Brothers kept together with support under Care Order
Case report: Confidential children’s care proceedings.
Lorraine Green represented two brothers in relation to care proceedings brought by the local authority, following concerns about their parent’s capacity to protect them in light of drug and alcohol misuse, domestic abuse and general neglect.
The older boy had been arrested the year before the issue of proceedings and, when police conducted a drugs raid in the family home, they found the parents under the influence of drugs and alcohol. He was bailed and went to stay with his adult sister.
When their mother left the country for a holiday, the younger son was left in the care of his father, but the child was reported to have been seen standing outside the family home in the rain in the evening while his father used drugs inside the home.
As a result of safeguarding concerns, the youngest brother was removed from the father’s care under police protection and placed into foster care, and later placed in the care of his maternal grandmother. This resulted in care proceedings being issued.
Meanwhile the older brother grew more involved in crime and was arrested a second time as part of a scheme to steal mobile phones, then on a third occasion in relation to possession of Class A drugs. There were concerns that the family home was being used as a gathering point for gang members and Class A drug users.
Shortly after the issue of care proceedings, the older brother was made subject of Interim Care Orders and was moved into the care of his sister to join his younger brother, as he had been spending most of his time at her house anyway.
A month later, he was injured by a knife and taken to the hospital. The brothers and their sister were all moved to an undisclosed location for their safety, but the oldest boy absconded on several occasions and the local authority had to seek a recovery order.
Initially, the local authority had planned for the children to be placed in their adult sister’s care but, after the older boy absconded, they placed him into a residential unit for three months, where he was supported with regard to his gang affiliation and criminal behaviour. He absconded again, and as it is believed he was assisted by the father a Child Abduction Warning Notice was issued by the police. He was moved to another placement, which was more remote and by all accounts progressed well.
The proceedings for the younger brother concluded in June 2020, when the court approved a plan for him to remain in the care of his sister with a 12-month Supervision Order and Special Guardianship Order.
The court also approved plans by the local authority to place the older brother in a residential unit and granted an application for Deprivation of Liberty to restrict his ability to use his mobile telephone and for staff at the residential unit to prevent him from leaving the premises.
After three months in the residential unit, the older brother was returned to the care of his sister with his younger brother, for a three-month trial period under an Interim Care Order As he was considered to be vulnerable to exploitation from gangs, a referral was made to the national referral mechanism regarding modern day slavery.
He continued to abscond and there was concern that his sister was unable to keep him safe. She reported that she was unable to care for the older brother and encouraged the local authority to explore other family members – although a suitable alternative was not identified.
Shortly before the final hearing, there was a period of stability and his sister agreed to retain him in her care, provided appropriate support was in place.
Rather than under a Special Guardianship Order, the local authority proposed a Care Order to ensure that the placement was fully supported, particularly in light of the potential gang affiliation, and the potential impact on his younger brother.
This was implemented at the final hearing, with the older boy remaining with his younger brother in the care of their sister.
Throughout the proceedings, the older boy’s competence to instruct his solicitor separately was assessed and his wishes and feeling were taken directly from him.
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