Category Archives: Care Proceedings & Adoption

President of the Family Division’s Anger at Legal Aid Cuts

The President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, was faced with a case where the parents wanted to oppose the removal of their child from their care and place him for adoption.  In circumstances like this, care proceedings would be issued and funding available for the parents, however, this is a case where care proceedings were concluded in November 2012.  When the care order was made there were concerns about the child remaining with his parents as both had learning difficulties, however, following an intense assessment and package of support the local authority’s plan was for the child to remain in his parents care with further assessments carried out in relation to the extended family.

One aspect of a final care order is that it gives the local authority parental responsibility for the child, alongside his parents, however, if they had concerns about the care the child was receiving from his parents then they had the power to remove him from his parents care.  Unfortunately in March 2014 the local authority had concerns and therefore gave the parents one month’s notice of their intention to remove the child from their care.

In these circumstances there is no automatic right to funding.   The parents need to provide details of their income to see if the are eligible for funding.  In this case the parents were £34.64 over the threshold set by the Legal Aid Agency.

This is the issue that the President had; proceedings had been brought by the local authority to separate the parents from their child, as they were not care proceedings the parents were not eligible for funding automatically and their income was too high for them to qualify for legal aid.  The parents had the option to pay for a solicitor privately but their limited income made this impossible.  The local authority had funding in place to instruct a solicitor and the child was granted funding automatically as well as he has no income.

In his judgment the President stated;

“What I have to grapple with is the profoundly disturbing fact that the parents do not qualify for legal aid but lack the financial resources to pay for legal representation in circumstances where, to speak plainly, it is unthinkable that they should have to face the local authority’s application without proper representation…..In these circumstances it is unthinkable that the parents should have to face the local authority’s application without proper representation. To require them to do so would be unconscionable; it would be unjust; it would involve a breach of their rights under Articles 6 and 8 of the [European convention on human rights]; it would be a denial of justice. The child is also entitled to a fair trial…..Thus far the state has simply washed its hands of the problem, leaving the solution to the problem which the state itself has created – for the state has brought the proceedings but declined all responsibility for ensuring that the parents are able to participate effectively in the proceedings it has brought – to the goodwill, the charity, of the legal profession.  This is, it might be thought, both unprincipled and unconscionable. Why should the state leave it to private individuals to ensure that the state is not in breach of [its] obligations under the convention? As Baker J said in the passage I have already quoted, “It is unfair that legal representation in these vital cases is only available if the lawyers agree to work for nothing.”

Samantha Sanders, a lawyer at the Adoption Legal Centre, commented

“This is unfortunately something we are seeing on a daily basis; clients who require our help and support to enable their families to stay together, yet without the support of legal aid they are unable to fund it themselves.  More and more solicitors are doing the work on a pro bono basis with no guarantee that funding will ever be made available.

New guidelines were brought in so that a decision is made as soon as possible for a child, yet if funding is not available for the parents to challenge the decisions made in relation to their child, it does questions the validity of the decisions made by the court and whether they are compatible with Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and 8 (right to a family life) of the Human Rights Act.  I believe that this is an issue we will be seeing more and more as time goes on.”

The judgement of the President, Sir James Munby, in this case can be found here.

The team at the Adoption Legal Centre are specialists in advising both adopters and potential adopters. We can help when adopters are facing challenging problems. If you require legal advice, please contact us on 01484 538421 or via e-mail.

Daily Free Advice Line Opens Adoption Advice

This year’s National Adoption Week is focusing on siblings.

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall and senior legal advisor with Adoption Legal Centre said: “I am one of four children – so is my wife! We have three children of our own!

Those of us lucky enough to have brothers and sisters know how special the relationship between siblings can be.

For many brothers and sisters, the mutual support they give each other and their shared histories are real gifts that help them during their journey through life. Adopted children have usually had a tough start in life. It is even more important for them to experience the stability and support that being with their brothers and sisters can bring.

All the statistics show that sadly, sibling groups are amongst the children who wait longest to be adopted. There aren’t enough adopters who are able to give these children a loving, secure and permanent home together. Brothers and sisters are having to wait longer for a family or may even have to be split up and adopted separately.

