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Adoption Only Justified If Nothing Else Will Do

Adoption of children outside their natural families is always a last resort and will only be permitted if nothing else will do. The Court of Appeal made that point in coming to the aid of a couple whose son was taken from their care when he was just two days old.

Social workers removed the boy due, amongst other things, to concerns about the family's chaotic lifestyle, his parents' over-chastisement of their older children and his mother's mental health difficulties. After the couple admitted offences of child cruelty and neglect, a judge ordered the boy's placement with prospective adopters. The couple were refused permission to oppose the making of that order.

In upholding an appeal against the latter decision brought by the boy's guardian with the parents' support, the Court noted that, after her son's removal, the mother had completed a course of cognitive behavioural therapy which greatly improved her mental health. The couple had also undertaken a good parenting course and all professionals involved in the case had been impressed by the warmth of the family relationships and the transformation of the couple's attitudes. Their three older children, who had also been removed, had been returned to their care.

The Court acknowledged that the boy, who was aged almost three by the time the appeal was heard, had not seen his parents for well over a year and had been living with his prospective adopters for a similar period. However, the mere passage of time was not decisive, and the evidence indicated a significant change in the parents' circumstances. The Court directed a further, urgent, hearing of the case at which the parents would be permitted to oppose the making of a final adoption order.

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