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ADOPTION: A Council v M and Others (No 4) (Foreign Adoption: Refusal of Recognition) [2013] EWHC 1501 (Fam)

Date:11 JUN 2013
Law Reporter

(Family Division, Peter Jackson J, 6 June 2013)

The now 8-year-old child was adopted from her home country of Kazakhstan when she was aged 7 months. The mother now applied for a declaration of recognition in respect of the adoption. The children's guardian sought a declaration that the adoption was not recognised. Due to the fact that the adoption had not so far been recognised, the mother did not have parental responsibility and until a care order was granted no one held parental responsibility for her.

In a previous judgment it was found that the mother made the eldest child, who was also adopted, impregnate herself with donor sperm purchased by the mother from abroad in order that she should bear a child for the mother to bring up as her own. The programme, began when the girl was aged 14 and resulted in her giving birth at the age of 16. Following the fact-finding hearing the 8-year-old child remained in foster care subject to a care order. She would not return to the mother and had no direct contact with her. The mother was currently serving a term of imprisonment for child cruelty.

When the now 8-year-old child was adopted the mother, an American national who had lived in the UK as a British citizen for almost 30 years, used US procedures in the belief that it was more straight forward and encouraging than those in the UK. The report produced by the US social worker was wholly superficial and demonstrated that no enquiries had been made of the adoptive father of the two older children or wider family members in order to verify the mother's account.

When the child was brought to the UK, the local authority was not informed and the mother obtained US citizenship for her. As documented in the earlier judgments, the mother was found to have struggled with this child's arrival and to have used aggressive methods of parenting her. The child had been assessed as having suffered significant harm in her social, emotional and behavioural development.

The judge concluded that while the child's adoption was lawfully obtained by the mother in Kazakhstan and the Kazakh concept of adoption substantially conformed to that in England, the adoption process that was undertaken was not substantially the same as would have applied in England at the time: the mother had no roots in Kazakhstan and recognition was not available on the basis of the decision in Re Valentine. While the mother's strategy for bringing her into the UK was reprehensible and calculated to evade proper scrutiny, public policy would not demand refusal of recognition on that ground. Decisively, recognition would not in all the circumstances be in the best interests of the child either now or throughout her life. A declaration that the child's adoption in Kazakhstan was not an adoption that was recognised by the law of England and Wales was granted.