Judge Emphasises that a Care Order Does Not Imply Parental Blame

You might think that the making of a care order implies blame on the part of a child's parents. However, as a family judge's ruling in the case of a tragedy-struck 14-year-old girl made plain, you would certainly be wrong about that.

The girl was brought up by her mother alone after her father died when she was very young. Her mother subsequently suffered a catastrophic brain haemorrhage and was thereafter herself in need of round-the-clock care. She could not look after her daughter or exercise her parental responsibility for her.

The girl was placed in foster care, where all agreed she should remain until reaching adulthood. However, an issue arose as to whether she could lawfully be made the subject of a formal care order in circumstances where there was no criticism of the care her mother gave her prior to losing her parenting capacity.

Ruling on the point, the judge found that the making of a care order does not require evidence of a history of past risk or parenting failure. He noted that parents may be unable to provide adequate care for their children for a variety of reasons that reflect no blame on their part. Proof of blameworthiness was not necessary before a care order, which all agreed would best serve the girl's welfare, could be made.

The judge was satisfied that his decision would not open the floodgates so as to render any parent who loses capacity vulnerable to state intervention. The girl had suffered a torrid, difficult and traumatic time and the judge emphasised that his paramount concern was to ensure her future welfare.

The threshold for the making of a care order was crossed in that, were no such order made, the girl would be at risk of significant future harm. The order would enable a local authority to share parental responsibility for her so as to ensure that she was appropriately looked after.