Some family court rulings are impossible to understand
By Christopher Booker4:41PM GMT 16 Mar 2013
As our social workers continue to break all records in the number of children they remove from their parents – the latest figures for England and Wales show that the number of care applications is this year likely to rise above 11,000, approaching three times their level in April 2008 – our Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is determined to increase the comparatively small percentage of those children who then go on to be adopted. In support of this policy (Mr Gove was successfully adopted, and his new Children’s Minister, Edward Timpson, was brought up with two adoptive siblings), their department commissioned two academics, Barry Luckock and Dr Karen Broadhurst, to produce a report that purports to show that, bar one or two minor criticisms, the process of removing children for adoption by new parents is working well.( Read more... )
This month, in a last desperate bid to get her daughter back, the mother appealed to another judge to stop the adoption order, relying on the rule that such an application can be granted if the mother can show that her “circumstances have changed”. When she yet again, I gather, produced medical evidence, going back several years, to show that she had never been a drug addict or an alcoholic, the new judge apparently accepted this as convincing. But, astonishingly, the judge went on to rule that, since the mother had never been either of these things, her circumstances could not be said to have “changed”. The adoption must therefore still go ahead.
Almost as chillingly, the mother was then allowed to see a small part of the report the social workers had prepared to be shown to her daughter’s new adoptive parents. This not only contains a string of simple factual errors; it still paints her in the most damning light as having, despite the judge’s finding, “a history of drug and alcohol misuse”, adding: “It is reported that she has attempted suicide on nine occasions.”
This may all help to convince the adoptive parents that they have rescued the new member of their family from a fate worse than death (the report is even anxious to record that the mother is “a smoker” and “wears high heels and make-up”). And no doubt if Mr Gove’s academics had been given an account of this case by the local authority’s solicitor, it might have seemed another success story for the adoption process. But to anyone who has followed just what this mother and child have been put through since they were torn apart in 2010, and who is aware of just how dysfunctional so much of our “child protection” system has become, I’m afraid this story is not just yet another shocking travesty of justice; it is an almost unbearable tragedy.