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Transgender parent fails to get boy out of foster care scheme

By Alan Erwin

A transgender parent in Northern Ireland has failed in a High Court bid to end new foster care arrangements for his son.

The man wanted the 15-month-old boy removed from an assessment scheme set up to decide if he should return home.

But a judge rejected an application made just weeks after the child, identified only as M, was placed with carers.

Mr Justice O'Hara ruled: "A further move at this point would inevitably be disruptive for M and, in my view, contrary to his best interests."

M was born to a woman who has now indicated she is transgender and wishes to be regarded as a man referred to as J.

The identity of the boy's biological father is unknown.

The court heard J had a troubled childhood and a recent history of drug abuse and mental health problems. However, he insists his issues have improved since medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was corrected.

In 2016 a health and social care trust had ruled out rehabilitation of M to J.

But it rowed back from that decision based on evidence of positive changes in the parent's life, agreeing instead on an alternative way forward.

J agreed to take part in a Home on Time assessment scheme, where a child is placed into foster care while intensive work is carried out with birth parents to consider whether they should be reunited.

M has been with his carers since early February, with the assessment not due to start until next week. But at the end of last month J applied to bring the arrangement to an end.

He raised concerns about his relationship with the carers and said his faith in social workers was broken by an alleged lie told after a contact visit with his son.

He claimed when the carers returned to collect M a representative from the trust said: "There's mum and dad."

According to her version of events, she only referred to them as the parents, and also apologised on the spot to J.

With the incident included in her records and reported to a senior practitioner, Mr Justice O'Hara held there had been a "gross overreaction" by the parent.

Dismissing the application, the judge said that as a woman J was unable to provide consistent and stable emotional care to M.

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