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Court orders against removal of a child from prospective adopter as discriminatory (19 February 2013)

Date: 19/02/2013
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Court orders against removal of a child from prospective adopter as discriminatory

In the case of RCW V A Local Authority [2013] EWHC 235 (Fam) the facts of the case before the court was that the child SB, who was placed with the prospective adopter following a placement order in October 2012 by the local authority LBX, was removed by the local authority after the prospective adopter RCW lost her sight following a brain tumor operation.
But Mr Justice Cobb granted an application for injunctive relief under section 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998 preventing the local authority from removing the child from the prospective adopter.
The child SB who was abandoned by her mother was born premature and was kept in a hospital for three months with specialist care before being discharged into foster care. The baby was matched with RCW a single woman with a full time career the matching was successful by all accounts.
RCW began experiencing problems with her vision and it was found that she had a brain tumour and required immediate surgery.
By 4th January 2013 SB had been with RCW for 10 weeks, therefore RCW was able to make an application for adoption. However, on that day RCW went into hospital. RCW had made a detailed plan for SB's care during her stay in hospital which lasted three weeks.
RCW having lost her vision following the operation was looked after by her friends along with SB, with RCW involved in feeding and cuddling SB. RCW lived in the area of the local authority LBY. LBY had offered support to RCW but no support package was agreed with LBY and LBX.

On 4th February RCW's child adoption lawyer lodged an adoption application with the court. On the same day LBX wrote to RCW informing her of their intention to remove SB from her care. RCW made an application for injunctive relief before Cobb J.

Section 35(5) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 provides that if an application for adoption has been made before receiving any written notice by the adoption agency to remove the child, then prospective adopters are not required by virtue of the notice to return the child to the agency unless the court so orders."

The claim was also brought under section 6 and 7 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 6 renders it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right and section 7 enables a person to bring proceedings against a public authority or rely on a Convention right if that person would be a victim of the public authority's unlawful act.
Cobb J granted RCW's application, saying that visual impairment in itself did not disqualify an adult from being a capable loving parent. He said a proper assessment had to be made on the ability of RCW to provide good emotional care for SB with some support. The assessment by the social worker who visited RCW was not fairly assessed he added.
He ruled that assumptions by the authority that a blind carer was not fit for parenting was discriminatory and LBX had shown lack of enquiry into the condition or the potential for good care offered by a visually impaired parent.
Cobb J was critical about the lack of any support from LBX for RCW and SB before they decided to remove SB.

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