A mother who passed her baby son over a high garden wall in a bid to deceive social workers into believing that she had not been alone with him, has been given a stern judicial warning – but also a final chance to prove herself as a parent and save her child from adoption.
The woman breached an agreement she had made with Northamptonshire County Council that she would not be left unsupervised with the one-year-old boy. When social workers arrived at her home, she tried to cover up by handing the baby over the wall so that her mother could bring him to the front door in his pushchair and pretend that she was returning after taking him for a walk.
The mother of the child eventually admitted her deception during family court proceedings. She almost lost her son entirely after her antics persuaded a family judge that it was in the baby’s best interests to be adopted. She was said to pose a risk to her son because of her tendency to behave in an ’emotional and completely over the top’ manner when under stress.
However, in upholding her challenge to the adoption decision, the Court of Appeal found that the family judge had not fully explored all the evidence when coming to the drastic conclusion that the child should be removed permanently from his mother. Lord Justice McFarlane said, “I am afraid that, despite the enormous experience of this family judge, the judgment on this occasion fell far short of what was required and it is not apparent to me that he has engaged with the crucial decision that was to be taken.”
Speaking directly to the mother, he added, “You have every right to be very pleased and relieved that we have allowed the appeal, but for you to consider that you have in some way ‘won’ would be wrong. This whole case turns upon your ability to be trusted – trusted by social workers, trusted by the judge and trusted, in the end, by your son – to bring him up in a way which is not frightening, which is ordinary, so that he can get on with growing up into a little boy and, eventually, a man.
“You need to do everything you can to address whatever continuing problems you have in relation to stress and you need to allow social workers to relax and trust that you will not try to deceive them. The phrase ‘all in this together’ is a much over-used one, but the mother needs to realise that she and the social workers share the common aim of ensuring that this little boy is properly cared for.
“When she says she is doing something, she needs to do it and not pull the wool over their eyes. She has been caught out too many times to think she can get away with it and she needs to realise that every last chance has been burnt. It is in her hands. Everything else lies ahead of her and she needs to approach matters in a markedly different way to the way in which she has behaved previously”.
The case was remitted to the County Court for further consideration of where the baby boy’s best interests lie.