Keeping Families Together – Parents Don’t Have to Be Perfect!

There is no such thing as a perfect parent and the law presumes that it is best to keep families together, unless there is firm evidence that children are coming to significant harm. A family judge made that point in refusing to open the way for adoption or long-term fostering of four children.

The older children had been on and off the child protection register for some years and matters reached a head when a social worker observed bruising on the face of the youngest, a toddler. Emergency protection orders were made, police intervened and the children were removed from their parents’ care. In seeking full care orders in respect of all four children, the local authority proposed that the two youngest should be adopted and their siblings placed in long-term foster care.

Social workers argued that the children had been neglected by their parents and exposed to risk of injury due to their mother’s inability to control her temper. One of them had sent a text message to a friend, claiming that his mother had tried to stab him with a knife. It was also alleged that the family home was dirty and unhygienic and that the older children had been described as grubby at school.

In ruling on the matter, the judge noted that placing children for adoption can only be justified where nothing else will do. The mother was a truthful witness and, whilst accepting that she had difficulty controlling her temper, she had given a credible explanation for the toddler’s bruises. After considering all the allegations in the round, the judge was not satisfied that the children had suffered significant harm, or were at risk of doing so, in their parents’ care. The threshold criteria for making care orders had not been met and the local authority’s application was dismissed.