Being placed with their siblings may not always be the best option for every child, but it is a tragedy if the shortage of adopters willing and able to adopt siblings when it is in their best interest is the only reason why brothers and sisters cannot stay together. Sometimes people just need to know what support they are entitled to if they go ahead.

At the Adoption Legal Centre we understand the challenges that may face adopters considering taking on a sibling group. If prospective adopters need some free advice to reassure them –  in National Adoption Week they can get it. All week 3rd – 7th between 12.00 and 1.00pm our phones will be manned.

We are happy to advise anyone who needs advice on any adoption issue. We will signpost where to get support and if we can’t give an answer immediately we’ll come back to those who need advice. This might be adopters facing the challenges of caring for sibling groups. It could be prospective adopters who need advice on the responsibilities of Local Authorities to provide support.

Simply call 01484 538421 and ask to speak to a member of the Adoption Legal Centre team.

Adoption Numbers Show Rise to Record High

The Department of Education has recently announced a record number of children adopted in 2013/14.

Full details can be found in this BBC news article.

Nigel Priestley, specialist solicitor at Ridley & Hall and the Adoption Legal Centre commented,

“It‘s good news that adoption levels are at an all time high, meaning the children are getting the care and attention they so desperately need. However, there is clearly more work that needs to be done by the government to ensure that children over 4 years are also receiving this care. The key increase in adoptions has been in the 1-4 years age bracket.

“The Government must also make sure that more specialist support is available for adopters. The increase in adoptions will almost certainly lead to increased demand for support.”

The team at the Ridley & Hall’s Adoption Legal Centre are specialists in advising both adopters and potential adopters. We can help when adopters are facing challenging problems. We advise about what they need to do and what steps they should take to obtain support and advice when they face difficult problems.

For more advice with regard to any adoption issues, please contact us on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.

Battling Immingham Grandparent’s High Court Win – North East Lincolnshire Ordered to Pay £43,000

Immingham grandparents have won a legal challenge against North East Lincolnshire Council. The fight was over the failure of social services to provide  financial support after they took on the care of their grandchild.

In 2008, Mr and Mrs G were asked to care for their grandson by North East Lincolnshire social services. Social services had been involved with the child for 2 years but repeatedly failed to step in to protect him.

Their grandson was just 4 years old at the time. Social services asked Mr and Mrs G to look after the child for 3 months. They then transported him to their house. Three months passed. Social services again asked them to look after the child for a few more weeks.

Around four months after social services had placed the boy with Mr and Mrs G, the social worker asked them to obtain a residence order. They never told Mr and Mrs G that they would be entitled to apply for residence allowance.

Five years passed before the council were challenged to face up to their responsibilities.

It was not until they went to see specialist kinship care solicitors, Ridley & Hall in Huddersfield, that they discovered that they were entitled to be paid residence allowance.

Commenting, Rebecca Chapman, a specialist solicitor at Ridley & Hall said:

“The council had more than enough grounds to start care proceedings. They saved themselves a fortune placing the child with my clients. Care proceedings are costly and paying foster carers gets very expensive.

“My clients asked the council to conduct a residence order allowance assessment but the local authority did not respond to their request.

“Mr and Mrs G then instructed me and the council stated that Mr and Mrs G were not eligible for an allowance.

“The local authority were asked to review the assessment but never responded. High Court proceedings were issued. The council did not provide a response to the proceedings.

“The High Court in Leeds has today ordered North East Lincolnshire to make a back payment of £43,000 and to pay Mr and Mrs G a weekly allowance.”

Mrs G said, “This is all my birthdays and Christmases on one day! It’s a fantastic result. We couldn’t have done it without Ridley & Hall.

“Like many grandparents we stepped in when the council asked us to help out. When the social services then asked us to get a court order we did as we were told. The council never told us that we should have been paid an allowance.

“My husband is 69. He’s long retired. We are pensioners. We had not planned to take on the care of a child in his retirement and have spent our savings on looking after my grandson. At times we’ve found it difficult to meet the financial demands of raising a child at this time in our lives.

“Add to that, the fact that unfortunately our grandson had some serious behavioural difficulties, and I can truthfully say it’s been a challenging time.

“We were struggling to cope with our grandson’s behaviour. The local authority had failed him and then they just left us to it.  Our lives have been made more difficult with the council’s lack of action.  It’s vital that grandparent carers like us get specialist legal advice.

