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(Family Division, Pauffley J, 22 August 2013)
Following a fact-finding hearing in relation to the 7-year-old child and his 5 siblings the decision was taken for the children to not be returned to their mother. The child had been traumatised when he was placed with foster carers but while he had been in their care he had settled and was making progress. The local authority carried out an assessment of the child's great uncle and aunt as prospective long-term carers but the children's guardian was opposed to the child being moved particularly before a further assessment of his needs and advocated for the child remaining in his current placement under a long-term fostering arrangement.
The mother supported the local authority's stance that the child should move to the family placement and the outcome of the assessment was very positive.
The judge found that the children's guardian had failed to take into account the growing body of positive evidence about the great uncle and aunt. In light of the amended Family Proceedings Rules as to the use of expert evidence, there would be no benefit of a further assessment. The child's needs were those of a child who had been through distressing and abusive experiences which were already well understood by the local authority and the great uncle and aunt. Placement with them was approved.
The guardian's reliance on the wishes and feelings of the then, 6-year-old child was not appropriate. At that age the child did not have sufficient maturity, insight, perspective or capacity to weigh the risks and advantages of the situation. The conversation between the guardian and child in relation to the local authority plans was concerning. The child would have been extremely confused and have been emotionally harmed by the discussion. The judge would meet with the child to explain the care plan for his move to the great uncle and aunt's care and give him an opportunity to ask questions.
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