Family judges are used to controversy and accept the fact that there will always be an embittered few who accuse them of ‘playing God’. However, one striking case shows that they will only break up families when doing so is necessary to ensure the long-term welfare of children and where there is no other viable option.

Social workers had long expressed deep concern about three young children whose mother suffered from cognitive and physical limitations. The youngest child had a history of disturbed behaviour, including threatening teachers and exposing himself. The boy, who was aged under ten, had punched, scratched and kicked adults and children alike, including his two older siblings.

In ruling on the local authority’s application for full care orders in respect of all three children, a judge found that the mother’s undoubted love for them was not sufficient to make her a good enough parent. She and the children’s father had shown an almost total absence of insight into the emotional harm that the children had suffered.

The father, in particular, insisted that there was nothing wrong with his parenting, but the judge noted that the case was a stark illustration of two parents simply not being equipped to provide proper care or boundaries for their children. Although the children had said that they wanted to live with their parents, no very significant weight could be attached to the wishes and feelings of three such damaged youngsters.

In making the care orders sought and ruling that the children should remain in long-term foster care, the judge found that their parents were simply unable to meet their physical, emotional and other needs. They had been given many chances to prove themselves as parents but had shown themselves incapable of providing an adequate home for their children.


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