother’s parenting was “an avoidant attachment style”.
“This was significant from [the pyschologist’s] specialist perspective,” the judgment said. “She accepted that this is not noticeable by a social worker or contact worker. She explained that if this was the only issue, there would be some work that could be undertaken with the mother within the children’s timescale. However, looking at the totality of the mother’s psychological make-up, the mother’s ability to make protective and safe decisions is ‘really skewed’,” the judgment said.
She added that “in time” she would be an excellent mother, but her required therapy would be beyond the two children’s timescale.
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