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Dealing with Social Breakdown – Family Judges Are at the Sharp End

Family judges deal on a daily basis with the consequences of social breakdown and, in every case in which children are involved, their welfare is the primary concern. That was certainly so in one case in which the High Court ruled on the future of a two-year-old boy whose father was aged just 14 when he was born.

The boy’s mother was 17 when she gave birth to him and both parents were habitual users of cannabis. Both had exhibited unruly behaviour and the High Court found it profoundly worrying that they appeared to view cannabis use as the norm and did not appear to consider that it had any impact on them at all.

The mother and her new partner, also a teenager, faced entrenched difficulties and seemed to have given little thought as to where they might live if the boy were placed in their care. Although they dearly loved the boy, they and his father had failed to appreciate their own limitations in putting themselves forward as carers. All of them lacked the capacity to look after the boy safely.

The Court accepted that adoption was a draconian outcome that would end the boy’s relationship with his mother, father and other members of his natural family. However, there was overwhelming evidence from professionals that that was the only practical option. The Court granted a care order in respect of the boy and opened the way for the local authority to place him for adoption.

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