Sandria represented a Mother whose three children had been removed her care into foster care placements. Sandria’s client had pre-existing and continuing mental health difficulties, and the Local Authority had had great difficulty in dealing her, as had she was seemingly unable to understand their concerns, and very reluctant to engage in any meaningful way. Expert assessments of her mental health capacity were required, and she had previously unrecognised alcohol issues.
A Final Hearing was listed to decide placement of the children, and to establish whether adoption was the only possible outcome.
Sandria successfully made arrangements which allowed her client to give evidence as she wished to, with the cooperation of the circuit judge. This enabled the Final Hearing to be managed in a way that limited cross-examination and minimised distress to the Mother, whilst at the same time allowing her the opportunity to express her views.
By arranging for alcohol misuse assistance, and providing support to help her to take advantage of it, Sandria helped her client to understand that alcohol misuse was part of the problem, and that addressing it would help.
Sandria also arranged for a late viability assessment of a placement for the children with a close family member who had not been available at the beginning of the proceedings. Although this assessment was eventually negative, it did allow for the Mother to have an understanding of why such a placement was not suitable.
Although adoption was the only available option, there being no suitable family member available to care for the children, Sandria managed to get an agreement it should be considered as an open adoption, with the opportunity for the mother to have annual direct contact.
This case demonstrates the importance of Sandria’s ability to develop trusting client relationships and to work with the Court to ensure that her client was allowed to fully express her views. This relied on Sandria maintaining an open dialogue with the Judge and negotiating with other Counsel to ensure that the Mother was not disadvantaged nor overly distressed throughout the proceedings.