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child x and the family court

(45 Posts)
comehomemax Wed 02-Nov-16 18:06:28

There was a lot of publicity last October about a birth family who had their child (x) removed due to findings in a family court that they were responsible for multiple injuries. The child was subsequently adopted. The birth parents were then aquitted in the law courts of abuse and it created a stir with lots of debate on both sides about what should happen to child x.

The couple applied successfully for the right to reopen the family court fact finding with a view to overturning the adoption.

The president of the family courts has just published the most recent hearing - both birth parents have withdrawn from their request for a hearing on the basis of wanting closure and movingly that they believe a move for x now would be hugely detrimental.

However, the local authority and guardian have asked that the hearing continues to hear the new medical evidence gathered (some used in the criminal court, some not). The solicitors have described the parents withdrawing as a cynical move to dodge compelling evidence that shows they were responsible and are using the higher burden of proof in the criminal court to drive a media focused narrative of total innocence. The family courts look at most probable causes and the key authorities still clearly believe their culpability will be proven through a new hearing.
The judge has agreed to progress with the guardian answering evidence on behalf of the absent parents. The adopters support this and believe x has the right to know what happened to them regardless of whether the criminal courts failed to make the case.

I think the judge has made the only decision he could do in the circumstances. Without a fresh fact finding, the dominant narrative becomes the media led one that the birth family have created and could be hugely damaging to x longer-term. Regardless of the birth families withdraw ing, the stakes remain high for them in that future children could be removed based on the original fact finding. I've linked the most recent judgement but not the original press articles as I don't know what anonymity has been decided on. The story created high feelings here though so I'm sure many remember this one.

It does worry me that we often respond to stories in the media with a "fix this injustice immediately" when later reviews may offer a very different view on things (see Ellis butler also). There were many posters here who were demanding the immediate return of the child in order to be fair which would be hugely difficult for the child regardless of guilt and was inevitably discussed by Denise Roberts and online petitions created. It does seem to have taken a long time to reach this stage and that can't be in anyone's best interest. It will be interesting to see if any mainstream media pick up the story too.

judgement

ImperialBlether Wed 02-Nov-16 18:25:30

That was really interesting. I don't remember the case at the time. On what basis were the parents found not guilty? Was it one of those cases where the child had a physical problem that made his/her bones break easily?

Neither birth parent was convincing in their decision to not take it further, in my opinion.

ImperialBlether Wed 02-Nov-16 18:27:44

I've found the case - the child had Von Willebrands II - was that it?

rainyinnovember Wed 02-Nov-16 18:28:57

I recall differently. Not that posters were saying he 'should' be returned 'immediately' but rather that in cases where injustice was proved the adoption shouldn't necessarily be finite.

comehomemax Wed 02-Nov-16 18:35:36

Yes, there was additional medical evidence that came to light at the 11th hour that meant the case couldn't be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

There was high feelings on all sides and discussion about the finality of adoption orders (e.g. how long can you come back and overturn an adoption? 10 years? How do we manage the child's emotions in that scenario)

But the overwhelming (in my dodgy memory) argument was that this wasn't fair and the adopters should return the child immediately.
I've tried to find the thread but maybe it was in chat and gone poof.

rainyinnovember Wed 02-Nov-16 18:38:07

I don't doubt some posters stated this max but there is a discussion to be had over the issue of what happens when an adoption is proved to have taken place in error.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Wed 02-Nov-16 18:39:04

It's incredibly difficult the whole area- remember the conviction on the case a few months back where the child was killed after being returned to the birth parents when the case against the father was overturned.

ImperialBlether Wed 02-Nov-16 18:51:12

I don't understand why the adoptive parents want the case to continue now. They know that the baby has Von Willebrands II. They know there was a Vitamin D deficiency. They know these together caused the problems. The local authority didn't go through with the last court case because it lacked evidence. Why do the adoptive parents want to continue? I know they say they want answers for X, but surely they have answers now?

ImperialBlether Wed 02-Nov-16 18:51:49

One thing they said was that maybe X would go back to its parents later, thinking they were innocent - but surely this proves their innocence?

comehomemax Wed 02-Nov-16 19:07:36

imperial the local authority didn't prosecute the case, the CPS did. The introduction of some new evidence led the cps to decide they wouldn't be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt and withdrew the case. The judge then aquitted them as there was no case being put forward..
The LA on the other hand believe that based on balance of probability (the level of proof required in a family court) that the couple more than likely were responsible. The implication is that the fact finding needs to review the presented Von Willebrands III evidence along with the original findings and new medical evidence. I'm assuming further genetic testing will have been done subsequently to check and also that their is a breadth of medical evidence that outweighs the Von Willebrands III diagnoses. The different levels of required proof are in order to protect children (e.g. in the poppy Worthington murder, the father was never convicted as it can't be proven beyond doubt, but the family courts have found that he is responsible based on balance of probability). If family courts had to produce evidence beyond reasonable doubt, children would likely be left in abusive situations such as left with a known paedophile because they can't prove they are abusing the child beyond all doubt.

