Brighton and Hove girl to be reunited with her family in ‘tragic’ adoption case

Posted On 29 Jul 2015 at 11:08 am

A two-year-old girl from Brighton and Hove is to be reunited with her birth family in an adoption case described in court as “tragic”.

The toddler will now live with her father and her sister and two brothers and have contact with her mother who suffers from mental illness.

The girl – referred to as W – was taken into care when she was just four weeks old and had been placed with adoptive parents just over a year later.

Ms Justice Russell

Ms Justice Russell

Final adoption orders were due to be made but they were set aside by the Court of Appeal in May after objections made by the girl’s father. The way that the case had been handled had given rise to concerns for the welfare of the girl.

A High Court judge, Alison Russell, said: “The local authority has an obligation, in law, to bring about reunification and to provide the help, support, advice and assistance necessary.”

Ms Justice Russell criticised Brighton and Hove City Council, four social workers – Gail Alsop, Beverley Hendry, Gail Miller and Lucy Wilkinson – and the child’s legal guardian Richard Madge.

She praised the “devoted” father of four who had provided “very good care” for his children and shown no “rancour or resentment”.

The “cavalier” actions of one of the social workers had cost the father his job as a school teaching assistant – a loss that he had “borne … with great dignity”.


The judge said: “I remain concerned however about the commitment, attitude and approach of the local authority in this case.

“The manner in which Ms Alsop dealt with the father’s employment was cavalier and undermining of the father at best.

“It is illustrative of the seemingly belligerent behaviour and oppositional stance adopted by this local authority toward the father and by extension his children.

“I am yet to be convinced that they would approach any reunification openly and offer the family the positive support that it needs and is entitled to.

“Therefore I am pleased that the local authority have indicated that they will fund an independent social worker to oversee the transition and its aftermath during which time it is to hoped that positive professional and mutually trusting relationships can be built.”

The judge referred to “unconvincing” evidence from one social worker at an earlier hearing.

She said: “Despite advocating the immediate removal of the three older children based on a decision reached at an unrecorded meeting in May 2013 between social worker, managers and solicitors, Ms Hendry had not assessed the effect on each child of such a removal and was unable to address it in her evidence.”

She said: “The parenting assessment carried out by Ms Hendry in October 2012, as I alluded to above, formed the basis of the local authority’s case and continued to inform it even after her oral evidence had not been accepted by the court.


“The evidence of the social workers now allocated to this case continued to focus on their perception of the father’s inability to change or accept the need for change (although the circuit judge had given him permission to oppose the adoption of W precisely because he had changed his circumstances).

“Despite the fact that there were no findings of physical abuse these allegations continued to be repeated by the local authority.

“And, I repeat, their concentration on ‘the need for the father to change’ remained a constant part of the local authority’s case and the basis for their opposition to his attempts to have W returned to his care.

“In September 2013 the court found that the father provided ‘very good care’.”

He had grown up with a violent father but had undergone counselling for over a year, paid for out of his own pocket.

Ms Justice Russell said: “In the light of the local authority’s stance in the Court of Appeal it was most regrettable that before me they continued to place emphasis in their approach to this case on the need for the father to accept their view that his own experiences as a child made him unable to accept help and advice as exemplified by the evidence of the current social worker Lucy Wilkinson.


“Their view of the father seemed to remain unaltered despite the fact that he had remained separated from the mother, had been to counselling and was successfully parenting three children on his own.”

She also said: “I heard the oral evidence of Lucy Wilkinson the current social worker. She had not filed a statement but her practice manager Ms Alsop had done so which was largely based on Ms Wilkinson’s interaction with the family.

“The statement of Ms Alsop, in addition to containing evidence which could only be attested to by Ms Wilkinson repeated outdated evidence (of Gail Miller) and what can only be described as psychobabble about the effect on the father’s parenting of his own childhood experiences.

“In short it voiced opinions which neither Ms Wilkinson nor Ms Alsop are qualified to make.

“To describe the social workers’ written and oral evidence as merely grudging when it comes to the care and security the father has given his children is too generous.

“Ms Wilkinson was certainly both grudging and defensive when giving oral evidence.


“Their unprofessional attempts at case building are reprehensible.

“There is no evidence that they have moved on from the social work assessment carried out in October 2012 by the then social worker Ms Hendry who was criticised by the district judge.

“Moreover it would seem that the actions of Ms Alsop led directly to the father losing his job.”

