SGO or adoption?

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Tue Oct 29, 2013 8:52 pm

My daughter and her husband have been asked of they will take his first cousin twice removed (granddaughter of his cousin) to live with them permanently. Children's Services have told them this will be under a SGO. They have said from the outset that they would prefer (open) adoption, as it would offer more security and less disruption to this little one, with fewer hassles over visitation with birth mother. Family contact would still continue, although mostly on holidays and long weekends, as they live about 4 hours' journey away from the birth family, in a different county. Adoption would not distort family dynamics, as they are not closely related.

Daughter and son in law both have good jobs, and have been married for 10 years, with no children of their own, but have had frequent contact with young children. They are godparents to 3 children and have had frequent overnight care of their 2 nieces (now aged 4 and 2). In her 20s, daughter worked for a year as an au pair, in sole charge of 2 boys aged 6 weeks and 2 years at the start of her year.

Birth mother has a long history of drug abuse and has been under supervision for several years. She has 2 children older than F, the babe in question. All three children have different fathers. Older son is permanently with his paternal grandparents. Older daughter is permanently with birth mother's parents, who cannot take F.

Birth mother tested drug free from the time her pregnancy was known (about 2 months) and for 2 months after F's birth. She was on her "last chance" with F and she tested positive when F was 2 months old. F was immediately removed and has been a "looked after" child since then. She is 11 months old and has been settled in the same foster home for 9 months.

Birth father is known, but is not named on the birth certificate and has never shown any interest in or responsibility for F. He also has a history of drug abuse and has been to prison once. Even so, Children's Services say they have to ask birth father's family if they want to take F.

F.s birth mother and maternal grandparents have all said they are pleased for F to go to my daughter and son in law.

The first social worker my daughter and son in law saw told them taking F would definitely be under a SGO, but when my daughter phoned, the original social worker's supervisor said that she thought adoption "might be a possibility." Social Services were going to have a conference about F and would get back to my daughter and her husband, but it's been 2 weeks since then and nothing further heard.

To take F will mean considerable alteration in their circumstances. They will need to buy a bigger house (later) and car (immediately) and my daughter will cease full-time work and drop back to part-time. Because of their current. good income, they will not get any financial support. In view of all this, they need some assurance (both for F and for them) that the placement will be secure.

My questions:
What are the chances of adoption being possible?
If they take F under an SGO, can they apply later for adoption?

Sorry this is so long!



.

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:35 pm

If my daughter and her husband don't take F, since there are no other suitable family members, she could be placed for adoption with adoptive parents who will not maintain any contact with the birth family. I would have thought that altering the family dynamics, but keeping her within the extended family, contact with her birth mother still possible, would be preferable.

Son in law already knows the birth mother, who is his first cousin once removed. From her previous and current behaviour, he is anticipating that he will have the same problems with access arrangements that seem to be so common amongst SGs who post here and he wants to forestall that.

Birth mother has already been told (by some sort of court order) that there will never be any possibility of F being returned to her care.

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:43 am

So, back to my original question:
If they take F under a SGO and repeated court appearances due to the birth mother's applications make life unsettled for this little one, can the SGs apply to have the SGO altered to one of adoption?
I have read that SGs can apply to adopt after the child has been with them for a set amount of time. What is this time limit?

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:34 am

Thank you, Irene.
It's good to hear of a SGO that has gone well.

It used to be possible for adoption to take place within a family. Now, it seems that SGO is "flavour of the month" for child placement. From what I have read, it is not without its problems and has been far more widely used than was originally envisaged.

For little F, the options are SGO, or open adoption (their preferred option) by my daughter and her husband, or closed adoption by a family not known to F's birth mother. In other words, if my daughter and her husband don't take F, she will be lost to the family.

At the moment, my son in law, who is the one distantly related to F, is adamant that he will only take her if it can be by adoption. While F is only his first cousin twice removed, her maternal grandparents are his godparents. Her great-grandmother is his mother's older sister. There is no question that contact with her birth family would not be maintained.

My daughter is willing to go along with an SGO, but wants to know if there is a legal way of strengthening the SGs' position, should the birth mother prove disruptive. In spite of the court ruling, birth mother has not fully accepted that F can not be returned to her care. She has acted that way towards her own parents, who are SGs for her older daughter - she acts as if they are just doing her a temporary favour by looking after the 6-year old.

I guess that's one problem with families - the family grapevine has told daughter and son in law a lot more than Children's Services have told them officially. They aren't a childless couple looking to fill their lives with a child they couldn't have - they hadn't planned to start a family just yet - but they feel they could give F a happy and stable home and they want to offer her the best they can.

Thanks for listening.

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Robin D
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Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 12:58 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Robin D » Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:56 am

Hi Celle.

It is in the remit of the court to issue a Section 91(14) order alongside the SGO meaning that no new application can be brought before the court with the courts leave. They are relatively rarely used, but if there is good evidence of prior disturbance of the placement of the other children, I would have thought the court might consider it especially if the social worker, and or guardian have concerns about stability of the placement going forward.

Best wishes ..... Robin
Former F&F carer, foster carer, adopter and respite carer for umpteen children. Now retired and when with kids, making sure they 'go home' at the end of the day.

