Local authority prevented from separating children from mother
A local authority has lost its appeal against a supervision order allowing a mother to continue looking after her two children.
The case involved a seven-year-old and three-year-old who were made subject to child protection plans. The seven-year-old had autistic spectrum disorder. Social services became involved because of domestic abuse by his father.
Care proceedings began in April 2018.
The main issue was the mother's emotional and mental health and its impact on her ability to meet the children's needs. Aspects of the seven-year-old’s behaviour were said to be due to neglect and trauma arising from the care he had received.
An assessment report in August 2018 concluded that he required "well-above average parenting" which the mother was unable to provide. A further report in May 2019 concluded that the two children, although emotionally very close, should be placed separately to give them the best opportunity to have their individual needs met.
The local authority's care plan proposed a long-term foster placement for the seven-year-old and for the three-year-old to be placed for adoption.
The children's guardian opposed their removal. Her final report of May 2019 indicated that the case was finely balanced, but that the mother had gained insight into her mental health needs and had accepted that she would have to undertake intensive therapy to improve her parenting ability.
She was said to have made significant efforts to address the concerns and there had been a reduction in the seven-year-old’s worrying behaviours.
At the final hearing, the judge found that the mother had the capacity to change and had begun to build on the progress she had made. He concluded that there were sufficient "positives" on which to find that she was, with support, capable of meeting the children's needs.
In reaching that conclusion, he analysed the potential consequences for the children of them remaining with the mother and of their being placed in foster care, considering the effect of a foster placement on the seven-year-old’s attachment disorder and the strong bond between the children.
The Court of Appeal upheld the decision. It held that it was not difficult to see why the judge decided that it was in the children's best interests to remain with their mother.
He had also considered the local authority's evidence and was entitled to conclude that it had given insufficient consideration to the likely harm to the children if the proposed care plans were endorsed.
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Case Citations:  EWCA Civ 2265, RE B (CHILDREN) (2019), CA (Civ Div) (Underhill LJ, Moylan LJ, Dingemans LJ)
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