Perhaps the most momentous decision that a judge ever has to make is to separate a child from his or her natural family. As a family judge’s ruling showed, however, some lifestyles are simply inconsistent with the duties of a parent.
Soon after a deeply troubled mother was delivered of a baby boy, the local authority launched care proceedings and placed him in foster care. His mother had a history of substance misuse and mental health difficulties. Her chaotic lifestyle exhibited a pattern of entering into abusive and violent relationships. The child’s father had a serious criminal history, including convictions for violence together with firearms and drugs offences, and had only recently been released from prison.
Ruling that the child should be placed for adoption, the judge found that the mother’s lifestyle simply did not fit with bringing up a baby. The father had expressed a desire to change, but that would take time and his son required a stable and loving home without delay. There was no possibility of the boy living with either of his parents and no other member of his natural family was available to care for him.
The judge emphasised that children should, wherever possible, be brought up by their birth parents, or members of their wider biological family, and that adoption orders must be absolutely necessary to be justified. On the evidence, however, that high threshold had been crossed. Paramount priority had to be given to the boy’s need to be kept safe in a loving environment where all his needs were met.
The adoption order meant the loss of the boy’s relationship with his birth family. However, the judge directed the local authority to give a copy of his judgment to the boy’s adopters so that it could be shown to him in later life. It was, he observed, hugely important that the boy should have information available to him that would enable him to make sense of his first few months of life.