Very Young Parents Deserve Some Leeway, Judges Rule

Elements of immaturity and irresponsibility are only to be expected in the behaviour of very young parents and, in one such case, did not justify a couple’s baby boy being taken into care and placed for adoption, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The boy’s mother had a troubled background and was only 16 when she gave birth to him. His father was three years older than that. Social workers pointed to alleged incidents of domestic violence and the father’s use of cannabis. They argued that allowing the couple to keep their baby ‘was not a viable option’.

At the local authority’s behest, a judge made care and placement orders in respect of the eight-month-old boy. However, in allowing the couple’s appeal, the Court found that the judge’s decision was ‘by a wide margin wholly inadequate’ in that he had failed to analyse adequately the essential issues in the case.

Directing an urgent re-hearing of the matter, the Court accepted that the parents had, from time to time, acted in an immature and irresponsible manner. However, it observed, “It is hard to conceive of any young person who does not at some time fall short of the mark in that regard.”