(Family Division, Anthony Hayden QC sitting as a deputy High Court judge, 10 October 2012)
The parents of the 4-year-old child were of Chinese origin and entered the UK illegally, claiming asylum. When the mother was arrested on drugs charges the child was placed with foster carers and remained there ever since. The mother had little involvement in proceedings and was now supporting the local authority care plan for the child to be adopted in the UK in the belief that that was best for the child.
The father was also arrested on drugs charges and received a prison sentence of 2 years after which he was detained as an illegal immigrant at a detention centre. He, therefore, had no opportunity to care for the child or have contact with her on a regular basis.
During proceedings the father put himself forward as a potential carer for the child who he planned to return to China with and raise there with the assistance of the paternal family.
The local authority were unable to fully investigate the family in China directly but an international social worker based in Hong Kong visited the family and produced an assessment which was positive. The guardian felt that further investigation of the situation in China was needed before she could give her opinion one way or the other.
The grandmother's strengths were evident and the child was confident and secure due to the care she had received by her foster carers. The main challenge was whether the child could be transferred from foster care in the UK to a permanent placement in China without suffering emotional harm. Due to the timescales involved the concern of how the child would manage the cultural transition was an issue.
The judge adjourned the proceedings so that the local authority could put together a robust plan for the transition which would be approved at the next hearing if it sufficiently minimised the inevitable distress that would be caused to the child.