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Parents Matter But to Family Judges Children Always Come First

Family judges are often called upon to make intensely difficult decisions, but always have the welfare of children uppermost in their minds. In one case that was exactly on point, a judge expressed admiration for a troubled teenage mother – but ruled that her baby boy should be adopted outside his natural family.

The mother was aged 15, and thus herself a child, when she became pregnant by a boy who was only a little older than her. Both of them had had difficult childhoods characterised by substance abuse. Each of them had self-harmed and the mother had attempted to take her own life by drinking domestic bleach. Despite his youth, the father had an extensive criminal record, including offences of violence.

Social workers had recognised that the baby was at risk almost from the day of his birth and applied to the High Court for adoption and placement orders. The mother resisted the application on the basis that she was doing all that she could to turn her life around. The child’s maternal grandmother had beaten her addiction to heroin and also put herself forward as a potential carer for the child.

In ruling on the case, the judge commended the mother and the grandmother for the positive strides that they had made to reform their lifestyles and was in no doubt that the baby was greatly loved by them. However, much further work needed to be done and the judge found that the child could not wait so long for his future to be decided. The little boy was too young to articulate his wishes and feelings and the judge concluded that his welfare demanded adoption.