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(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Elias, Black LJJ, 9 November 2012)
The Slovakian parents of two children, aged 4 and 3, moved to the UK seeking employment. The local authority commenced proceedings when one of the children was non-accidentally injured by one of the parents. The children were placed with foster carers and the maternal grandmother travelled to and from Slovakia to assist and support the family.
When the decision was taken that the children would not be returned to their parents' care the maternal grandmother applied for permission to take the children to Slovakia to be cared for by the extended family. The grandmother was assessed by a psychologist in Slovakia and initially the local authority supported her application.
Following a telephone conversation between the grandmother and the social worker the local authority withdrew its support and sought a placement order and adoption of the children. The guardian recommended the grandmother undergo further assessments in the UK which she objected to. Thereafter the guardian supported the local authority position. The judge made a placement order in respect of the children. The grandmother appealed.
The appeal was allowed and the placement order set aside. The local authority position just prior to the hearing had lacked substance. The statutory provisions precluded the judge from making a placement order unless it was demanded to safeguard the welfare of the children. Faced with a grandmother who had so much to offer the children that determination could not be made.