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Judge's regret on adoption ruling

A family court judge has told of his regret after concluding that a 16-year-old girl's baby must be placed for adoption.

Judge Stephen Wildblood said the teenager, who had complained that social workers "talked down" to her, loved her 12-month-old son "with all the natural love that any parent could hold".

He said he was sorry that his ruling, made after a hearing at Bristol County Court, "should be the instrument of so much pain".

Gloucestershire County Council had asked Judge Wildblood to place the boy for adoption.

The judge said social services staff had given the teenager, whose family was "dysfunctional", an "exceptional level of services".

But he said everyone who had assessed her had concluded she could not offer her son the care he needed and the only solution was adoption.

Council staff said the teenager was "immature, vulnerable and naïve", had "exceptionally low or borderline" intelligence and had not been able to demonstrate an ability to care for her son.

They said she lived in a "cluttered and unhygienic" home, struggled to "adhere to advice", gave her son junk food and did not meet his health needs consistently.

The teenager, who had been living under supervision with her son at a "mother and baby foster home" then with family members, said she found social workers and a health visitor "very difficult to get on with".

She told the court that two social workers "talked down to her as if she was a bad person".

The teenager had said she wanted her son to "be able to remain at home living with me", and added: "I understand that I will need to have ongoing support both from my family and also other people and I am prepared to accept this."

Judge Wildblood said he spent a long time trying to see if a "thread can be weaved through" which would result in the boy's welfare needs being met and allow him to stay with his mother.

"This is an extremely sad case," said the judge, in a written ruling. "The mother, who was aged 14 at the time of the conception, loves her son with all the natural love that any parent could hold."

But he said he had concluded that the only option which would meet the boy's "paramount welfare" was an adoption placement.

"On the facts of this case and the evidence that I have heard, a care order is the only order that can be made consistently with the welfare of (the little boy)," he added.

"Nothing short of such an order of last resort will do. Thus a care order is necessary and proportionate and I am driven to make one."

He went on: "This is a heartbreaking case for all concerned but most particularly for this young mother.

"I have no doubt at all that that highly distressing impact will be felt by those have supported (her), including her legal team, and I can only express my own regret that this judgment, for which I am solely responsible, should be the instrument of so much pain."

The judge named Gloucestershire County Council as the local authority involved but said the boy and the teenager could not be identified.


From Belfast Telegraph