“The council totally failed to fulfil their duties both to us and our grandson.”

Rebecca Chapman said “It’s disappointing for Mr and Mrs G that they had to go to the High Court to compel the local authority to do what they are already supposed to do. The local authority failed this child.

“There was a bizarre lack of response from the local authority in relation this claim. Nobody from social services even attended the hearing. As a result of the council burying their heads in the sand, the judge has ordered North East Lincolnshire to pay my clients’ costs. It’s the hard pressed council taxpayers who have ended up with a large bill of legal costs.”

If you would like any more information about this or any other kinship care issue, please call Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421 and ask to speak to Rebecca Chapman.

Manchester Grandmother Receives Out of Court Settlement for Support

A 63 year old grandmother has received £4,400 from Manchester City Council in an out of court settlement in a battle to get support for her grandchildren.

In 2007 the grandmother took on the care of her two grandchildren, who were at the time aged 8 and 10, to avoid them having to go into foster care.  She has continued to care for the children for the last 7 years.

The grandmother had applied for and been granted a residence order in respect of the children. She was challenging the council as they were not providing her with any financial support to help her to meet the children’s care needs.

The grandmother commented, “Things came to ahead in January 2007. The social worker was at the hospital with the children whilst they were being checked over for signs of physical abuse. The social worker contacted the children’s father. She attended the hospital. The social worker rang me and asked me to care for the children. It was made clear if I did not take the children they would go into foster care. The social worker took all three of my daughter’s children to my home.

There was a further meeting on the 20th January 2007. The social worker directed what would happen with the children – one would go and live with a relative, my granddaughter would stay with me and the other granddaughter would go back to live with her father. She only lived with her father for approximately four or five days before she was brought to me and left in my care. I contacted social services about this and was advised to keep her with me.

Social services directed what would happen with the children but I was not given any financial assistance and was just left to get on with it. Taking on three children was a massive commitment and I was left struggling financially. I only became aware that there was something that could be done to help with my situation after speaking with friends who had been in a similar situation. They urged me to seek specialist advice.”

The grandmother contacted Ridley & Hall. They corresponded with Manchester City Council which led to a lump sum offer being made by the council.

The grandmother commented, “It has been a year long battle. I didn’t know my rights and Social Services never told me about their duty to pay a residence allowance. I am delighted with the pay out. My grandchildren can now participate in activities and socialise like other children their age. I can now afford to send my granddaughter on her school trip.”

Ms Ling of Ridley & Hall said, “All the children were “looked after” as the social worker had accommodated them with my client which triggered section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The agreement my client made with social services that two of the children would be accommodated with our client was as an alternative to the children being taken into foster care with strangers. My client subsequently applied for a residence order.  We firmly take the view that a residence order allowance should be paid in these circumstances.

I am very pleased with the outcome. Like many family and friends carers who suddenly find themselves in this position, this grandmother found herself in difficulty due to the lack of support from the council.  It is important people get the right advice when they need it.”

One local authority has today reported that in their area the council’s social services department have taken 12% more children into care this year and are looking desperately for more foster carers.  Their fostering department is already “overwhelmed and underfunded”.  There are now 855 children in care up from 765 at the same time last year.

Local authorities are increasingly relying on family and friends carers to fill the gap by the shortage of foster carers. Fostering Network reports that nationally there is a shortage of over 7,500 foster carers.

Ms Ling commented, “In these circumstances, local authorities should value kinship carers and pay them appropriately.”

For more information contact Tracey Ling on 01484 538421.

“Stalinist” Response to Groundbreaking Report Which Challenges Government Approach to Adoption

On Wednesday 9th April 2014, the Department for Education launches a groundbreaking report on adoption. The University of Bristol was commissioned to report on adoption breakdown. The report’s title is now “Beyond Adoption: challenges, intervention and adoption disruption”.

