Susan George has successfully defended a placement application on behalf of Child A’s father.
Following successful cross examination and submissions by the parents advocates, the local authority withdrew its application for a placement order and its plan for adoption. Child A will therefore continue to remain in long term foster care under a final care order, with regular direct contact with her family, which will be established at a minimum level in an order.
In what instructing solicitor Keeley Lengthorn of MW Solicitors has described as a "very robust" Judgment, HHJ Lazarus found that the Local Authority had:
“Failed to carry out that adequate comprehensive evaluation of the issues relevant to A’s welfare, as required by statute and further expanded upon in the above case law”………. "The process of cross-examination increasingly revealed glaring gaps and distorted arguments. It was telling that, despite the local authority claiming that it grasped that this was a complex and unusual case and that all the relevant issues had been considered, in fact very few of the relevant complexities were set out or analysed in any document and not even in this social worker’s re-amended document. It was further telling that, when the possibility of a contact order that would help to support A’s family relationships and her exposure to her culture and heritage was raised with the social worker, her first reaction was not to consider it in terms of A’s needs and characteristics but to protest that this would narrow the pool of prospective adopters”.
Her Honour Judge Lazarus was highly critical of the Local Authority's “numerous and egregious errors” which resulted in an initial flawed placement application. She went on to say that:
“The problems appear to be systemic and wide-ranging. The identified problems touch each element of this local authority that has become involved in this case: social work, supervision, management, decision-making, legal advice, internal training, standards and checking systems, and ranging from social worker to lawyer to Director.”
Child A will now remain in long term foster care with plans and proposals in place which adequately meet A’s welfare interests.