(Family Division, Theis J, 1 February 2013)
The local authority initiated care proceedings in relation to six children, aged between 8 and 2, due to concerns of chronic neglect. The family originated from Slovakia and moved to the UK to better their prospects but it was clear that they had experienced severe poverty and social deprivation and that they had difficulties in obtaining employment or full State benefits. The children had suffered from malnutrition and rickets.
During child protection intervention it was noted that no medically assessed organic cause could be found for the children's failure to thrive but there was concern that the parents were failing to meet their medical needs by attending appointments. The children had responded well to being in foster care and the independent social worker reported that, unusually, the three oldest children did not want to return home.
Prior to the final hearing the parents travelled to Slovakia and had been unable to return to the jurisdiction. The children had had no contact with their parents for 5 months.
The best interests panel recommended that it was in the best interests of all six children to be offered permanency through adoption.
The local authority, supported by the guardian, now sought care and placement orders with a care plan for adoption for the youngest three children and long-term foster for the oldest three children. The parents sought a return of all the children or failing that, a return of the oldest two or three. Their fallback position was for all six children to be placed in long-term foster care.
During proceedings an exchange of information with the Slovakian Central authority had taken place but as none of the parties contended for a return of the children to Slovakia the details provided by the Central Authority did not need to be considered.
The judge was satisfied that the threshold criteria had been met in relation to the children in relation to both past and future significant harm. The order which met the paramount needs of the children was a care order and the care plan was endorsed.