Representing a young child

Michael acted for the young Child in a Local Authority’s application for a care order.

The Local Authority’s concerns related to drugs and alcohol use, neglect and domestic abuse between the parents, who had separated.

Initially the Mother and Child were placed with relatives, but an Interim Care Order was subsequently granted and they were placed together in a mother and child foster placement.

The Mother left the placement after a relatively short period and the Child remained with the foster carers who expressed a wish to care for the child long term and were positively assessed as Special Guardians.

The Father undertook an initial parenting assessment, which was negative. He then withdrew from the proceedings and took no further active part. He failed to give instructions and his legal aid was discharged.

The Mother sought the return of the Child to her care and cooperated fully with all assessments, regularly attending contact. Unfortunately the assessments of Mother were negative (mainly because of the timescales needed for her to address her own issues).

Both the LA and CG supported the making of an SGO in favour of the foster carers.

The foster carers were willing to agree very regular contact to ensure that the bond and relationship between the mother and child was maintained. Having built up a very good relationship with them, the Mother made the difficult decision not to consent nor oppose the LA’s application, and a Special Guardianship Order was made in their favour.

Two issues arose at the final hearing:

Firstly the extent to which the court needed to concern itself with threshold (or at least an agreed threshold document) when it was not being asked to make any public law order. This point only arose after the final hearing in the course of drafting and remains to be resolved.

Secondly the Foster Carers were unhappy about how their financial support package had been assessed. They confirmed their wish for a SGO and their commitment to the child and to the making of a final order and accepted the court’s view that their more appropriate remedy was to seek a judicial review if they remained unhappy with the LA’s assessment.