The adopters will want to exhaust all facts to assess their child's start in life - it's really important that adopted children/ adults have as much insight and ownership of their story as possible.

comehomemax Wed 02-Nov-16 19:12:12

* i don't doubt some posters stated this max but there is a discussion to be had over the issue of what happens when an adoption is proved to have taken place in error.*

Rainy, I agree that a system that has such a final outcome for birth families needs careful on going assessments but it feels like we only have those debates in heated states, driven by shock, outrage or the media. Extreme cases make bad laws but all nuanced debate is lost when we are faced with individual cases rather than assessments as a whole.

rainyinnovember Wed 02-Nov-16 19:13:10

Well on that, no argument from me smile

AyeAmarok Wed 02-Nov-16 19:17:36

I remember this case. I was very uncomfortable with the narrative in the media at the time when the birth parents were doing the daytime TV circuits.

ExtraordinarilyExcellent Wed 02-Nov-16 19:19:14

A terrible case, very thought provoking.
I do feel that the needs and best interests of the child are occasionally lost in the desire to right a wrong. Theoretically the baby might belong with the birth parents but at what cost now to X?

rainyinnovember Wed 02-Nov-16 19:21:54

I think with these cases you have to consider the long term as well as the short term impact on the child.

Manumission Wed 02-Nov-16 19:21:57

I recall differently. Not that posters were saying he 'should' be returned 'immediately' but rather that in cases where injustice was proved the adoption shouldn't necessarily be finite.

Yes that's what I remember.

Lots of discussion about perverse incentives and other discussion about how much later was too late to disrupt an adoption in exceptional circumstances.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Wed 02-Nov-16 19:23:29

There's always a danger when the full and complete details can never be available for all to see. 'Not guilty' may mean not guilty, or it may mean it's just not proved beyond reasonable doubt. It's not the same thing.
I do think that there should be no rush to adoption though if there is any cause for doubt. But then it may provide much needed stability for the children. It's so complicated.

Manumission Wed 02-Nov-16 19:32:12

If family courts had to produce evidence beyond reasonable doubt, children would likely be left in abusive situations such as left with a known paedophile because they can't prove they are abusing the child beyond all doubt.

The adopters will want to exhaust all facts to assess their child's start in life - it's really important that adopted children/ adults have as much insight and ownership of their story as possible.

There's a slight contradiction there isn't there, in terms of the value of this uncontested fact funding exercise in this case?

The child won't get a definitive answer about it all from proceedings that use a civil burden of proof (balance of probabilities) so surely there is limited value in all this?

The machinery of child protection is used to treating BoP jusdements as though they were absolute proofs of fact. And that is probably practically and psychologically necessary for some of the players in the whole imperfect business. But BoP isnt absolute certainty.

rainyinnovember Wed 02-Nov-16 19:37:49

I think in the majority of cases, children removed and put up for adoption are rightly so, if you follow me.

But, the fixed 'once adopted, always adopted' in the admittedly small minority of cases where injustice is done, is possibly debatable.

MaximilianNero Wed 02-Nov-16 19:58:15

It sounds completely right to order the hearing to go ahead anyway - it would be very unfair to X to leave this hanging, X has a right to know the facts. To gather all this new medical evidence together then dump it and do nothing with it, I don't see how that could be in X's best interests.

The birth parents statement is a lot about X's best interests in not being moved from his adoptive home, but that's not what the rehearing is about. It's a fact finding hearing. Is it in X's best interests to know the facts? Difficult to argue no to that.

I don't think X or X's parents have answers at all. They have conflicting evidence pointing in two different directions which puts them in a really difficult position because it's part of their role as parents to explain to X why X is adopted. They need a final finding based on all the evidence available, which they can rely on going forwards. Uncertainty isn't helpful.

ExtraordinarilyExcellent Wed 02-Nov-16 19:59:54

But once you open the door to adoptions being disrupted by changed circumstances on the part of the birth parents, no adoption is clear cut

MaximilianNero Wed 02-Nov-16 20:03:51

And yes, only a time machine/crystal ball would give you the incontrovertible facts, but we don't have a time machine. A very experienced judge weighing up as much evidence as there will ever be, is the best X will get.

Manumission Wed 02-Nov-16 20:06:45

Your use of 'parents' and 'birth parents' betrays your bias max.

There are two sets of parents in this, possibly equally blameless victims of a horrible error.

AyeAmarok Wed 02-Nov-16 20:14:43

Man, how else should she describe them? confused

The ones who have been parenting the child, and the ones the child was born to. I don't see how that shows "bias".

MaximilianNero Wed 02-Nov-16 20:16:46

What bias confused

I have a bias towards doing whatever is in a child's best interests, I'll admit to that. If it's in a child's best interests to move to be with their birth family, then that is what is should be done. If it's to stay with their adoptive family, then that is what should be done. I guess I view parenting as an active thing - I'm not disputing X has two mothers and two fathers but only one set are parenting right now? But I accept we all have different definitions of mother, father and parent depending on our own life experiences and beliefs and your definition and my definition are equally valid

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