A Heysham foster carer is celebrating her adoption of a foster child after a long battle with Lancashire County Council.
The woman who cannot be named for legal reasons challenged a decision by the county council to remove her from her care. She had been with her for almost two years when she filed an application for adoption. The county council wanted her to be placed for adoption with a new born half sister in a different placement.
Her daughter is three and a half years old. She was placed with her in 2012 when she was 6 months old.
Commenting on the county council’s plans she said, “When Flora came to live with me, it was obvious that due to her upbringing she had a lot of issues that impacted on her behaviour. She was a whirlwind! She would run everywhere – even onto the stage at my son’s nativity!
If she did not get attention she would scream, cry, bite herself and pull her hair out. She was very aggressive and she tried to harm a foster baby placed with me.
She looks very cute and attractive. Only those who know her well realise how damaged she is.
Over the time she was placed with me I understood her moods and her hyper-behaviour. With skilled support she learned to trust me. She built a relationship with me and my children. Gradually her behaviour has changed.
When the county council decided it was in Flora’s best interests to be put in a family she didn’t know with a half-sister she hadn’t met, I told them that this wasn’t going to work. Flora has an attachment disorder. She struggles with relationships.
I told Lancashire that I wanted to adopt her but they ignored me and went ahead with their plans. I had to file my own adoption application. There’s no Legal Aid for adoption applications. Lancashire fought me all the way. I wouldn’t have Flora living with me now without the hard work and skill of Nigel Priestley, a lawyer who specialises in adoption and without the financial support of a very good friend who agreed to pay my legal expenses.
It was a hard battle. I was emotionally drained. After an expert told the court that Flora shouldn’t be moved and that she was doing well in my care, Lancashire backed down. The judge indicated she was going to allow me to adopt her. She expected the County Council to pay for my legal costs.
But the fight wasn’t over. Flora is a very damaged child. Whoever cared for her would need a carefully thought out support plan. I then had another battle to get guaranteed therapeutic support for her.
None of this should have happened. The government has an agenda. The baby whom Flora was going to live with was part of the ‘Foster for Adoption’ scheme. The couple wanted a family and Lancashire made its plans without considering what was best for Flora. Until I had spoken to Nigel Priestley I wasn’t sure that we could successfully fight the county council. She needed the certainty of adoption – but by me not with strangers!
Flora and I with my own children will be holding a celebration at court with the judge later this year.”
Nigel Priestley commented “The County Council’s actions were outrageous! They ignored a request from my client to be considered for adoption. They kept the court in the dark about their plans when Flora’s half sibling was adopted. They fought her almost all the way! And even when they accepted that it was in her best interests to live with my client, we then had a battle to get a proper support plan.
My client was determined but she could so easily have lost her daughter. It is iniquitous that there is no legal aid to fund such cases. Flora’s long term future care was at stake. Without the generosity of a family friend she could never have afforded the legal fees to fight and win this case.”
Ridley & Hall are one of England and Wales’ leading firms supporting ‘family and friends’ carers (kinship carers) and in challenging local authorities.