Parents fight Newham Council for child they love

Foster parents who claim Newham Social Services overreacted to allegations of abuse made by their neighbours have launched a High Court bid to get back the child they love.

The young boy, who cannot be identified due to a court order, was taken away from the couple late last year after friction between them and their neighbours.

But the foster parents claim the London Borough of Newham rushed in without hearing their side of the story, and this week launched a legal bid to win back the boy, who is under 10.

The court heard the married couple started proceedings to adopt the boy in 2007, a plan originally supported by the council’s adoption panel.

But, despite early reports that the couple were providing a “healthy and happy” home for the boy, social services moved in last year after their neighbours said they had heard the foster father shouting at the boy.

An investigation by the council uncovered that the couple had a rocky relationship with their neighbours, which social workers feared could become violent.

The council hit the would-be adopters with a notice ordering them to return the boy and he was taken back into care.

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But the couple claim the decision was heavy-handed and this week mounted a judicial review challenge to the council’s decision at London’s High Court.

Couple’s treatment

Ramby De Mello, for the foster parents, said the couple’s treatment had violated their human rights to a fair hearing and to respect for their family life.

He told the court: “They were not invited to make representations or take part in the decision seeking the return of (the child). They should have been given an opportunity to counter any allegations made against them before the decision was taken. The decision was disproportionate and constitutes a serious and intrusive interference with family life.”

He said the couple have now moved house to get away from their neighbours, and their new home is a much safer environment for the boy.

But lawyers for Newham Council said social workers were right to intervene when they did for the safety of the child.

They cited a recent report which suggested the boy may have been smacked by the foster father as a reason why he should not be returned.

Recognising that the case raises important questions about the rights of foster carers, lawyers representing Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, have intervened in the case.

His lawyer, Jessica Simor, told the judge the orders used by local authorities to take children back from potential adopters should not be seen as breaching their human rights.

Mr Justice Charles has now reserved his judgement on the couple’s challenge and will give his ruling at an unspecified date in the future.