(Court of Appeal; Thorpe and Black LJJ; 10 August 2011)
Final orders were made in relation to two children, 13 and 3 years old, care plan of long term fostering and adoption respectively. The judge refused the mother permission for a further parenting assessment and ordered an assessment of attachment between two children. The local authority cross appealed against assessment and adjournment of placement application of 3 year old. The 13 year old pleaded guilty to the offence of robbery, using a knife and was awaiting sentencing.
The mother submitted core assessment was flawed, a further assessment not supported by any of the professionals involved. There was extensive history of family difficulties, the mother had issues with alcohol and had in the past abducted the 3 year old from local authority care and she had been in prison for an assault. The 13 year year old was difficult to contain in care, and had come close to being securely accommodated. Both parents were in prison when the core assessment was carried out but social workers observed the mother with her children. The mother said assessment failed to take into account her learning difficulties and failed to follow the guidance in Working Together. Held that it was not a fatal flaw, no matter how favourable the social work assessment there may still be obstacles preventing a parent caring for their child. The jointly instructed psychologist report was damaging for the mother.
The mother's appeal was dismissed, the judge was entitled to find that a further assessment would not add to the information before the court, until the mother could make interventions to change her basic behaviours, her capacity to parent her children would not change. The judge was aware that assessment regarding the bond between the two children would cause delay for the 3 year old but entitled to request further evidence to enable her to make the final decisions, in particular on the type of adoption placement that would be best suited to the 3 year old. The local authority's appeal also dismissed.