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.