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(Family Division, Ryder LJ, 28 June 2013)
The 7-year-old child was cared for since he was 4 months old by a foster carer. Attempts were made to place him with the paternal aunt and uncle but proved unsuccessful. Once the placement was approved as permanent the carer applied for an adoption order.
The child's maternal grandmother had been having contact on a regular basis and sought an order to formalise the arrangement which was supported by the guardian but opposed by the local authority.
Ryder LJ found that the foster carer provided excellent care and accepted the evidence of the social worker who considered that a contact order would fuel resentment and would be counter-productive. While he agreed with the guardian's views on the frequency of contact, he disagreed with her in relation to the need for an order, saying that it could generate an anxiety of its own that could be antithetic to the hierarchy of needs which were the very reason for an adoption order. He considered that, despite the child's relationships with his maternal family being important, they had to take second place to the primary relationship of (adoptive) parent and child.
However, he concluded that the contact proposed by the guardian was in the best interests of the child and was necessary for his welfare to be safeguarded throughout his life and that there should be an order for limited contact.
All parties apart from the child's mother supported the application for an adoption order. The key issue was which order was best able to provide for the child's needs having regard to the effect on him during his life of ceasing to be a member of his birth family.
On the facts of the case, adoption was not antagonistic to contact, but if the court had to choose between adoption and contact it would unhesitatingly choose adoption.
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