She said: “The local authority tried to excuse the misleading, damaging and inaccurate referral as a consequence of difficulties presented by the CareFirst IT system.”

She also said: “The father has borne the loss of his employment with great dignity.

“The local authority is obliged at the very least to take positive steps to ensure that the information held by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS records) in respect of the father is now accurate and that this error is not compounded by further loss or inconvenience to the father in future.


“In the light of their unprofessional behaviour and their negative view of him both as a father and as an individual as expressed in their evidence there can be little wonder if the father finds it hard to trust the local authority and to work with them from time to time.

“It is largely their responsibility to repair their working relationship with him.

“The father’s measured response to the local authority gives me reason to believe that he will play his part not least as he fully understands the need to do so for the sake of all his children.”

Ms Justice Russell also criticised the children’s guardian Richard Madge. She said: “The lack of any real child-centred analysis within these proceedings is inexcusable.

“Mr Madge explicitly criticised the father for pursuing multiple applications and appeals, which he described as at sixes and sevens with each other and blamed him for causing significant delay for W.

“He clearly accepted the local authority’s view of the children’s father describing the father as a thoughtful man whose reflection of W’s situation was ‘systemically closed’.

“I do not know to what he referred as it is a jargonistic phrase empty of meaning, unaccompanied by an explanation.


“The import of his last report was to swing behind the expert opinion but he was rancorous about it and I found his analysis lacking both depth and balance, bereft of objectivity and of little or no assistance.

“Richard Madge had been the guardian for all four children in the public law proceedings.

“Yet he failed to put forward the case for W’s siblings who all want her to come home.

“He did not visit W’s mother or seek her views during the course of these proceedings and – having visited W’s siblings in December 2014 – did not visit them again or ask for their views in advance of the hearing in May 2015.

“This guardian has been involved in the proceedings from their outset in December 2012.

“I accept the submissions of counsel for the father and for the mother that it was immediately apparent from his evidence that the guardian has failed to understand the requirement for a holistic analysis of the evidence or to engage with the possibility of W returning to her family in an appropriately open-minded manner.


“In opposing the father’s application to bring his appeal against the care and placement order … the guardian and W’s legal representatives set to prioritise a resolution in favour of adoption over any investigation of reunification and the rectification of an obvious injustice that W had suffered.

“The views of her siblings were not put before the court by the guardian at the final hearing. They should have been.”

The judge praised the expert evidence of clinical psychologist Hessel Willemsen who had been preoccupied by the powerful dilemmas raised during the case.

Having praised the care provided by the little girl’s adoptive parents, Dr Willemsen said: “The word that comes to mind is tragedy. There is something really tragic about what’s happened and some people are going to feel very hurt.”

The judge said that she had to put the welfare of the girl above the adoptive parents’ feelings.

She and Dr Willemsen agreed with the father’s barrister, Janet Bazley, that placing the girl with her adopters would be “fundamentally flawed and a miscarriage of justice”.

  1. Sherlock Brown Reply

    I suspect we do not have the full story here, only the edited version of the judgement. Usually there is a very good reason for social services being involved but because of confidentiality we will probably never know all the details.

    • nannyf Reply

      We to faced a very similar story, BHSC social services continued to push through the adoption of L our 8 year old grandaughter to a couple where the wife was in rehab for addictions ,assualted a police officer,drove the family car through a brick wall whilst 3 times over the limit, prison, moved out of the area as apparently separated, adoption processed, but in the mean time they purchased a house together, wife drinking again and in hostel, and all the time the husband maintained he didn’t know what was going on and the guardian, social workers and courts backed him all the way. L has a brother she rarely sees now and a sister also she will not see again. I’ve asked the social workers involved and the adoption team if maybe they can explain to Ls brother and sister why they wont see her any more but they refuse…brokenhearted ….and us, well we are a pretty normal family. This travesty of this case so outraged John Hemming MP he wanted to make it public when it came out of proceedings.

