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ADOPTION: Re S; Newcastle City Council v Z [2005] EWHC 1490 (Fam)

Date:11 JUL 2006

(Family Division; Munby J, 11 July 2006) [2006] 2 FLR (forthcoming)

The 10 children of the Muslim family had all been taken into care. The approved care plan for the youngest child, currently in foster care without contact to any family members, specified adoption with a culturally and ethnically suitable family, to be identified within 6 months. If such a family were not identified, the plan was to change to a suitable long-term foster placement. There were delays but before long-term foster carers could be found, prospective Muslim adoptive parents came forward and were approved. The mother opposed adoption for a range of reasons, but in particular because of her religious views. Islamic law did not recognise adoption, and there was evidence that the mother believed that adoption would damage the child's and her own religious life. The key issue was whether the mothers refusal to consent to the adoption on the basis of her religious views was unreasonable.

Although the mother's religious beliefs per se were reasonable, the mother was still acting unreasonably in refusing her consent to the placement. No matter how much respect was paid to religious beliefs, a parental view based on religious belief, however profound, could never be determinative when it came to considering what was to be done in relation to a child. Having regard to the evidence and applying the current values of our society, the advantages of adoption for the welfare of the child were sufficiently strong to justify overriding the religious and other views and interests of the mother. A reasonable parent in the mother's position, even one with her religious views, would accept that adoption was in the best interests of her English son.