Courts Removes Child from Parent with learning difficulties

It is quite unfortunate when a child is removed from a parent. This is often the case when the Local Authority makes an application for a care order. A court can remove child from parent where it is satisfied that:

  • The child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm,
  • The harm or likelihood of harm relates to the care given to the child or the likely care to be provided and
  • The child is beyond parental control.

The courts can therefore remove a child from parent where there is a concern regarding the safety and welfare of a child. This also covers situations where a parent may not be able to adequately maintain a child either due to their mental or physical difficulties and also covers situations where a child will not have suitable accommodation.

Courts remove child from parents with learning difficulties

It can often be difficult for one parent to separate from their child. However, what can be more difficult is if the courts remove child from parents and orders a child is to be adopted despite both parents being together.

This is exactly what happened in the case of Lancashire County Council v C (2017). This case concerned the local authority’s application for care and placement orders for a baby. The background to this case was that the child was six weeks old when he was taken to hospital and was found to have two fractures to the arm and a fractured skull. The baby lived at home with his mother, his father and the maternal grandparents.

The issues before the court are the cause of the injuries and the future safe arrangements for the child. The local authority holds the baby’s family at blame for the injuries and argue that it is necessary for the child to be placed for adoption and remove child from parents. The children’s guardian supports this argument. The family attribute the injuries to hospital doctors or hospital treatment and seek the return of the child to their home.

Local authority must prove their allegations on the balance of probabilities

The judge stated from the outset that the burden of proof is on the local authority. The local authority must prove their allegations on the balance of probabilities and proof must be based on evidence and proper inferences from evidence. The parents need not explain anything. It must not be based on suspicion or speculation.

The judge made it clear that it was their task to consider all the evidence and to consider each piece in the context of all the other evidence. The judge also confirmed that this approach is also applicable to the medical evidence and they will make a final decision after considering the medical evidence alongside all the other evidence.

Judge to examine the credibility and reliability of the parents and the grandparents

The made it clear that the evidence of the parents and grandparents is of utmost importance and their task is to assess their credibility and reliability. According to the judge “experience indicates that it is common for witnesses to lie in circumstances like this, not just in the investigation process but during the hearing itself. I reflect that a witness might lie for many reasons including shame or loyalty or fear. The fact that they lie about one thing does not mean that they have lied about everything and certainly does not necessarily mean that they are responsible for injuring the child”.

The judge made it clear that fractures need force. It is therefore important to find out where the force came from given that the baby in the case was immobile, therefore the court should identify the person or persons who are responsible. “In the circumstances the court must identify all those of whom it can be said that there is a real possibility that they are a perpetrator”.

Courts consider the parents disabilities

The judge noted the father has a learning disability with traits of autism. The consequence is that he has difficulty understanding. The mother is described as in the low average range of ability, which places her rather higher than the father. However, she has a problem understanding verbal communication which is linked to her autistic spectrum condition. In the past she has had treatment for ADHD. As a result of this both parents struggled to follow the court proceedings. The judge has acted on professional advise as to how to assist both parents with best contributing to the hearing.

In considering the credibility and reliability of the grandparents the court noted that they have cared for many children and they have a good C.V. in relation childcare. There is nothing in the busy home or background of the grandparents that suggest the baby should live elsewhere. However, the grandparents have taken a negative approach to professionals since an older child suffered sexual abuse in the community and they felt they did not receive the professionals help which they needed.

Judge concludes the baby’s injuries were caused by the family

Having considered all of the medical evidence the judge reached the conclusion that the fractured skull occurred when the baby was accidentally dropped by one of the four carers (the mother, the father or the grandparents). The person responsible for this knew but concealed what they had done and didn’t seek treatment. The two fractures to the arm were inflicted but the mother or the father in frustration in a momentary loss of control. The family did seek appropriate treatment, but the mother and father concealed the real cause.

The grandparents must have suspected and come to know of the true cause however they have diverted the blame from those responsible. “The family have put forward a manifestly untenable explanation for these injuries, seeking the return of the child to the home and they have thereby failed to protect him from the risk of repetition.”

In considering whether the baby should remain with the grandparents the judge noted “I do not accept that the grandparents can be trusted to keep the parents at arm’s length and to supervise contact. They do not believe that the parents have or are capable of injuring the child. The grandfather in a moment of insight confessed that, whatever the findings of the court, he would always believe that the doctors were to blame, and that responsibility did not lie in the family”.

The judge therefore stated that he believes this an exceptional case in which the welfare of the child dictates that they remove child from parents. Nothing but adoption will do. The judge also believed direct contact should be substituted with indirect contact which also extends to the grandparents.

What to do if a child has been removed from a parent?

If you are a parent whose child has been removed from your care, you can consider make an application to discharge the existing care order in place. In order to do so you must satisfy the family court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. You can show this by proving to the courts that you are now able to adequately and safely maintain your child. This could be by proving you have addressed your alcohol or drug misuse issues or you are now able to provide a more suitable accommodation for your child if it was for these reasons that the court removed your child from your care. You could also consider participating in parenting courses which would be beneficial in showing that you are engaging with the relevant professions to resolve any issues.

Importance of getting legal advice before a child is removed from a parent

If you feel there may be concerns regarding your ability to care for your children, you should seek legal advice from the outset. Quite often family advisors maybe able to assist you with trying to obtain the help and support you need to try and avoid your child being taken away from you. Family lawyers can also assist you in communicating with the Local Authorities and the court to try and ascertain the reasons for removing your child and challenge these. If your child has already been removed from our care then contact our family specialists who can advise you on how you can look to resolve your issues and attempt to obtain your child into your care.

Should you have any questions or concerns in relation to any child matter you can contact our offices to arrange a free initial consultation. Contact our family lawyers in Fulham or nationally today on 0330 094 5880 or let us call you back.

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