London Borough of Brent v C  EWHC 1335 (Fam)
We acted for the mother in a child care matter which featured very tragic circumstances.
The mother gave birth to a child at the age of 14 and made the decision for him to be placed for adoption. In the meantime, the mother agreed for the child to be placed in foster care until he could be adopted.
At the age of six months, the foster carer referred the child to the GP as she realised that he was not developing, as other babies of his age should be.
Sadly, the child was diagnosed with a known, but rare, inherited life limiting condition which progressively destroys the nerve cells in his brain and spinal cord. The child’s health deteriorated significantly which inevitably made him unadoptable. It was not thought that the child would live beyond 1 or 2 years old, however he has continued to live beyond his original estimated life expectancy.
As the child was placed in foster care with the mother’s consent, the mother had sole parental responsibility for the child. She therefore had to provide her consent to medical procedures when in fact she had decided from the very beginning that she did not want to be involved in the child’s life.
It was almost 3 years from when the Local Authority decided that his care plan had to change from adoption to long term foster care, that they issued care proceedings to enable them to share parental responsibility.
We assisted the client to apply to the Court for breach of her human rights on the basis that the Local Authority significantly delayed issuing proceedings and the Local Authority made decisions without any legal authority to do so.
It also transpired that the Independent Review Officer who reviewed the decisions made by the Local Authority failed to identify any breaches of the child’s human rights, nor take effective steps and refer to a higher authority.
The Local Authority also made a separate application to the Court under its inherent jurisdiction, as declarations were required for end of life treatment for the child in view of his deteriorating health.
The Local Authority obtained the care order so that they could share parental responsibility with the mother. The Local Authority accepted that they had erred in failing to issue proceedings earlier. A declaration of breaches of the child’s rights were made and the Local Authority issued an apology to the mother in a statement stating that they had left her in a position of uncertainty for too long. The Local Authority also revised their procedures in relation to children placed in foster care with the consent of the parents so that no other families would be placed in the same position as our client.
The conclusion of this case allowed our client to obtain the closure that she had wanted when she made the decision at the child’s birth that it would be in his best interests to be placed for adoption as he deserve more than what she would have been able to provide.
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