Application For A Permanence Order With Authority To Adopt In Relation To The Child L

JurisdictionScotland
JudgeSheriff K.A. Ross
CourtSheriff Court
Date27 December 2012
Published date22 August 2013

SHERIFFDOM OF SOUTH STRATHCLYDE DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY AT DUMFRIES

Case Number AD2/12

JUDGMENT

of

Sheriff Kenneth A Ross

In the Petition of

Dumfries and Galloway Council

For a Permanence Order in terms of section 80 of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007, (with authority to adopt in terms of section 83) in relation to the child L

Petitioner: Sharpe, Dumfries and Galloway Council Legal Department, Dumfries

Mother: Ms Hughes, Hann & Co, Annan

Father: Miss Coutts, Primrose & Gordon, Dumfries

DUMFRIES: 27 December 2012

The Sheriff, upon resuming consideration of the cause, Finds in Fact:

1. The petitioners are Dumfries and Galloway Council, Council Offices, Dumfries ("the Council"). They are a local authority. They are an Adoption Agency in terms of section 119(1) the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the 2007 Act").

2. The child L is male and is five years of age.

3. BM is the natural mother of L. BM has parental rights and responsibilities in respect of L.

4. CR is the natural father of L. He has parental rights and responsibilities in respect of L.

5. BM and CR reside together in Dumfries.

6. BM and CR also have three other children together who are the siblings of L: K, a female aged four; A, a female aged three; and R, a male aged two. Both BM and CR have parental rights and responsibilities in respect of K, A and R.

7. BM is the mother of two other children born when she was respectively 14 and 15. Both these children have been adopted with her consent. She has had indirect contact with them.

8. CR is the father of 18 other children by 9 mothers. Their dates of birth range from 1978 to 2006. S, M and H are the children of CR by a previous relationship. KR is the daughter of S. Concerns have been expressed and recorded in the social work records of East Sussex Council about the care of many of these children by CR and his partners between 1985 and 2006. Interim care orders and supervision orders have been granted in respect of some children. One child has been adopted. At times CR had residence of his sons M and H. There has been a history of inconsistent care and neglect of his children by CR and a history of a lack of commitment to many of them and to the relationships with their mothers.

9. The social work records of East Sussex Council contain several allegations that CR has sexually abused some of his children. CR denies these allegations. None of these allegations has been established. One such allegation was by CR's daughter S who had said that "daddy" was present when sexual abuse by others happened. The allegation against CR was not established. In 1998 a risk assessment of CR was undertaken which concluded that CR did not pose a risk of sexual abuse to children. In December 1998 CR was awarded a residence order in respect of M and H. On about 16 December 2009 S disclosed the same allegation of sexual abuse to Emma Visca. S has denied that CR was involved.

10. BM and CR have been in a relationship since 2006. They met in Hastings but moved to Dumfries that year and they have resided there together until the present day. Until 6 May 2011, L, K, A and R resided with them.

11. Between 2009 and May 2011, but particularly between September 2010 and May 2011, BM and CR failed to care adequately for L, K, A and R. Each child suffered serious physical and emotional neglect in respect that they were dirty and unkempt; that their clothes, and particularly their nappies, were unclean; that the house was dirty and, at times, dangerous for children; that the children lacked adequate parental interaction and stimulation; that they were variously detached and silent or aggressive and fought with each other; that BM and CR failed to provide and maintain appropriate discipline and lay down appropriate boundaries for them; that CR spent little time with them; and that there was a danger that their development had been or would be delayed.

12. Both BM and CR were offered some help and assistance by the petitioners' social work department. CR generally refused to accept advice and help and failed to cooperate and engage with the social work and health professionals. BM was more amenable to accepting advice and help but was unable consistently to apply that to the care of the children.

13. From time to time the cleanliness of the house improved but BM and CR were unable consistently to maintain such improvement.

14. CR suffers from arthritis and, as a result, requires to use a wheel chair. This condition worsened in or about September 2010. Before that he offered BM little practical help with the care of the children. Since then he has been unable to do so. He would be unable to care for the children without assistance from BM.

