Full story of grand­par­ents ‘too old to adopt’

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Joe Shute

WHEN news broke ear­lier this week about grand­par­ents who, at the age of 58 and 70, had been told they were “too old” to adopt their three-year-old grand­daugh­ter, there were howls of protest at the ap­par­ently cal­lous de­ci­sion.

MPs and cam­paign­ers spoke out in de­fence of the cou­ple, who live in the coastal town of Shoe­bury­ness, Es­sex.

The grand­mother, a shop as­sis­tant, and her hus­band, a re­tired fire­man, at­tacked the “wicked” rul­ing and ques­tioned how it could hap­pen in a “civilised so­ci­ety”.

Yet the story is not all it seemed. The pre­vi­ously un­seen court judg­ment re­veals a far messier pic­ture of the back­ground of the fam­ily – who can­not be iden­ti­fied for le­gal rea­sons – and the dif­fi­culty in plac­ing the child with her grand­par­ents. There is only one men­tion of the cou­ple’s age in the rul­ing, which has been redacted in places, and no fur­ther com­ment is made.

The judg­ment, made by District Judge Stephen Hodges on June 17, de­tails the cir­cum­stances in which the child was put into care.

It says the child’s mother cut her­self with a kitchen knife in her daugh­ter’s pres­ence on Jan 16 and was sec­tioned un­der the Men­tal Health Act. The child was placed with her grand­par­ents for three days be­fore the mother “ob­jected” and she was placed in fos­ter care.

The grand­par­ents al­lege that no le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tive was present when their daugh­ter made the fi­nal de­ci­sion to hand over the child to the au­thor­i­ties. Dur­ing a ra­dio in­ter­view on the

Richie Allen Show, which is broad­cast on­line in as­so­ci­a­tion with a web­site be­long­ing to the con­spir­acy the­o­rist David Icke, the grand­fa­ther said his daugh­ter “wanted her to come and stay with us”.

But in an in­ter­view con­ducted with the mother, and out­lined in the court judg­ment, she said that she had ex­pe­ri­enced an “un­happy and dys­func­tional child­hood” and “there has been no ev­i­dence put for­ward” by the grand­par­ents to demon­strate that they had ad­dressed their par­ent­ing style.

The judg­ment also states that the grand­fa­ther ad­mit­ted un­der oath that his wife had on oc­ca­sion slapped their own child’s legs for poor be­hav­iour, while the daugh­ter claimed she had been “abused phys­i­cally” by them sev­eral times. Ac­cord­ing to the judg­ment, the grand­fa­ther ad­mit­ted that his wife suf­fered long-stand­ing de­pres­sion which had caused her to miss many meet­ings over their own daugh­ter’s fu­ture. She was still re­ceiv­ing a low dose of med­i­ca­tion to treat the ill­ness, al- though she hadn’t suf­fered a de­pres­sive episode for “a year or two”, and con­cerns were raised that she would be able to cope any bet­ter with her grand­daugh­ter than she had with her own child. The judge said that while he ac­cepted “clear ev­i­dence that they have been good grand­par­ents”, his main con­cern was that the grand­fa­ther had in­di­cated he wanted to stay in touch with his daugh­ter as well as car­ing for his grand­daugh­ter. “I just can­not en­vis­age how the tri­an­gu­lar re­la­tion­ship can pos­si­bly work,” he said.

There have been pre­vi­ous ex­am­ples of de­lib­er­ate bias against grand­par­ents seek­ing adop­tion. Last No­vem­ber, three so­cial work­ers in North East Lin­colnshire were heav­ily crit­i­cised for “grossly over­stat­ing” ev­i­dence against a three-year-old boy’s grand­par­ents in order to sup­port the coun­cil’s at­tempts to place him into care.

How­ever, Lynn Chesterman, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Grand­par­ents As­so­ci­a­tion, said she would be very sur­prised to find ex­am­ples of overt ageism in the courts. “I sus­pect there are some peo­ple who im­ply it, and I’m not say­ing it’s all to­tally gone, but they ob­vi­ously can’t turn peo­ple down just be­cause of age,” she added.

The grand­par­ents rep­re­sented them­selves in the fam­ily court hear­ing last month but their case has since been taken up by Ka­rina Chetwynd, a so­lic­i­tor with John Copland and Son, on a pro bono ba­sis. She said yes­ter­day that the court should is­sue a full tran­script of the hear­ing and that her client stood by the claim that he was told he was too old to care for his grand­daugh­ter. She added that the cou­ple were still con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal.

“They need to make an in­formed de­ci­sion whether they can bat­tle on,” she added. “I want them to but I would never force any client to do some­thing they are not com­fort­able with.”

‘I’m not say­ing [ageism] has com­pletely gone, but they ob­vi­ously can’t turn peo­ple down just be­cause of age’

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