    • Sam Richards Reply

      I would not jump the gun by saying that. I used to say them words until it happened to us . (My son and his baby). Very similar actually except he had no other child and the child was taken from birth,transferred to another hospital.we all didn’t know about the pregnancy until the day before birth.allergation and lies from the very start. We actually didn’t meet baby until 3 months old.little did we know local authorities went to court 3 times without informing either the mother or the father. They unlawfully broke the law and was told told by police to amend the papers but failed to. Was never given the chance to be a father. No history of any problems e.g. Drink/drugs/criminal record but they said otherwise. Cafcass worker didn’t know about the baby being placed with potential adopters even though submitted a report saying different. Every 15 minutes a child is removed at no time was he offered any support and purposely kept him of the birth certificate. A child has a right to know both parents. Children are being injured in the local authorities and denied medical treatment to keep out of the life long story books and medical records. I can name 12 children.(one being my grandchild. They don’t tell the real numbers of newborn-3 years old actually being adopted. The local authorities were set up to help families and are failing in every way and putting the children even greater danger. Today we’re still fighting and will continue to do so,until something is done we believed in the system and family courts too as had nothing to hide. We were so wrong and we lost all our jobs costing £7k in court fees and even the lac review they kept referring to her as boy,in a viability assessment apparently dad had given birth to 7 children? (We now know there looked after children by the local authorities) also a child at birth who died 17 years ago was apparently on a child protection register. No Pre- care plans ever done,minutes etc. As the family court is a secret one nobody will ever know the truth about what really goes on. The mother soon caught pregnant by another man,taken at birth again we tried desperately trying to keep them together and we were told to drop the sibling as we would loose both.. that’s really professional,the children didn’t even meet each other and has went for a immediately adoption. It’s sad as what used to be the last resort is the one and only and never look at the extended family. But we used to say them words. The mother however do have a chaotic life and chooses many things over the children. We’ve found on the mothers side they were under the local authorities many years ago and family members has also had newborn babies removed. However only 1 was one back at 6 months old. The local authorities seem to have a agenda and law to themselves,police can’t help. When that poor 18 month old baby was murdered by the adopted dad, we thought it was my sons child waiting 3 hours to find out it wasn’t her but felt heartbroken for the family she once had. We used to support adoptions and always told my children some children are not as lucky as yourselves and always help others. Family members has had failed ivf etc, but find it hard to support this After what’s happened. When you have a child it’s a life changing ,some don’t realise how much and it becomes all about the child and that’s how it should be. But to deny a child her siblings and family is abuse especially when local authorities went to court illegally without telling either parents. This poor father will never have closure,48% children suffer abuse in the system, 12%will have a criminal convictions 11% will be drug addicts/work in prostitution 29% will suffer abuse emotional/physical/sexual abuse. Now there the proper numbers released may 2017.

  2. Louise Gallagher (@Cluelesslou) Reply

    On the contrary, I don’t suspect there’s anything of substance missing from this story. It appears as if the original decision to remove the child was made on one assumption – that, due to the conditioning of his upbringing, the father would not be able to change his circumstances in order to raise four children on his own. It was a view they seemed unwilling, to the point of stubbornness, to objectively reassess. A shame for all involved.

  3. Krull Reply

    Our two youngest children were abducted by Brighton & Hove unsocial disservices in 2012. My Daughter D and son H remain in foster care to this day.
    The social workers and managers lied through their teeth in the alleged ‘chronology’ and despite being forced to retract those lies when dis-proven at the final hearing they still head up every LAC and PEP report with the very same lies.
    We have just had a review where the mother was branded unfit to look after even one of them despite having just waved off our eldest daughter to University.

    I volunteered to stay in care when placed there when I was 13 as I thought it the best place for me. After suffering physical, emotional and sexual abuse over many months I repeatedly ‘absconded’ only to be returned time and again to my abusers.
    Until I was able to prove to our family’s current abusers that i was telling the truth about the abuse I suffered in care I was treated as a liar. It was only the conviction of my sexual abuser being a matter of public record that forced them to accept it.
    Immediately they then used that against me at the final hearing stating that being abused by social services myself as a child made me unfit to be a father.

    Whilst I acknowledge that there are children that would be lost without social services intervention our recent experiences have shown that there is a large element of dishonesty about the way they conduct them selves both in court and in face to face meetings.
    If one does not subscribe to their views one is regarded as hostile.

    The Guardian is an ex social worker.
    The Independent Reviewing Officer works out of the same offices as Children’s Services.
    Is it just me or does that raise concerns with anyone?

    They have just told us that they will not grant us another review until 18 months minimum has elapsed. By that time our loved ones will have been gone for 5 years.

    It seems to me that parents face no chance in court when facing a veritable army of vested interests all working in their own best interests.

    As for reunification being their last resort?

    That is an outrageous lie.
    It is their first.

    Many salaries, pensions and extension of empire require a constant stream of child flesh.
    Add to that the arrogant certainty that they know best and are always right.

