A judge has criticised a succession of delays, including securing therapy for a mother, which led to her child being accommodated for too long under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
While His Honour Judge Wildblood praised Gloucestershire council for providing “considerable assistance” to a mother, he said its procedures concerning care of an older child had been “unnecessarily protracted”.
The boy in question, C, was almost seven years old and had been living with foster carers since May 2014.
‘Unsuitable home conditions’
C was removed from his mother’s home under police powers after an unnamed person, known to be a risk to children, was found to have continuing contact with him, against professional advice. He was also living in “unsuitable home conditions”.
The local authority alleged C was suffering and was likely to continue to suffer significant harm as a result of neglect, ill-treatment, impairment of development and impairment of health.
The mother, now in her mid-twenties, suffered severe abuse and neglect in her childhood which led to “abnormalities in psychological functioning and development”.
She has been living in a mother-baby foster home since the birth of her youngest child in September 2015.
Although she had also engaged with therapy since then, the acuteness of her psychological difficulties meant any benefit was likely to be felt within timescales longer than was in the best interests of the older child and his need for a stable arrangement.
The judge questioned why thousands of pounds and a long period of time was spent before identifying what he described as an “obvious need” for therapy for the mother, given the “facts of her extremely damaging past have been known for years”.
Continuity of care
The judge said: “C needs stability in his life and continuity of loving care and nurture. It would be quite wrong for him to undergo the change of circumstances that would arise if he were to be removed from the excellent care of [the foster carers] and placed with a mother who, currently, is not able to look after him.
“Sadly and despite all the effort she has made, the mother is not capable of looking after him. Her care of the baby is on the borderline of sustainability according to professional reports.”
The council accepted it was wrong that C’s circumstances were not brought to a legal planning meeting until December 2014, when he had been subject to a child protection plan since August 2013.
It accepted it was wrong that care proceedings were not issued until May 2015, almost a year after C was removed from his mother’s home under police powers.
The judge also recorded that the assessment of the mother under the Care Act 2014 had been inadequate.
The judge made clear the quality of the foster carers’ care was not in question. He said the couple were highly capable of meeting the needs of the boy, referred to as C.
The judge made a special guardianship order in favour of the foster carers, and contact arrangements to allow C to continue to see his mother.