We represented the second respondent (father) in an appeal by a local authority (LA) against the decision of Recorder Thain dated 7 February 2020 to refuse the LA’s application for a placement order in respect of a two year old child (LC).
LC is the youngest of three children in her family. She has two older brothers, X, now aged eight, and Y, aged seven. The children’s mother is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has learning difficulties, their father has five older children by his earlier marriages. In each of his previous marriages there were allegations of domestic abuse, and of harassment following the breakdown of the relationships.
Following LC’s birth, she and her mother were placed in a hospital ward together where they received 24 hour support from mental health staff. The mother’s condition deteriorated and she was reported as hearing voices and displaying violent behaviour towards the father. Following a social work visit to the family home, the children were placed under child protection plans following a case conference. The home was reported to be in poor condition and there were reports of domestic abuse between the parents.
In July 2018, the parents agreed to the three children being accommodated by the LA under s.20 of the Children Act 1989. The following month, the authority started care proceedings in respect of the children. Upon removal from home, the children were placed together in a foster placement in Kent where they thrived.
The final hearing of the care proceedings began on 30 September 2019. The LA sought final care orders in respect of all three children on the basis of care plans which provided for the boys to be placed in long term foster care together, and for LC to be placed for adoption. The parents opposed and asked the court to return the children to their care. The children's guardian supported the application for care orders but opposed the application for a placement order in respect of LC. Her preference was for all three children to be placed together, preferably in the foster home in Kent where they had thrived.
On 7th February 2020, following a series of hearings and findings including a welfare analysis and after receiving evidence from a clinical psychologist who had conducted an evaluation of the children, the recorder granted care orders in respect of all three children but refused the application for a placement order with regard to LC.
On 28th February 2020, the LA filed a notice of appeal against the dismissal of the placement order application and permission was granted on 27th March.
The LA’s grounds of appeal were as follows: