Court rejects council plan for two-year-old girl to be adopted

The Court of Appeal has rejected a local authority’s plan to have a two-year-old girl placed for adoption.

The girl, referred to in court as LC, had two older brothers, aged eight and seven. The mother had learning difficulties and mental health issues.

There were concerns that the children had suffered neglect, had been exposed to domestic abuse, and had been subjected to excessive physical chastisement.

Care proceedings were started in 2018 and the three children were placed together in foster care. They were moved in July 2019 when LC was placed in a separate foster placement to her brothers.

Their sibling relationship was maintained through regular contact. At the final hearing of the care proceedings, the recorder found that the threshold criteria had been met and that there was no realistic prospect of the children being returned to the parents' care.

The local authority sought final care orders based on care plans which provided for the boys to be placed in long-term foster care and for LC to be placed for adoption.

However, the guardian proposed that LC should also be placed in long-term foster care, preferably in the same placement as the boys.

The recorder rejected the adoption plan. She agreed with the local authority that long-term foster care would provide the boys with stability and security and they would benefit enormously from their continuing and positive relationship with their parents.

She expressed the opinion, however, that the local authority had closed its mind to the opportunities that might similarly be offered to LC if she remained in long-term foster care. She feared that the local authority had promoted the option of adoption for LC above all else due to her age rather than undertaking a careful, considered and evidence-based analysis of the options.

In particular, she indicated that the local authority had insufficient regard to the very positive benefits that LC's relationship with her parents and siblings would bring to her throughout her life.

The local authority submitted that the recorder had been obliged to consider each element in the welfare checklist in the Adoption and Children Act 2002 but had focused almost exclusively on LC's relationship with relatives.

The Court of Appeal upheld the recorder’s decision.

It held that she had not focused on one factor to the exclusion of the others. She had acknowledged that there were powerful arguments in favour of adoption but concluded that in the circumstances they were outweighed by the disadvantages.

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