(See also University of Bristol website: Report reveals adoption breakdown rate and the experiences of adoptive families in crisis)

Commenting on the report and the events surrounding its launch, Nigel Priestley, who was a member of the DfE advisory group on adoption breakdown, commented:

“The report confirms that adoption can work – but for many adopters, better support is needed. This is groundbreaking research. It identifies:

  • When adoptive placements do break down, the consequences are severe.
  • The difficulties and stresses that lead to disruption are often known and experienced by the family over many years.
  • The long term consequences of early abuse and neglect can have a profound impact on the young person and their adoptive family. This is compounded where support is patchy, poorly coordinated and ineffective.
  • There needs to be an urgent investigation to establish a more robust framework for multi-agency coordination and cooperation building on the current developments in improving adoption support.  This must include local authorities, health, education and the voluntary sector.  These have resourcing implications.
  • The urgency in ensuring that adopters and children are not left alone when they encounter the kinds of difficulties so clearly identified.
  • The importance of prospective adopters receiving full information on the child being placed with them.
  • The Report contains graphic interviews with adopters who have faced significant challenges as they have tried to parent the children whom they have adopted.”

Mr Priestley went on, “The stories told by both the adopters and the children who have been adopted ring true in my own experience. I have represented many adopters who have faced colossal challenges with the children they have adopted .They include chief executives of major local authorities, church ministers, a member of a fostering and adoption team, a consultant paediatrician, and a former deputy head teacher. All were committed parents.

“They all thought they were realistic about adoption but found they were facing insurmountable problems. For example one had to sleep on the landing to stop one child he and his wife had adopted from going into his sister’s bedroom for sex. Both children were aged under 8 years old. Many of the children had a significant attachment disorder.

“Adopters need to be told the truth about the children placed with them. It is critical that as the Report recommends there is coordinated and properly resourced support for adopters.”

Response of Department for Education – don’t engage with the Press!

The Report was due to launched on 20th March 2014 at a British Association for Adoption and Fostering Conference.

Nigel Priestley said “I have been pressing the DfE for a launch date. I understand that at the BAAF conference the DfE imposed strict conditions on the presentation from University of Bristol.

Pressed further about a launch date, the DfE have now sent out the following e-mail to members of the advisory group: “I thought you would find it helpful to know that the Adoption Disruption Report is scheduled for publication next Wednesday 9th April. We would be grateful if you could avoid engagement with the press about this report.  If members of the press do contact you please can you inform Anna Rutter in our Press Office?”

“I am puzzled by what appears to be an almost Stalinist approach to news management simply because DfE appears to think that its findings do not fit the government’s own agenda.”

Some of its conclusions help the government’s strong support for adoption. The report confirms:

  • Disruptions in adoption placements, where the child returns to care after being legally adopted, have been subject to significant speculation over many years.   The rate is much lower than expected.
  • The research supports the widely held view that adoptive placements provide children with stable, secure loving homes when they cannot live with their birth parents.  The UK has established a system for ensuring children severely at risk can be placed into adoptive homes when local authorities and the courts agree. This research identifies that this continues to be the right policy.

The DfE appears to be concerned about how the report’s conclusions are received. The Children and Families Act 2014 which strongly promotes adoption has received royal assent.

The report has come at a difficult time for the government:

  1. Adoption is under scrutiny in the courts. The Court of Appeal’s decision in Re: B-S (Children) [2013] EWCA Civ. 813 emphasises that the severance of family ties inherent in an adoption without parental consent is an extremely draconian step and one that requires the highest level of evidence. This decision has had a significant impact on courts throughout the country.
  2. The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) is not fit for purpose. In light of the concerns which have been expressed by the Chief Medical Officer and others about both the extent to which children and adolescents are affected by mental health problems and difficulties with gaining access to appropriate treatment, the Health Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into children’s and adolescent mental health and CAMHS. Support from CAMHS is vital for many adoptive families.
  3. Government cuts have had a significant impact on early intervention family support workers who would be the first line of support for beleaguered families.

Nigel Priestley is Senior Partner at Ridley & Hall Solicitors and an advisor with the Adoption Legal Centre. For further information please contact the Adoption Legal Centre via phone on 01484 538421 or via e-mail.

Adoption Activity Days – a Solution for an Adoption Crisis?

Following a recent Channel 4 documentary about adoption and in particular ‘Adoption Activity Days’, there has been a lot of media coverage about this highly controversial concept which brings prospective adopters and children together in order to try and help them find their ‘forever family’.

