Scottish council granted permanence orders in relation to three brothers

A Scottish local authority has been granted permanence orders in relation to three sibling children whose mother had a history of alcohol abuse, after a judge in the Court of Session ruled that it would be “better” for each of the three boys that an order be made than not.

Lord Brailsford (pictured) said he was satisfied that the petitioners Renfrewshire Council had established that it was “appropriate” to make the orders sought, having considered that the need to “safeguard and promote the welfare of the child” throughout their childhood was the “paramount consideration”.

The court heard that the eldest two children - LK, 13 and AK, 11 - resided with foster carers, Mr & Mrs Paton, while the youngest OK, 9, resided with foster carers, Mr & Mrs Wilson.

The respondent, “AMM”, who had a long standing history of alcohol abuse, had been living with the father of the three children, who also had a serious problem of alcohol abuse before he died.

As a result of their alcohol problems the respondent and her partner were unable to provide the children with an adequate degree of care and control and they were considered to be at serious risk of harm while in the care of the respondent.

In February 2009 the children were received into the care of the petitioners and in July 2009 and the children made subject to supervision requirements with a condition that they reside with foster parents.

In March 2010 the children were returned to the care of their mother after she had been alcohol free for some eight months following attendance at the Alcohol Problem Clinic at Dykebar Hospital.

However, she relapsed and was unable to adequately care for the children or to keep them safe.

Since June 2010 the children were again removed from the respondent and had been accommodated by the petitioners since.

The two oldest brothers and were “settled” in their foster carers’ homes and it was said that that it would be “seriously detrimental” to them their domestic arrangements with the Patons were upset, while the youngest brother regarded the Wilsons as his long term carers.

The court was also told that the respondent continued to exercise “supervised contact” with each of the children separately in a local authority run centre, while the three boys also had contact together about three times per year, but their mother is not present at these sessions.

In each of the three cases there had been a curator ad litem appointed and in each case she had found that it would be better for the child that the permanence order be made than it not be made.

The curator further expressed the view in each case that the children should continue to reside with their existing foster carers but that the respondent’s parental rights in relation to contact with the children should not be extinguished.

Witnesses all spoke to the children being well settled in their current placements and all expressed the view that having regard to the respondent’s past deficiencies in providing adequate care for the children they had objectively based concerns as to whether she would be able to cope with the children if returned to her care.

On the basis of the evidence, the judge held that any alteration to the current placements of the children would be “seriously detrimental to their wellbeing.

In a written opinion, Lord Brailsford said: “I am satisfied that In my opinion it is necessary for both the safeguarding and welfare of these children that provision is put in place to ensure that the current placement arrangements are maintained for the remainder of their childhood. This can only be achieved by the granting of permanence orders as craved in these petitions.

“On the evidence I am satisfied that it would be better for each of these children that a permanence order be made than that it not be made. The other statutory requirements are satisfied in each case. It follows that I am satisfied that the petitioners have established that it appropriate to make the permanence orders sought in each of these three petitions.”

In relation to contact, the judge noted that a flexible and pragmatic approach had informally been operated successfully by the parties in the past, and he therefore decided not to make a formal order.

He said: “The petitioners are of the view that it is in the best interests of each of these children to have regular contact with the respondent and that it is their intention to facilitate this throughout the remainder of childhood for each of the boys. I formally note and record that expression of intention – and on the basis of it make no order for contact.”

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