A three-year-old girl will allegedly be put up for adoption by social workers in Shoeburyness, six months after her grandparents started caring for her because her mother was hospitalised suffering from depression.
The child’s grandparents – who cannot be named for legal reasons – are aged 58 and 70 and allege they were told they were too old to care for their granddaughter.
The couple say that initially they were told that their granddaughter would be fostered – but Southend-on-Sea Borough Council in Essex has now told them their granddaughter will be placed for adoption.
The council has denied that age was a factor when deciding who should care for the little girl – and added that social workers had a duty to provide a “caring, stable and permanent home' for children in its care”.
The child’s grandfather said:
“We looked after her well and she was quite happy. She knows us well and has spent a lot of time with us.
”A week later a social worker came round saying she'd come to pick up her clothes because they were taking her into foster care. We didn't know what was going on, but they'd applied for a court order with a view to adoption.
“They asked my daughter to sign the form in hospital. It meant they could get a court order to take her. I think she was just resigned to it all and signed it.
“She's a beautiful little girl and we're absolutely gutted. She won't be adopted until the autumn, so we are trying to get the decision reversed. She should be with the family she knows.”
The child’s grandparents have tried to pursue the matter through the courts but are unable to afford court costs estimated at around £15,000.
The child’s grandmother said:
“I don't feel old at all. I work two days a week. It's just awful they could take her away from us.
“She is being well looked after by her foster parents, but she is always so happy to see us and last time she said ‘I love you nanny’. That really got to me.”
The couple are now being helped by a firm of solicitors working pro bono for the initial stages of the case and will appeal the council’s decision.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
However, Councillor Anne Jones – who is responsible for children and learning – told the Daily Mail:
“We should highlight that age is not the deciding factor in our assessments of prospective carers.
“We have a duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children in our care – and to act decisively in the child's best interests.
“This often involves intervening in complex family issues and taking tough decisions on behalf of the child.
“We work with partner agencies and consider all evidence available to us as to the history and capability of prospective carers – and their suitability to raise children.
“Though placing children in the care of relatives is our preference in all cases, we can only do so when this is consistent with the welfare of a child.
“In all our work, our ultimate aim is to provide a caring, stable and permanent home for all children in our care.”
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