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Re F (assessment of birth family) [2021] EWFC 31

Application by a Local Authority under Part 18 FPR 2010 to determine whether the “original family” of the mother of F, who was adopted, should be assessed as kinship carers for F. On the facts of the case the Court determined the LA had no obligation to assess but cautioned against this being read as a decision of wider application

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The mother (M) had been adopted at age 6.  By age 13 her adoptive placement began to break down and she successfully made contact with her birth family.  She visited them and at one point stayed for a month.  During one visit, aged 17 M discovered she was pregnant.  By this time she was in foster care.  Her view was that her birth family had been wholly negative about her pregnancy and she was not supported by them at all.  She opposed them being assessed as carers for F.  The LA's care plan for F was a supported rehabilitation to M's care, but contended that a parallel plan should include consideration of assessment of the birth family.

The court took account of the guidance offered in Re A, B, C (adoption: notification of fathers and relatives) [2020] EWCA Civ 41 and Re H (care and adoption assessment of wider family) [2019] EWFC 10.  On careful consideration of the legal principles the court was satisfied that M's birth family were not her current 'family' or her 'relatives' in the context of CA 1989 Part III.  Even if the birth family could bring themselves within the definition of 'family' there was evidence that argued against them being considered as a realistic option to care for F (para 30).  M's opposition to their assessment also carried significant weight (para 31).  The court noted that there may be circumstances in which a birth family could properly fall to be assessed, for example where there had been a reconnection with a birth family that had led to a wholesome and successful reunion, but that was not the case on the facts in this instance

 

Case study by Martina van der Leij, Barrister, Field Court Chambers

For full case summary, please see BAILII