Grandchild with special needs removed from grandparents care

Under the UK law grandparents do not have any rights over their grandchildren. However family courts do recognise the invaluable role that grandparents have to play in their grandchildren’s lives and the court can assist in gaining access to grandchildren via a contact order for grandparents.

Often grandparents may choose to act as guardians of their grandchildren through special guardianship orders. These are legal orders under the Children Act 1989. Special guardianship orders are an order appointing an individual to be a child’s special guardian which allows them to look after the child and make decisions on their daily life.

Grandparents have special guardianship over their grandchild

We consider a recent case of A (removal from special guardians) (2017).

This case concerns a girl who was aged 11 years old who was placed in the care of her maternal grandparents who were awarded a special guardianship order.

The parents were unable to care for her safely and her grandparents provided a loving home for her. In February 2017 the grandchild was placed in a specialised residential placement while foster parents who can meet her needs are identified.

The grandchild has a range of particular medical needs, with a degree of learning difficulty and her functioning is very effected by a genetic and life limiting illness she was born with and inherited from her family. As a result, she has had care and support from health and social care services and support required for a child with disabilities throughout her life.

Local services remove grandchild from grandparents care

The case was brought by the local council as they considered the grandchild was at risk of harm while in the grandparents care. The grandparents disputed this and wanted their grandchild to return home to them.

The guardian reported the child as having complex health needs, fully dependent on carers and “delightfully engaging, appealing and rewarding young woman…well-liked by adults and children due to her sunny disposition, sense of humour and friendly bubbly caring nature.”

The court decided that the social services have to assert and prove that while in the care of her special guardians she was at risk of or experiencing significant harm as a result of their parenting.

The courts noted that the grandparents legal battle led to a confrontational and difficult relationship with a range of professionals. They would say professionals have wrongly judged them and failed to provide the full legal support to which the child and themselves as carers are entitled, leading to stress and strains inevitably.

The grandchild’s guardian reported both grandparents have become physically and emotionally overwhelmed by the task of caring their grandchild. They themselves agree their health is not as good as it was, and the disputes and litigation have affected them. The social workers initial statement said, “the local authority believe that the restrictions that their emotional health appears to place on their parenting capacity, has placed the grandchild at significant risk”.

Judges considerations when deciding on the matter

Amongst many considering the facts and evidence in this case the judge noted some of the key findings as:

  • It is self-evident that on the two occasions when Grandmother has pronounced the child is too much for her and requested accommodation the effects of this on the child would be harmful. Grandmother explained one occasion of this as in effect to make a point to social services which concerns me.
  • Observation of the extreme anger and stress that Grandmother expresses related to the care of the child I find must be emotionally harmful and despite advice has continued
  • In addition, the improvements needed to make the child’s life easier at home in terms of manoeuvring her wheelchair have not been completed as the grandparents have been unwilling to commit to staying in the accommodation they reside in now for a further five years causing harmful delays to meeting her needs and I am not satisfied they would or could agree to the changes needed. I cannot accept this is as a result of failures by professionals to complete the necessary assessments.

Judge decides not to return the grandchild to the grandparents

The judge considered whether the grandparents are now in a position to work with professionals and follow professional advice and commit to the long term adjustments to enable their home to be adapted or a new suitable one found for them.

The judge however decided that they cannot accept the grandparents could do so. They “do not feel a new social worker would make the difference needed given that everyone else is finding similar problems, and to repeat my earlier assessment do think the task of care has now become one that is just too much.”

It was concluded that the child’s welfare demands that social services share parental responsibility with her parents, the parental responsibility of Grandparents having been extinguished once the interim care order was made, and that social services should determine where she lives.

This decision was made due to the risk of further physical and emotional harm. The judge believed the capacity of Grandparents to care for their grandchild has become limited.

In approving the social services views the judge stated “the child will also be able to enjoy relationships with her wider family. Her grandparents will remain most important to her and I hope they can remain as committed to her in care as they have been throughout her life”.

Arrange an initial consultation today with our child law specialist for legal advice

If you have a special guardianship or want to secure advice about whether one should continue consult our child lawyers today for a FREE consultation on 0330 094 5880 or let us call you back.

With family lawyers in York and across the country you can be sure that we have the national reach to provide legal advice within local reach.

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