Children awaiting adoption, along with their foster carers and social workers attend the activity days where prospective adopters are encouraged to view, talk to and play with the children.

Finding Mum and Dad followed the story of Connor and Daniel aged 4 and 6 who, due to a difficult start in life, were living with foster carers awaiting adoption. Connor and Daniel were neglected by their birth family so much so that Daniel could not speak at three years old; both had significant nightmares and were developmentally delayed.

Adoption Activity Days are an American concept which have been successful for decades with statistics showing that they are twice as effective as other ways of family finding. In the late 1970s/early 1980s activity days were popular however, quickly went out of fashion. In December 2012, the Department of Education announced that adoption activity days would be part of the government’s adoption reform agenda.

In the most part, the children who attend at the activity days are the ones who are considered hard to place and who, for one reason or another, have not been successfully placed with their forever family through various alternative and more traditional methods.

Critics fear that these already vulnerable children may face more rejection with some seeing these days as much like a cattle market for children. Despite their documented success, the question remains as to whether this is a solution to an adoption crisis with more than 4,000 children in the UK waiting to be adopted.

However, despite the criticism there is clear proof that these activity days are successful. Out of the 251 children who attended the pilot scheme activity days, 42 were subsequently adopted and British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have at least 8 more dates set for Feb and March across the country.

Bournemouth Council held their first adoption activity day a few weeks ago and two out of the six children there now have a new adoptive family.

The outcome for Connor and Daniel however may not be as bright. Both boys remained unplaced at the conclusion of the programme and it looks likely that they will remain in long term fostercare rather than be adopted.

Whatever your opinion on adoption activity days, media coverage for adoption can only be a good thing. Debate is being sparked and there is news of many local authorities being committed to finding a solution to the adoption crisis one way or another, whether that be by endorsing the activity days or by finding other methods. For example, Durham County Council and Birmingham City Council are amongst a number of local authorities to launch a television advertising campaign to encourage more people to adopt. It was in the news last week that Bradford Metropolitan District Council is to receive £600,000 to improve their adoption services and Southwark Council has launched their adoption campaign ‘Find 40 Families’ which has already achieved a rise in adoption rates alongside a 150% increase in visits to the town hall’s adoption website.

However successful these methods are, the bottom line is that the children who go to the activity days are the ones who have been hard to place. Finding an adoptive family for these children is great but there needs to be a greater emphasis on the support needed in order to prevent these adoptions breaking down. Placements at greater risk of breakdown are older children and research indicates that these families will need skilled ongoing support in the future.

At Ridley & Hall we have a specialist team who can help with all types of adoption matters including; adoption applications, support and breakdown. Call to speak to an adviser on 01484 538421.

Adopted Children Missing Out on Mental Health Treatments

Common disorders, such as ADHD or conduct disorder, are being ‘grossly under-identified’ amongst adopted and fostered children, according to a new study by King’s College London. Instead, clinicians are over-identifying more complex ‘attachment disorders’, and as a result children are missing out on appropriate treatments.

The findings are published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

It was reported last week that adopted children are being misdiagnosed with a more complex diagnosis than what they actually have.  Attachment problems were mentioned in 31% of the referrals. Upon clinical assessment, only one child was identified as having potential attachment symptoms but this was for a child in the 69% not initially identified with attachment problems.

Only 4% of referrals identified conduct disorder but rates of conduct disorder were approximately 10 times higher in the national data. In the clinical assessment, common disorders were diagnosed much more frequently than attachment disorders, with conduct disorders diagnosed 13 times more frequently than attachment disorders.

Dr Matt Woolgar, lead author of the paper from the National Academy of Parenting Research at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, and consultant clinical psychologist at the National Adoption and Fostering Service at SLaM, says:

“There is real confusion around the term ‘attachment disorder’. Clinicians appear to be using this diagnosis to try and capture the complex mental health problems that adopted or fostered children often have. It seems that clinicians may be making the diagnosis based more on the assumptions due to the child’s history, rather than because of specific symptoms. In doing so, the danger is that they are blinded to some of the more straightforward diagnoses, like ADHD, or conduct disorders, for which there are good, evidence-based treatments. As a result, children are missing out on the treatments they need.”

