A mother threatened to kill a social worker in an adoption case a judge called “difficult and sad”.
In care proceedings involving four children, Judge Keehan made placement orders for the three youngest, and a child arrangements order for the eldest who was living with her father.
The mother, who had a long history of mental health problems, had a “variable” relationship with social workers, which “seriously deteriorated” after the children were removed from her care and placed in foster care following long-term neglect.
The mother had made “multiple serious threats” against social workers following their removal.
Shortly before the first attempted final hearing “the mother was arrested for threatening to kill the current social worker. Ultimately the police did not proceed to charge her with any offence. At the hearing on 13 January the mother was extremely volatile and making threats of harm to the extent that the social workers and the advocates felt very vulnerable”.
Following this, the case was moved from the district judge to Justice Keehan.
Injunctive orders were taken out against the mother, who later accepted that she had threatened to kill the social worker, but claimed she didn’t mean it. In the same conversation, she did say “I am going to get her” about the social worker.
The children’s physical and emotional state was “truly shocking” when they entered foster care, and the judge said on the evidence they should have been removed much sooner. The judge decided on balance of evidence that the best option for the three youngest children, aged five, four and one-years-old, was for them to be adopted.
This was despite the wishes of the mother that they placed with her brother and his partner, or in long-term foster care. While there were positive findings with regards to their commitment to the children, there were concerns over their lack of experience in caring for children and how they had failed to impact the neglect the children suffered at home with the mother, whom they lived with.
“In a misguided attempt to distance themselves from the neglect suffered by the children, they changed their account of the time they had spent living with the mother in order to improve their prospects of securing the care of the three younger children,” Keehan said.
“The change was not only misguided but it was also disingenuous because (i) on the first version they were living in the home, they made little or no difference to the care the children received or (ii) on the second version, they came and went from the mother’s home even though they knew the mother was neglecting the children. Both versions are equally a cause for serious concern.”
He concluded: “The neglect and suffering of the children was not significantly ameliorated by their presence in the home.”
The report on the relatives had to be re-done by an independent social worker after the original was found to be “fundamentally flawed” after it did not discuss any of the identified criticisms with the potential carers.
A social work assessment said there would likely be interference with the couple from the mother “interfering and/or seeking to control their care of the children”.
Keehan preferred adoption over long-term fostering because the children would become an integral part of the family unit, and there was less chance of breakdown.
Judge Keehan said he “sincerely” regretted not being able to come to a conclusion other than adoption, but he was “completely satisfied that nothing else will do”.