Judge rejects late bid by family members to stop boy’s adoption

Family's attempts to halt the adoption of a baby in an early permanence placement would put child at risk of emotional harm, court rules

Photo: tashatuvango/Fotolia

A family court judge has rejected a last-minute attempt to halt the adoption of a baby boy by his birth parents and grandmother.

The case concerned child RA, a boy born prematurely at home in August 2015.

After admitting the baby to hospital, his parents did not return and consented to him being found an adoptive family because they felt unable to care for their child.

The local authority arranged an early permanence placement with prospective adopters Mr D and Mrs D, who the child went to live with on leaving hospital in September 2015.

In December 2015 the Ds were approved by an adoption panel and in January 2016 the agency decision maker approved their application for an adoption order.

Adoption opposed

However in August 2016 the boy’s maternal grandmother applied to the court for the child to live with her in Latvia. Both of RA’s parents are Latvian citizens who have lived in England since 2009.

Then, after the court heard both the Ds’ and the grandmother’s cases but before a decision was made, the birth parents applied to stop the adoption and have the boy returned to them.

The birth parents also opposed the grandmother’s application to become the child’s carer.

The boy’s mother and father argued that their personal circumstances had changed significantly. At the time of RA’s birth, they had been separated and the mother was living in a single room in a shared house with her two daughters. Now they were back together and living in a three bedroom house.

After delaying the decision to consider the birth parents’ case, Mr Justice Cobb approved the adoption of the boy by the Ds.

No emotional connection

In his decision, Cobb noted that the birth parents repeatedly consented and confirmed their willingness for the child to be adopted. Furthermore they had reconfirmed their consent after their change in circumstances, which happened several months before their made their bid to halt the adoption process.

The judge said that while the grandmother’s desire to care for her grandson was “honourable”, she had no emotional connection with the boy and there was a risk of the child becoming the subject of family disputes given the birth parents’ opposition to her application.

Furthermore the judge felt the grandmother lacked insight into the complexities of caring for a child who is already strongly attached to his current carers.

The Ds, meanwhile, had demonstrated their devotion to the boy and the child “knows them as his parents” having lived with them for almost all of his life.

Given this the judge ruled that it was in the boy’s best interests for the Ds’ application to adopt him to be approved.

Lesson for local authority

He added that it would be important for the boy to have indirect contact with his parents and grandmother, which the Ds support. He also said the boy should come to know that his parents and grandmother “laid a claim to care for him” and that there should be life-story work to help him learn about his background.

The judge also noted that the contesting of the adoption application had been “enormously stressful” for the Ds and said that while the local authority had been very supportive of the couple it should have been clearer with the couple about their legal status.

“I felt they were mistakenly allowed, indeed encouraged, to believe that an adoption order was assured as soon as the match was approved by the Agency Decision Maker in January 2016; this made the emergence of [the grandmother] and the contest of their application all the more difficult for them to manage,” said Cobb. “There is a lesson to be learned here by the local authority.”

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