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David Roth
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Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby David Roth » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:43 am

Hi Celle, and welcome to the Family Rights Group discussion forum.

Irene is right to say that SGO is usually the preferred option for children placed with family and friends carers, and this is often to avoid the distortion of family relationships that might come with adoption.

However, the courts have also been clear that it is by no means automatic that SGO will be preferred to adoption. Each case has to be decided on its own merits, and the guiding factor is going to be what is best for the welfare of the child. If your daughter and her husband want to make a case for adopting the girl, then they would need to make a case for saying that adoption would meet her needs better than SGO.

It could be argued that the concern about distorting family relationships applies most strongly when the carers are close family. Adopters become legally the parents to the child, in the same way as if the child had been born to them. This would result in grandparents being simultaneously a child's parents and grandparents, while the child would effectively become a sibling of her own mother or father. The courts do realise and take seriously the confusing effect this could have for a child. Your daughter & her husband could argue that there is less possibility of roles being confused in this way, since the relationship is more distant.

However, SGO is not necessarily a bad option. The numbers of SGOs being made is steadily increasing year by year, but I see this a being an indication of it being a success. The original aim was to increase the range of legal options available for permanent placements of children who could not remain with their parents. It was intended to fall somewhere between residence orders, which did not provide enough security for some, and adoption, which could go too far in cutting all ties with birth parents. The increasing use of special guardianship shows that there are many children for whom this is the right option, and it is being used mainly by family and friends carers - around 85% of all SGOs are to kinship carers.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Thu Oct 31, 2013 8:40 pm

Thank you David. A very helpful reply.

My daughter and her husband are waiting now to hear again from Children's Services.

Celle

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Fri Nov 01, 2013 10:38 am

They have heard back from Children's Services and will be meeting .them again on Monday. The result of the meeting is that an application and placement under SGO will go ahead, as CS want to place F as soon as possible - by the end of January, so they say. F will be a year old this month and CS seem to be rushing to place her. They have said that they have no objection in principle to an adoption, but an SGO will be "quicker".

As daughter (L) and son in law (C) live in a different county, all meetings with CS will be held on either a Friday and/or a Monday, so L & C can travel to the county where F is looked after. Soon, they will also be introduced to F at one of these meetings.

The plan is for initially, for about 6 months, no contact between F and birth mother. Since F has been looked after for 9 months, she will have formed attachments with her foster family, more than with birth mother.

After this meeting with CS, L & C will consult a lawyer, as they need independent advice and need to make sure all the processes are being followed, in view of the apparent rush to place F - they don't want to be raliroaded through this.

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:00 pm

Thanks, Irene.

They are spending this weekend with son in law's mother, who lives in the county where F is fostered now. Tomorrow, they will be seeing birth mother's parents, who are caregivers for F's 5-year old half sister, D. They last saw D at her christening.

I can't give them a lot of help, because I live in another country. All I can do is give them as much moral support as possible. My husband and I will visit them for about a month every year - wish it could be longer, but that's life! You bring them up to be capable, and sometimes they grow wings and fly away. Daughter has not lived in her birth country for 14 years. She went to Germany as an au pair, then fell in love with an Englishman and married him.

In this country, they have a similar arrangement to SGO. It's called Home for Life and is being used in the same circumstances ( and with similar processes) as SGO. I have a friend whose daughter has 3 children under Home for Life and it is working well.

Celle
Posts: 68
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:26 pm

Re: SGO or adoption?

Postby Celle » Sun Nov 03, 2013 9:43 pm

Just had an email from our daughter (L). She and our son in law (C) have just spent the weekend with his mother, in the county where F is fostered.

On Saturday evening, they had dinner with F's maternal grandparents, who have care of D, F's older sister. They're also C's godparents, so they know each other quite well.

Daughter says that D is a lovely, happy little girl, but that she had been upset earlier in the day. Saturday was F's first birthday and Children's Services had said that they would arrange a meeting, so that D could see her little sister on her birthday. Well, it didn't happen!

L and C were shocked to hear that no one from F's family has seen her at all since she went into care, in May. Is this normal? How does that gel with the policy of keeping contact with the birth family?

CS have told L and C that, once F is placed with them, there will be no contact with her mother for the first 6 months "to allow her to settle with you". Fair enough that everyone gets a settling in period, but that little girl is now going to have an attachment to her foster family, not her birth mother, whom she hasn't seen since she was 5 months old.

I may be slow to catch on, but honestly I can't see the advantage for F of an SGO over an open adoption here. If, as seems to be the case, CS are going to recommend minimal maternal contact, why not go for adoption, which would give F's permanent family (L and C) the autonomy to arrange visitation at their discretion (and they do intend for F to keep in contact with her birth family), without the worry of being dragged into court for repeated applications to vary visitation rights? If T and C adopted F, they would take her to see her sister (and brother, if his carers agree) and her grandparents every time they visited C's mother. Once the initial period was over, and provided that grandparents reported that birth mother was in a fit state for it, F could also see her birth mother at those times.

One more thing: T and C want F to be able to call them Mummy and Daddy. They intend to refer to birth mother as Tummy-Mummy, or something like that. What do other SGs do?


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