Birth Mother’s Parental Responsibility Terminated by Adoption

Adoption is permanent and once and for all extinguishes the parental responsibility of biological parents. That position was made crystal clear by a High Court ruling in which a woman argued without success that she had a human right to contact with a six-year-old girl to whom she gave birth.

The woman had her toddler taken from her on the basis that she could not cope with parenthood. She did not accept that, but an adoption order was subsequently made. She was at first allowed face-to-face contact with the girl but that was later replaced by indirect ‘letterbox’ contact, with the local authority acting as intermediary.

The woman complained that the council had refused to forward some of her letters to the girl and had edited others. That, she argued, amounted to a breach of her human right to respect for her family life. Her claims rested on the proposition that her blood ties to the child could not be denied and that she was still the girl’s mother.

However, in dismissing her arguments, the Court emphasised that the girl had only two parents – her adopters – not three. Family life between the woman and the girl came to an end when the adoption order was made and there had been no direct contact between them for five years. There were no ties of any kind between them and there could be no interference with a family life that did not exist.

The Court acknowledged that the council was obliged to respect the former parent-child relationship and had a public duty to supervise the letterbox contact. However, the screening process adopted was reasonable, necessary and in the girl’s best interests. The woman’s alternative argument that she should be granted direct contact with the girl was entirely without merit.

Seddon v Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. Case Number: FD14P00786