Judge praises ‘focused’ social worker for high-quality evidence in care proceedings

Contribution of guardian also commended in case where care and placement orders were made for a 14-month-old girl

Photo: goodluz/Fotolia

A judge has praised a social worker for giving “focused”, “thoughtful” and “reflective” evidence in court.

Judge Simon Wood said the social worker had gone “above and beyond” in her role with a family subject to care proceedings.

Wood backed the local authority’s case for care and placement orders for a 14-month-old girl after concluding, despite positives found in favour of the mother, that the local authority could not provide the “appropriate safety mechanisms” for the child to return to her mother’s or father’s care.

In proceedings, Wood praised both the social worker and the child’s guardian for their contributions.

‘Thoughtful and reflective’

He said the social worker’s evidence was “very thoughtful and reflective, all borne of significant experience”. He praised the way she responded to the guardian’s suggestion of further assessments of the mother.

“She was, the court found, both even-handed and fair. She readily made concessions and there was nothing defensive in her approach,” Wood said.

The judge took the “unusual” step of including most of the social workers’ oral evidence due to how “direct in relevance” it was.

She filed six statements and a parenting assessment. She had said that while the decision had been “difficult”, the case came down to “basic issues of safety” around the mother’s ability to protect her child.

The judge also praised the guardian, as being “enormously experienced, calm, measured, and deeply thoughtful”.

“She, too, has developed a very good understanding of [the mother] and how she functions,” Wood said.

The girl was on a child protection plan before she was born following concerns over domestic abuse. The mother had been previously known to social services as a child due to her “difficult childhood”.

‘Lack of engagement’

“In addition to the long history of children’s services involvement and the lack of engagement with services or professionals, the local authority was concerned as to her lack of insight as to why the local authority might be worried about her pregnancy,” Wood said.

“There was also her reconciliation with the father of the unborn baby despite the complaints of violence she had made, her lack of honesty about her relationship, as well as practical matters such as not maintaining her tenancy and not accepting support from relevant services.”

He praised the mother who had, late in proceedings, said she understood the authority’s concerns, and had shown positive parenting skills in assessment. However, he said her assurances had to be taken in the context of her history of repeatedly refusing to engage with services.

“[The social worker] was not persuaded that [the mother’s] acceptance of risk can now readily be accepted. She said the intense community assessment ended with a serious domestically abusive incident. Within weeks she was willingly getting into F’s car and setting off across [the county].

“Even if the penny has now dropped, M has done nothing to protect herself via any legal framework, for example the obtaining of a non-molestation order, something that had been discussed several times, and her reluctant conclusion is that she simply has not demonstrated her capacity to protect her daughter.”

Wood concluded it was right for the child, who had lived in foster care almost since birth, to be made subject to a care and placement order with a plan for adoption.

“In [the mother’s] case however, I echo the guardian’s words of encouragement and praise, and urge her not to let this setback undo the progress that she has made or reduce her resolve to work with professionals that can help her in the future,” Wood said.

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9 Responses to Judge praises ‘focused’ social worker for high-quality evidence in care proceedings

  1. Annonymous October 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    So great to hear good work being acknowledged.

  2. LongtimeSW October 5, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    Seen this on the front page of the Sun, Mail, Telegraph? . . . . . . thought not.

  3. Gary irwin October 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    Makes a pleasant change,but isn’t this the case in the vast majority of cases were the judge makes a placement /care order.

  4. Planet Autism October 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    “He praised the mother who had, late in proceedings, said she understood the authority’s concerns, and had shown positive parenting skills in assessment. However, he said her assurances had to be taken in the context of her history of repeatedly refusing to engage with services.”

    So parents are irredeemable? Considering there is no statement that the child was abused, this outcome is (whilst sadly predictable in the climate that prevails) against the principles of supporting families to remain together. Life is risk. You cannot remove all risks. “Not engaging” with professionals can have many causes. If professionals have not accurately gauged a parent’s parenting skills, come across as heavy-handed and unfair, it naturall makes a parent defensive. Sometimes it’s simply because they (in all validity) cannot see why the authority is interfering in their lives. It may be a question of the right approach to explain to this parent and they may then be more willing to listen. There are cases where disinclination to engage is extremely understandable too: https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/07/29/social-workers-criticised-reprehensible-behaviour-adoption-case/ “In the light of their unprofessional behaviour and their negative view of him both as a father and as an individual, as expressed in their evidence, there can be little wonder if the father finds it hard to trust the local authority and work with them from time to time,” the judge said.”

    But either way, so long as the child is not harmed they do have that right. When a child has not been actually harmed and a parent has acknowledged changes they need to make and demonstrated good parenting, I can see no valid reason to remove a child. Surveillance should have been enough. Far too many children are being taken and the ripple effect is huge, the damage to all lives, including the child’s is unacceptable, when there was no necessity to remove them.

    • Ssjjms October 6, 2017 at 11:44 am #

      I find your confidence that removal was unnecessary astounding – unless you are involved in this? If not then you have limited information with which to make such a massive assumption.

      Risk cannot be obliterated in life but it would be reckless to just leave children in situations where the level of risk is such that “surveillance” would needed. That’s a completely unrealistic and inappropriate way to manage risk – do you think surveillance would be a normal experience for the child?

    • Lu October 6, 2017 at 5:21 pm #

      Actually “harmed”?-I assume you mean physically……… please revisit the definition of significant harm and the threshold to issue proceedings.

    • LongtimeSW October 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm #

      OK – You have again missed the difference between Rights and Responsibility – This baby has rights that override the parent’s – the baby is not a chattel or a piece of furniture – the child is no-ones property

      Parent(s) have RESPONSIBILITY to and for their children – simply put if they are unable or unwilling to exercise their responsibility(s) for whatever reasons, then Courts have an absolute Duty to get the best outcome they can for the child based on EVIDENCE that is and should be tested. Local authorities have an absolute Duty in law to intervene on behalf of a child where that child is in need of protection from significant harm.

      Courts are bound by the ‘nothing else will do’ principle – as in this case, nothing else would do in the (slight?) hope, (for that is what it came down to), that this mum would be safe to care for her child and not resume or go into a new dangerous realtionship at the expense of her child who does not have a say in parent(s) choices.

  5. Lauren October 5, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    14 months old and in foster care nearly since birth? What happened to 26 weeks before final orders?

    • Eleanor October 8, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

      At 14 months old there was clearly a period of 60 weeks prior to the final orders whereby the situation of the parents could have been changed. From the facts that I have read, the judge had no option but to rule in the way that he did. Let’s hope that the child is adopted quickly to ensure continuity in the life of that child. There are far too many abused children in society and sadly also far too many people who should never be allowed to be parents.