Samantha Sanders, a child care and adoption solicitor at Ridley & Hall commented:

“Whilst it is great to hear that adopted children are getting the relevant medical help when a problem is identified, it is concerning to read that a lot of the children are being misdiagnosed with more complex issues than what they are actually suffering from.  Is this because the doctor is aware that the child is adopted and therefore thinks that the child is suffering from an attachment disorder given their background instead of it being a more common case of ADHD?

“It also brings into question whether the clinicians carrying out the assessment fully understand the term ‘attachment disorder’ in the first place.

“More emphasis needs to be put on the issues that adopted parents may face as their adopted child gets older. The professionals who deal with the children need to be fully aware of them to enable the parents to get the most appropriate support.”

Adoptive parents who consider that they need an assessment to enable them to better care for their often damaged children can contact the child care and adoption team at Ridley & Hall on 01484 538421.

Further articles can be found at

Medical Express

The full report can be found in the Journal “Child and Adolescent Mental Health”

How Much are Adopters told?

The tragic and challenging story of a couple’s experience of adoption was the subject of a report on Radio 5 Investigates with Adrian Goldberg on19th January.

Nigel Priestley, Senior Partner with Ridley & Hall and the Adoption Legal Centre told the programme that sadly the couple’s experience was not unique. They had been told that the child placed with them had no specific problems and simply needed to be brought up in a loving stable family home.

They quickly found that this was not the case. The programme highlighted the problem that in some cases social workers were minimising the child’s problems in order to make finding a placement easier.

In a recent case, a judge had tried to impose conditions on a local authority after she concluded that the social worker could not be trusted to tell prospective adopters the truth about how the child’s presenting.

Nigel Priestley was joined on the programme by Hugh Thornberry of Adoption UK. Another prospective adopter told her story. She had been assured that a child to be placed with her had been genetically tested and told she had nothing to fear, despite serious genetic problems within the family. She then found that no testing had been done and the child may have a serious life threatening condition. She pulled out of the proposed adoption.

Commenting, Mr Priestley said, “There is enormous pressure on local authorities from this government to get as many children placed with adoptive parents as possible. The new phenomenon of the Adoption Party for hard to place children adds to the risk that social workers may be tempted to minimise the problems that the children present.”

He added “The situation is made worse by the serious lack of skilled post-adoption support. Failure to give all the facts risks an adoption breaking down. This causes enormous damage to the child and the carers and has to be avoided at all costs.

Nigel Priestley is a Senior Partner of Ridley & Hall. He is a member of the Children’s Panel and regularly represents children and parents in care proceedings. For more information on the legal issues surrounding adoption, please contact us on 01484 538421 or visit the Adoption Legal Centre.


5 Live Investigations with Adrian Goldberg can be listened to by logging onto his web page on BBC 5 Live website. It is in the last 20 minutes of the programme.

Part of the prospective adopters story is set out below

How did what you had been told about him in the reports you’d seen compare to the reality of having him live with you?

In the early days of placement our child was very compliant, as many can be, although clearly scared of the world which was definitely not reflected in any reports we had been able to view. He played very repetitively and he had no speech. He was only able to make sounds, not vocalisations or speech. We can only assume that the sound he made in his previous setting, had been interpreted as words. A speech and language therapist would have definitely not said that our child had speech or vocalisation. The mental health of our child had not been mentioned in any reports and this was the area we most noticed as being immediately worrying. Over the first few weeks we also noticed episodes where our child would appear to ‘zone out’ and sleep became very erratic, waking 10-15 times a night. Our health visitor visited during the early weeks of placement. She expressed concerns about our child’s health and wellbeing. We advised her of the areas we were concerned about and she referred us to a community paediatrician, who then referred us on to the consultant paediatrician.

However, our child would not let any medical professional near him. No-one was able to do any sort of examination.  He could not even cope with being weighed and measured. He has tried to kick some doctors, and even now attending appointments is a two parent job – one has to support our child while the other talks with the doctor.

During early placement, we were advised by social services to parent our child normally and attend toddler groups. It was reported that he had been attending toddler groups with his previous foster carer.  However, doing this, caused him anxiety, stress and tantrums and my wife was unable to sooth him, because of attachment difficulties, as he did not trust her. The situation was spiralling out of control, with social services advising us to ‘push on through’, until 9 months later, our child experienced a break down with a child minder, who we were using, to prepare for my wife returning to her part-time job.

