BLOG: Local authorities must give birth parents a fair chance

Rebecca Dobbs, Morecrofts

A baby placed with carers at just three hours old is to be returned to her birth parents just before her first birthday, the High Court has ruled.

The mother had originally given permission for the unnamed child to be placed for adoption but then changed her mind.

The birth parents had four children between them and they were experiencing some personal difficulties in their life during the time of the child’s birth. They made the difficult decision that it would be better for them and their children, if they were to request for the child to be adopted.

It should be noted there had been Social Services involvement with this family previously, but the parents addressed the concerns and before the fifth child was born it was agreed that there were no safeguarding issues.

Birth parents are normally given six weeks to further consider whether they wish to place a child for adoption following birth as it recognised it is such an emotive time immediately after birth but in this case her decision appears to have immediately accepted by the social worker as being accepted.

High Court Judge, Mr Justice Francis, who read and analysed the evidence said that the Local Authority “had a duty to discuss this with the mother, in fact with both parents, in detail, before accepting the position rather than actively encouraging them to go through with the adoption”.

It is essential in any consenting adoption case for the Local Authority to assess the parents and also provide pre-birth counselling to find out whether they could care for the child with support or whether there were family or friends who could care for the child to ensure that the child could remain within the family.

The birth parents proceeded to have contact with the child following her birth and a short time after they felt that their circumstances had changed since the child was placed with the adopters and they expressed that they wanted the child returning to their care.

The Judge made it clear that the Local Authority had not done all it could to ensure that the child could be brought up in her birth family, before making the decision to move her to live with the adopters.

Following the three day hearing in June 2019 the Judge ruled that it was in the best interests of the child that she should leave her adoptive parents and return to her birth parents.

The Judge added at the end of his judgement that he hopes that the adopters will be able to “play a part in A’s life as she grows from the toddler that she now is into the girl, and the woman, that she will become”.

Lawyers representing the Local Authority have apologised for the significant failings in this case.

This case clearly highlights that the Local Authority must do whatever it can to ensure that children are brought up within their birth family, if at all possible.

It is important to receive legal advice so you are making fully informed decisions in respect of your child.

It is also a reminder that support should be provided to prospective adopters who agree to adopt a child straight from hospital and it is crucial that there is careful management of adoption cases to prevent this set of circumstances happening again in the future.

It has clearly been a heart-breaking time for all involved in the case, the birth parents and adopters.

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