    I remain, as always, both deeply saddened and deeply disgusted….

  4. Krull Reply

    “As for reunification being their last resort?

    That is an outrageous lie.
    It is their first.”

    Sorry I got that all mixed up: Taking them is their last resort?
    No, it is their first.
    Reunification is the last thing on their minds.

  5. Trev nolan Reply

    Been the still there you cant win they dont save lives they destroy them i to lost my job when we had our daughter removed from our care as the social workers asked whats more inportant your daughter or your job as i couldnt leave when ever they wanted it was a 8 till 5 job stuck on stite so i did what they asked we done everything they asked my misses fell pregnant and was about 4 weeks when they got involved she told them in confidence she was 4 weeks pregnant they told he she would have to have an abortion or they would take it at berth it destroyer her mentally and emotionally she has never really recovered familys sa gave us fuel tickets to pay to get us to adelaide where the abortion clinic is and for our way home and 100 woolys voucher so we could eat over and back if i remember we had an extra 100 one we sold for 80 to get accommodation over night before the clinic now this is wrong they paid for this to happen at no time did they ask us they just told us do as your told or you will get an 18year order put on you both funny thing we still got the order put on us anyway they used our daugter to quite a person who has evidence of sexually abuse of 4 children but couldnt talk or she would of lost our daugter as couldnt work with them fsa if she was making a case there so much fabricating evidence lying we found out it all as we are actually great friends of our daugters 1st cares we now know the lies and everything but we still dont have our daugter back even after over 10,000 with lawyers we done better once they were gone went wll the way in court proven all the original claims were lies and fabricated but 1. Mistake just near the end of trial was in a friends car pulled over and a small ammount maybe 500 worth of drugs in the car they wernt mine but they dont care this is the onl y real evidence against us almost 3 years after she was taken from us and yet they only have that evidence and that is 18 year order still stands

  6. nichole Reply

    Across the country we are seeing the same corruption happening, and there is a reason for it. Before I share what it is, there are two things I want you to consider. The first is, if someone was paying you $100 for an apple, unlimited, you would make damn sure you had plenty of apples to sell, right? Second, the reason no one is talking about this is that much like an accused rapist can never shake the title rapist, even when found not guilty, an accused child abuser or neglectful parent is considered a bad person and therefor not worthy to be heard. In the nineties Clinton passed a bill, intended to limit kids in foster care, by putting financial incentives to place children up for adoption to the case worker and department, only it worked all to well. The financial incentives started putting the best interest of the department and the case workers income before the best interest of the child. The federal government only pays when a child is determined to be best in foster care (not with parents, not with grand parents, not with any family or friends the child has), and then a lot more money is paid once that child is adopted to strangers. Think about this, if the funding only comes in when one determination is made over the other, then which determination do you think they tend to make most? Most people do not know that only a small percentage of taken children are taken for any kind of abuse, most are taken under a very vague and unclear poorly defined concept of neglect. Most people do not know that a child in foster care is proven to be 6 times more likely to be beaten to death than in their ‘troubled home’. More likely to be raped, tortured, abused, neglected, over medicated, and then later in life if they survive, to end up pregnant, imprisoned, homeless, and mentally deficient. So how is the best interest of the child so often determined to be foster care and then foster-to-adopt programs where the foster care gets to adopt the child are receive a huge financial bonus (about 13,000) and tax incentives for years to come. Considering the proce to adopt a non taken child is about 30-60k, (for a white baby) it is very tempting to get paid instead of be the one who pays, and you get to pick your baby, with trial runs as a foster parent. The law also allows the case worker from the FIRST DAY they investigate you to start meeting with prospective adoptive parents and working toward helping them adopt your child when/if your reunification plan fails (designed for failure). How can we expect no bias when the same person is meeting you, accused, and meeting with a couple who looks good on paper and wants to give your baby a “loving home”, the case worker who may not of been swayed by the bonuses, certainly is by the feeling she is doing what is best for the child by working to place the baby in the new home which tends to be one with more income, as most targeted natural parents are poor, too poor to afford a real attorney. (The court appointed attorney only gets a total of 250 bucks to see them through the entire case and often just wants them to sign their rights away to get the case of his table, he also does not want to make an enemy of the court he has to keep working with, so he never questions the judge). Please look into this. It is the worst thing. Also family court has been somehow deemed outside of the constitution, so all the rights we normally have do not apply, real evidence is not required to take kids, no right to face your accuser, no right to have your own exculpatory evidence submitted, no rights whatsoever, it is a kangaroo court, and hidden in secrecy.

