In a recent case in the High Court in which a mother battled relentlessly for years to recover her daughter from the care system, a judge has ruled that Article 8 rights, the right to a private life and family life, cease upon the creation of an adoption order.
The facts of the case are distressing, not least of all because of the opaque nature in which social services appear to have gone about assessing this mother, but a good summary of the case has been written by Marilyn Stowe, on her blog.
In care as a child herself, moved from foster home to foster home, the mother fell pregnant at 20. Her baby was removed from her care because she was deemed to be ‘not coping’ and soon after care and placement orders were made. Indirect contact by way of letter writing twice a year was put into place but this was reduced to once a year because social workers were uncomfortable with the mother’s inability to accept the adoption.
The mother sought contact, which was denied. She appealed the care and placement orders, several times and then took her case to the ECHR. All of these actions were unsuccessful. She also made separate claims for her own experience in care, which she felt had impacted upon her development significantly and was responsible for the difficulties she suffered with in adulthood. None of her efforts yielded contact time with her daughter.
The High Court, ruling upon whether Article 8 rights of biological parents remained intact post adoption, took the view that such rights did not survive an adoption order, and were in fact, terminated upon the order being made.
Of significance in this case is the testimony of one social worker, who astutely points out the very real and poignant impact of preventing contact entirely within adoption scenarios. On that point he notes:
“The adopters need to appreciate (in a socially-networked virtual world) that it is now almost inconceivable that A and Ms Seddon will not resume contact with each other at some stage during A’s adolescent/young adult years…. It is also likely one day that A will read the court papers concerning her history and her adoption. She will learn how vigorously her mother ‘fought’ to have her returned to her care, and how they were prevented from maintaining contact with each other. This could fuel her resentment and anger towards her adoptive family and be a disturbing experience for A, which could threaten her lifelong wellbeing.”
In all of the cases we have assisted on, this hallmark, a strong will to preserve a bond and fight for that parental connection when it is being denied, has been present. It highlights the folly of adoption which seeks to erase a child’s biological blueprint, an embedded history which cannot be denied and which grows stronger in an adopted child as they grow older, until the desire for that connection reaches the same profound yearning as that of the biological parents’.
It also exposes a weakness within the adoption process – adoption would be far less attractive to most if it meant keeping a connection with the biological parents. And so this ruling, if one were cynical, could be viewed as a convenient way to preserve the artificial boundaries imposed by modern-day adoption practices designed to make it more palatable.
Thank you to Jerry Lonsdale over at Court and Tribunal Solutions, for sharing the details of this case with us.