Scottish Daily Mail
Let her appeal! MPs back gran, 58, branded too old to adopt granddaughter
Gran, 58, deemed ‘too old’ to adopt
PRESSURE was growing yesterday for the couple prevented from adopting their only grandchild because they were ‘too old’ to be allowed to appeal. MPs and campaigners branded the case ‘disturbing’ and said the grandparents must be given a chance to argue their case.
Social workers were granted a care order last month after claiming the couple would be incapable of caring for the three-year- old girl when she reached adolescence.
The grandmother, 58, and her 70year-old husband have attacked the ‘wicked’ ruling and questioned how it could happen in a ‘civilised society’.
Their daughter, who suffers from mental health issues, was persuaded to hand the child over for adoption after she was sectioned for self-harming. No legal representative was present when she signed the document.
The grandparents – closely involved in bringing up the toddler – missed a three-week window to appeal as they could not afford a lawyer. One has now offered to take up the case pro bono.
Tory MP Steve Baker, a member of the Commons all-party group on adoption and fostering in the last Parliament, said: ‘It is disturbing that it has been alleged that the mother has signed paperwork she may not have
been in a position to fully understand. I would very much hope all steps will be taken to give these grandparents a fair chance to make their case to look after their own grandchildren.’
Fellow Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston, who sat on the same group, added: ‘Clearly the needs of children are paramount and we shouldn’t allow preconceptions about people’s ages when they are perfectly capable of taking on the role [of carer].’
Former Lib Dem MP John Hemming, who runs the Justice for Families campaign group, accused local authorities of working to adoption targets.
‘[Social workers] use Section 20s as a cheap way of getting children into care when actually it isn’t necessary,’ he said. ‘The mother clearly didn’t have the mental capacity to volunteer to put her child into care … if the child was successfully being looked after by her grandparents there is a question of lawfulness.’
He added that it would be ‘fundamentally unjust’ if the grandparents were not allowed an appeal.
The decision to remove the girl, who cannot be identified for l egal reasons, from her grandparents was made at Chelmsford family court in Essex on June 17.
The couple had looked after her for a week when a social worker arrived at their home in Southend, Essex, on January 23 and said she would be handed to foster parents. They did not see her for nearly two months and were then only allowed to visit her once a week.
The grandfather, a retired fireman, and his wife, who works in a shop, did most of her night feeds after she was born, helped wean her on to solids and taught her to walk. Their daughter has mental health issues linked to medical problems caused when she was born 15 weeks early.
Her parents were allowed to attend only one court hearing, where an assessment handed to District Judge Stephen Hodges gave their ages incorrectly and said they would be unable to care for their granddaughter as she got older. It was claimed they had failed to care for their daughter properly.
The couple have been told they will see the toddler for the last time on July 30.
Solicitor Karina Chetwynd is hoping to overturn the care order by arguing the couple were not given a fair hearing and have been deprived of their right to a family life.
Any appeal must take place before the child is settled with a new family and an adoption order granted – which could happen as soon as September.
The grandmother added: ‘We didn’t even know we could appeal. We weren’t told. It is outrageous.’
Southend Council declined to comment on the case.