Belfast Telegraph

Adoption case delay ‘harmful to child’

Delays in an adoption case involving the daughter of a former teenage drug abuser were unacceptable and potentially harmful to the child, Northern Ireland's most senior judge has said.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan's criticism came as he ruled in favour of older foster parents who sought a residence order for the five-year-old girl they have cared for since birth.

His decision came despite recognising the “remarkable progress” made by her birth mother in turning round a once-chaotic lifestyle characterised by drug-taking and homelessness.

The child, who cannot be identified, was placed into foster care with a couple now aged in their 60s two days after her mother gave birth to her at the age of 17.

Her mother, who then formed a relationship with another drug user, subsequently gave changing views to the relevant trust about whether she wanted the child adopted.

Amid the authorities’ concerns about the foster parents' ages and responsibilities for three older adopted children with special needs, they lodged a freeing application in 2008.

Sir Declan noted that by this stage the couple had looked after the girl for three years, with more than two years passing since an order was made involving a care plan of freeing for adoption.

But after considering two expert opinions, he pointed to the risk, however slight, that the girl may suffer psychological damage if a change of placement broke down.

However, on the basis that the foster parents pursue an adoption application, the judge said: “I will in due course discharge the care order and make a residence order in their favour.”

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