The proceedings in this case concerned a child who was born in August 2011. He was his mother’s second child. The mother’s first child had been made the subject of care and placement orders and was expected to be adopted in due course. The applicant local authority recognised that the mother had made progress and that there was a realistic possibility that she might be able to care for her second child. The local authority arranged for the mother to go to a mother and baby foster placement. After three months, an assessment by the local authority found that good progress had been made but that the mother had not yet reached the stage when she would be permitted to be assessed on her own in the community with her child and arrangements were made to move her to another foster placement. Difficulties arose between the mother and the new foster carers and she was required to leave the placement. The child remained in the second foster placement. The local authority sought care and placement orders in respect of the child. It submitted that the mother had had a disastrous experience of parenting her first child and, whilst she had made improvements and it was worth exploring whether she could care for the child, the evidence showed that she would not be able to do so within the timescales that were suitable and necessary for the child. The judge’s order had the effect of adjourning the proceedings for a period of three months. He made an interim residence order in respect of the foster carers from the first placement and an interim supervision order in favour of the local authority. He directed that an independent social worker carry out an assessment of the foster carers. At the end of the three month period, it was envisaged that the mother might be able to move into independent accommodation near to and with the support of the foster carers, or alternatively, if she ceased to care for the child, then he would remain with the foster carers. The judge had heard evidence from a clinical psychiatrist, who expressed anxiety about the proposal and assessed the chances of its success as no more than even. The judge also considered the issue of the age of the foster carers, who were in their 60s, but considered that members of the local authority might be able to step in if necessary. The local authority appealed.
The local authority argued that the judge had failed to take full account of the limited prospects of success of the proposal and had failed to take full account of the impact of delay and, in particular, had failed to acknowledge the impact of the combination of those two things on the welfare of the child.
The appeal was dismissed. It was held that the judge had immense experience in such matters and had decided to do something which others would regard as out of the ordinary. He had been well aware of the tentative professional support that the proposal had aroused and the potential adverse consequences if it went wrong. Although the judge had made an unusual order and although he must have begun to approach the limits of his discretion, he had made an order which was logical, humane and very carefully thought out based essentially on the personal qualities of those with whom he had placed his trust. Such a judgment was and could only be a matter for the trial judge himself.