Through no fault of their own, some parents are simply incapable of providing the care and stability that all children need whilst growing up. As one case recently reviewed by Michelle Whitaker showed, however, the approach of family judges is not to condemn but to seek solutions that enable children to continue living in the bosom of their families.
The case concerned two children, aged four and five, whose mother suffered mental health difficulties, in part due to her own unhappy childhood. Unable to cope, she tended to smack and shout at them. They suffered bumps and bruises because she did not keep a proper eye on them. The state of the family home was very poor and the children were sometimes dirty and not dressed properly.
After social workers intervened, the mother sensibly recognised how bad things had become and accepted that she could not be the children’s primary carer. They went to live with their aunt and uncle, who provided them with a wonderful home. The local authority applied to the Family Court for special guardianship orders which would regularise that arrangement.
In ruling on the matter, the Court’s primary consideration was the children’s welfare. They were entitled to respect for their private and family lives and, although it was obvious that they could not return to live with their mother, their aunt and uncle had transformed their own lives in order to provide them with a stable home, within their natural family, where they were thriving.
Granting the orders sought, the Court noted that the couple had encouraged regular contact between the children and their mother, who undoubtedly loved them and was doing her best to conquer her difficulties. Close contact between them and their older sibling, who was living with another family member, had also been maintained.
The special guardianship orders meant that the children would, throughout their childhood, remain settled with the aunt and uncle, who would have overriding parental responsibility for them.
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