(Family Division, District Judge Cushing, 12 October 2012)
In care proceedings in relation to a 5-month-old child the father was reported to have a history of violent behaviour including within the context of the family as well as an extensive criminal history. He was also reported to abuse alcohol and behave in a sexually disinhibited manner. The mother's older two child from a previous relationship had been removed from her care and she suffered from learning difficulties.
Following the birth of this child the mother and baby were placed in an assessment centre where the mother was able to learn new skills and develop already-acquired skills. The mother was found to have an inability to show a basic understanding of her child's development needs and was unable to grasp the fact that the father could present a risk to the child's physical safety or emotional security but she had made good progress during the placement. At the conclusion of the assessment period the recommendation was that the mother would not be able to care for the child independently and would continue to need input and guidance, ideally living in supported accommodation where she could receive 4-5 hours support daily.
The local authority sought care and placement orders.
The father was found to lack capacity to provide sole care of the child due to his propensity for violence and the likelihood that the child would suffer emotional harm due to witnessing his father's violent behaviour. Therefore, if the mother was unable to look after him, neither parent would have capacity to raise the child.
The judge found that the threshold for making a care order had been passed on a limited basis. There was insufficient evidence available about the child's chances of being successfully brought up by his mother and, therefore, a further assessment was directed with the purpose of identifying the extent to which the mother could build upon the improvements she had already made and effect a transition from supported accommodation into independent living.