Fortunately the child minder wrote a very in depth report detailing what happened, and that is when social services suddenly began taking notice of our concerns. Whilst social services had thought our child was beginning to attach to us, it was actually a superficial attachment for at least the first 9 months. It is worth mentioning that our child had something like four or five social workers by the time he was placed with us, so it was hardly surprising that no-one really knew him, and we were given the wrong information to follow to parent him. We assumed that social services knew their children.  Unfortunately we have found this not to be true in our case. And our children can learn that adults are disposable, replaceable or unreliable.

It was very difficult for people to visit the house as our child would tantrum as soon as anyone came in, and continue tantruming. If we visited anywhere, our child would just run. Now we recognise it as a fear response and we have strategies in place to help us manage situations. People have now stopped visiting us and we only have very close family and friends coming now. We hope that in time, we will be able to participate in a more normal way of life, but for now, we are attending intensive therapy twice weekly with a view to increasing to three times weekly and keeping our world extremely small but manageable.

What sorts of issues did you encounter with him?

We have now had a diagnosis of global developmental delay with speech and language and social and emotional areas being described as complex / severe. Our child is four years of age but his emotional age is closer to two years and his speech is younger than that. We are also dealing with autistic traits, attachment and sensory problems, learning disability, sleep difficulties and mental health issues. With the autistic traits we are unsure at the moment, whether this is caused by his early attachment trauma or whether it will lead to a further diagnosis. Time will tell. Our child only began babbling 15 months into placement. Our life is extremely restricted.

We were told that there was a young healthy child who ate well, slept well, said a couple of words, babbled occasionally, had formed a positive attachment to its carer, with no known medical condition. The child had been removed from his birth family at a very young age. We were told that the child had slight delay which was likely to be caused by being in a placement with demanding siblings. Information regarding the child was ‘drip fed’ to us over a period of months.

Why were genetic tests then needed and what did you make of that?

During discussions regarding the child, we enquired as to the health of the siblings. There was a lot of confusion as to whether one of the siblings had been diagnosed with a condition or not, and trying to get this confirmed during the matching process was difficult. We obviously were concerned whether the condition may affect the child we were considering adopting. We were assured that our child did not have the condition and believed that our child would have been properly assessed prior to being matched and so we proceeded. The day came to attend panel to have the match approved, and for us to finally celebrate becoming a family. As we entered the building the social workers met us. We were taken into a side room where we were told that our child was now undergoing genetic testing.  We were asked whether we wished to still go ahead in front of the panel to approve the match with one social worker advising it would be ok to go ahead, and our social worker exercising caution, and advising that we should wait for the results. We were numb, confused and totally bewildered and after about 20 minutes, took the decision that we would wait for the results of the genetic tests, to see whether the match was still appropriate. We were devastated.

It was an extremely confusing time for us. Obviously, we had already emotionally committed ourselves to this child and so the thought that this may not be our child, was very difficult. We were solely reliant on the accuracy of information we were being told and this information was mixed and confusing. We had been to see the local authority’s medical advisor before, and the notes from that meeting were written up inaccurately, specifically missing out all information discussed regarding genetics, developmental delay and the medical condition. We reported this to our social worker. At this point in the process I would say we were feeling very vulnerable. The genetic tests came back negative and so the match was able to proceed.

Children of Domestic Abuse Victims at Risk

A report by the Family Rights Group has highlighted the need for mothers facing domestic violence to get urgent skilled legal advice.

Nigel Priestley, who is a Trustee of the Family Rights Group, commented, “All the evidence points to the emotional and psychological damage that children suffer when they see and hears their parents arguing and fighting. The FRG report now indicates they face the double threat not simply of being damaged by their carers but also the loss of family life. Women who find themselves being abused but who fear social services need to come and see one of our Family First team as a matter of urgency. It is vital that they get advice from a team that understands domestic violence and has lawyers who are highly experienced in care proceedings.”

“It is clear that a series of decisions by the government have a very negative impact on very vulnerable families.”

For more advice regarding domestic violence, please contact us on 01484 538421 or by e-mail.