    Child Kidnapping and Trafficking: A Lucrative U.S. Business Funded by Taxpayers
    Child Protective Service (CPS) is big business – to the tune of billions of dollars.
    Many allege that federal funding is the root of the problem with CPS, and that the real incentive is perpetuating a lucrative business employing tens of thousands of people, and not protecting children. Whenever there is evil or corruption, often all one has to do is “follow the money.” The Bible says it best: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
    The late Congresswoman Nancy Schaefer wrote: “I have witnessed such injustice and harm brought to these families that I am not sure if I even believe reform of the system is possible! The system cannot be trusted. It does not serve the people. It obliterates families and children simply because it has the power to do so. Children deserve better. Families deserve better. It’s time to pull back the curtain and set our children and families free.”
    Many assert that CPS has become a business based on moving children from one home (the birth home) and into another (state custody foster care, group home, or adoptive home) in order to turn on the tap to get the federal funds flowing, and is not a system concerned with protecting children from abuse. Brian Shilhavy, editor of Health Impact News, refers to this as state-sponsored “child trafficking.”
    CAPTA was the beginning of this holocaust that is destroying endless innocent families. In 1974 Walter Mondale initiated CAPTA (the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act), the legislation that began feeding federal funding into the state’s child welfare agencies. With remarkable foresight Mondale expressed concerns that the legislation could lead to systemic abuse in that the state agencies might over-process children into the system unnecessarily to keep, and increase, the flow of federal dollars. Shortly after CAPTA was enacted there was a dramatic increase in the number of children in foster care, peaking at around 500,000 during the mid-70’s. The numbers remained to increase catastrophically. As long as there is funding, the ‘incentives’ will encourage social workers to use our kids as a commodity for federal funding and continue to lie to have them unconstitutionally and unethically removed from loving homes.
    I know that TITLE IV-E has turned this corruption to a whole different level of evil because their mission is to find ‘adoptable’ kids… while kids who are truly being abused are conveniently overlooked by those paid by our tax dollars to ‘look after the best interest of a child’ which is a total farce.

  7. Miguel Leraton Reply

    Actually the judge screwed up but passed the buck and blamed everybody else. 5 months later in December the whole judgement was binned by the Court of Appeal and a retrial ordered. £100K of taxpayers’ money wasted….. Ah well…..The majesty of the law.

    • Samantha Richards Reply

      This is what’s happened to our case 3 different judges and refused appeal but said the judge made a mistake. We can’t understand After 8 revoking orders and 1 appeal turned down. We don’t know where to go as the solicitors took all our savings of 7k After being misrepresented by pro bona judge. Who we sacked but claimed legal aid for 5 months and had to sign a adverdavid saying we hadn’t seen them for 4 months as misrepresented. Only 2 hearings and the judge (a magistrate) stamped baby for placement for adoption. It’s absolute torture when you don’t know the law or used to the family court.

  8. Samantha Richards Reply

    The problem is you can clear your name in a criminal court,but not in a family court,the allegations the local authorities make are serious and misleading and inaccurate information submitted and is being allowed in the lower court. The errors are disturbing and not even rectified at any point,the money is the root of it all the ISW works for the local authorities,the cafcass workers don’t have a government body and can be paid £125 a hour and therefore are not going to bite the hand that feeds them. I would advise anyone who sadly are getting a divorce for instance keep away if possible from the civil court as cafcass will cause mum an dad to argue and deem you unfit to be parents. There is over 400+ of private companies involvement of adoptions and often social workers are not even registered on the sites but when they are caught no criminal proceedings only struck off eg administration of drugs in a care home for children. Managers not qualified only on references to them being perfect. It’s all hearsay and is not as if a social worker would lie? They are unfit for purpose and come under public interest.. but a inquiry could never be done.the government has a lot to answer for with regards to forced adoption as that’s what it is. There taking children that don’t need taking and leaving ones alone the ones who deserve a better life. There admittance wouldn’t be a victory for nobody if anything a sign of relief to try to reform the family courts and Also try to repair the social services what it was originally set up for. This has gone on for many years and the public apology went as nothing as recently child trafficking has come more to light. 136 children removed from wales as stated not enough foster parents,nobody wants to foster as they know it all wrong. It is a engineering of money being offered and that’s certainly not in the best interest of child or children.

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