The Local Authority sought approval for a care plan for a child, X, aged less than 2 years, for a permanent placement outside of the birth family i.e. adoption. The mother, M, sought reunification with X on a staged basis or alternatively for a residential placement with a view to reunification thereafter. The father, F, was not involved with X and supported the adoption plan.
M had a series of long-standing health issues, but the key condition for this case started in 2007. Despite being told repeatedly that she had Addison’s disease, M never received a formal diagnosis. Further tests were carried out in 2021 which shows that M does not, nor ever had, Addison’s disease.
The court accepted that M genuinely believed she had the condition. One of the consequences of that was that M presented with the disease’s symptoms over many years and that there was no other explanation for such symptoms. The judge held that these were in part genuine and in other parts exaggerated.
In terms of the childcare question, M had already faced proceedings in respect of her five older children, all of whom were either in foster care, had been adopted, or were cared for by another relative. The judge said that M would have to show that she had changed since those previous orders, and that these past decisions would inform his judgement.
The judge looked at M’s life since those orders and described various chaotic scenarios. However, the court also found that M had made some genuine attempt to change. This had been reflected in the some of the social workers’ reports on M, saying that in 2019, M ‘acknowledged past mistakes’ and that the young age at which she had become a mother was a factor, as was her history of abusive relationships.
The initial relationship between X and M was found to have times of ‘warm interactions’, but that M required advice about ‘basic care elements such as feeding, playing and sleeping’. While M was ‘receptive’ to advice, she was ‘unable to implement’ it, in part due to a ‘deep-rooted’ anxiety disorder.
Eventually M was found the have returned to previous patterns of behaviour, again repeating to medical services that she had Addison’s and suffering from mental health crisis episodes. The local authority therefore ultimately proposed that X be adopted.
The judge held that although M’s love for X was ‘palpable’, her ‘insight into the consequences of her behaviour were skin-deep’, and she was not able to articulate the effect of her actions on her children.
The overall assessment was that M had fabricated ill health in both herself and two of her other children. She had failed to meet her children’s basic needs, been uncooperative with professionals and had failed to protect them from violence carried out by her former partner.
Overall, the threshold test was met that X was likely to suffer significant harm, and that the harm would be attributable to the care likely to be given to her by M. Adoption was therefore the required outcome for the child.
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