(Family Division; Sir Mark Potter P; 18 March 2009)
Before birth the child was entered onto the child protection register, because of concerns over the parents' ability to cope with the child. The father had a history of alcohol abuse and of domestic violence, while the mother had mental health issues and a long term drug habit. After the birth the mother struggled to care for the child in the mother and baby unit in which she was placed; subsequent residential assessments of the parents as a couple raised concerns about the parents' relationship. Some weeks after the local authority began care proceedings, the parents separated and the family assessment stopped. On the following day the child was placed in foster care. The final care plan was for adoption, and the authority, supported by the guardian, applied for a placement order. The father opposed adoption, and argued instead for a community based assessment of himself as the child's sole carer, by reference to a report from an independent social worker. There was evidence of the father's continued alcohol dependence, and of further incidents of violence between the parents, one of which had resulted in the father's arrest. The family proceedings court made a care order and an adoption placement order, finding that the father would be unable to manage future incidents with the mother and would not be able to keep the child in a stable, consistent and secure environment. The father appealed, claiming that justices had focused on claims about his alcohol misuse and violence without sufficient regard for the evidence before the court. The father's appeal was dismissed. The justices had, as required, conducted a balancing exercise as to what was in the child's best interests, bearing in mind the welfare checklist and the child's age. The mere fact that the justices' reasons had not contained a detailed analysis of the evidence placed before the court, and had not identified particular passages or aspects of the evidence relied on, formed no valid basis for appeal.