15. BM accepts that she was unable to offer consistent care for the children before May 2011 and neglected them. She accepts that she would not be able to offer such consistent care in the future.

16. On 6 May 2011, child protection orders were granted in respect of L, K, A and R and they were removed from the care of BM and CR. A condition was attached that BM and CR should have supervised contact with the children but that the place of safety should not be disclosed to them. When the children were removed neither BM nor CR did anything to obstruct that or make it more difficult for the children. BM, in particular, cooperated with the social work staff.

17. L and R were placed with foster carers and resided with foster carers until placed with prospective adoptive parents in mid February 2012. K and A were placed together with different foster carers and resided with foster carers until placed with prospective adoptive parents in mid February 2012.

18. Since removal from BM and CR the concerns about the care of the children by BM and CR are no longer shared by the social work and health staff. Their behaviour has improved. Concerns about their speech and language no longer exist. The children have thrived and developed well.

19. On 10th May 2011 the children's hearing continued the child protection orders for the children and continued the condition that contact between the children and BM and CR be supervised by Social Services. The condition that the place of safety was not to be disclosed was removed.

20. On 18 May 2011 a children's hearing issued a warrant to detain the children in a place of safety with the conditions that the children exercise a minimum of one hour weekly supervised contact with BM and CR and that the children exercise a minimum of one hour weekly supervised contact with each other. Further such warrants were issued during June, July and August 2011. On 19 July a Safeguarder was appointed to the children.

21. On 7 July 2011 grounds of referral were held established by the sheriff, with the consent of each of BM and CR, in terms of section 52(2(c) of the 1995 Act, that each of L, K, A and R was likely to suffer unnecessarily or be impaired seriously in their health and development, due to lack of parental care. In the statement of facts in support of these grounds, it was accepted by BM and CR that they had little insight into choosing appropriate adults to help with the care of the children, that the children did not receive adequate parental supervision or sufficient parental intervention, that the children presented as unkempt and grubby, that the physical conditions in the home could be inappropriate for children in that, for example, the home was dirty, untidy, chaotic and cluttered and that on 16 February 2011 urine/faeces stains were found on bedroom floors with fresh faeces.

22. On 22 August 2011, the Authority Reporter's Office received the Report of the safeguarder, June Holland. Inter alia her Report concluded that "whether the children should return to their home environment given the level of concerns and the established grounds of referral.... to be a very complex issue." Reservations were expressed about the management of the case by the Social Work department such as closing the case "when other agencies still felt that there were concerns, and also that the in-depth historical enquiry only took place a year after the case was closed, and no consideration given to at least seriously looking at rehabilitation." It was also noted to be of concern that "the children were removed into care with a strong recommendation for permanence at the point of POSW with no consideration given to at least seriously looking at rehabilitation." The safeguarder noted that, even in recent history, "there are patterns of significant neglect." She recommended, "that the children should all remain in care and that plans for permanency are pursued."

23. On 29 August 2011 the Children's Hearing made each child subject to a Supervision Requirement to reside with the foster carer. Conditions were attached that the children should have one hour of supervised contact each week with BM, one hour of supervised contact each fortnight with CR, half an hour of supervised contact each fortnight with BM's father PM and one hour of supervised contact each week with each other. Supervised contact between the children and M was not to take place until a Comprehensive Risk Assessment has been carried out by Social Work.

24. Between May 2011 and February 2012 BM and CR had supervised contact with L, K, A and R. BM attended on each occasion. CR attended on every occasion save two. CR did not interact very much with the children. BM attempted to do so and did so on occasions. She found it difficult to set boundaries for the children when dealing with all four at once. During earlier contact sessions she tended to concentrate on R but in later sessions was able to interact more with all the children. On occasions the children played with each other or on their own or with some of the other adults present. The quality of contact with BM was variable but was not distressing or upsetting for the children. It enabled them to retain a recollection of who she was...

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