Social workers halt four-year attempt to teach young mother parenting skills

Social workers have halted a four-year attempt to teach a woman who gave birth when she was a teenager how to be a good parent.

They had arranged for mother and child to live with a foster carer, shortly after the little girl was born, in the hope that the woman, who has a “mild” learning disability, would learn parenting skills.

But council social services bosses have now concluded that the girl needs to be taken from her mother’s care and a family court judge has ruled that she should be placed for adoption.

Judge Michelle Corbett has made an order after the foster carer outlined a “catalogue of concerns” about the woman’s behaviour.

The foster carer said the woman: seemed unable to put down her phone and pay attention to her daughter; had been in 15 relationships in four years and got “distracted”; did not recognise her daughter’s “emotional cues”; and struggled with the “management of hygiene and cleanliness”.

Detail of the case has emerged in a ruling published online by Judge Corbett following a private hearing at the West London Family Court (pictured), in Feltham.

She said neither the woman, who is now in her early 20s, nor the child, who is now four, could be identified in media reports of the case.

The woman wanted to care for her daughter and said she just “needed a bit of support”.

A council social worker who oversaw the case had explained how the woman had been given opportunities to “enhance her parenting to a good enough standard” and said an arrangement in which a mother and child lived with a foster carer for four years was “unusual”.

The judge said other options which could have allowed the child to stay within her family had also been explored.

She said, after analysing all evidence, she had accepted the professional recommendation that the “only option” which would “adequately safeguard” the girl and “promote her well-being throughout her life” was an adoption.

Judge Corbett explained, in her ruling, how the foster carer had kept logs of the woman’s behaviour and given evidence.

“When she is in a relationship the mother is often distracted by it which has an impact on (the little girl),” the foster carer had told the judge.

“For example, (the little girl) might run up to her and her mother would ignore her and/or brush her away if she is distracted by her relationship.

“She is so often on her telephone and I frequently ask her to come off the phone and pay attention to (her daughter).

“I used to speak to her about this daily and at times there be an improvement but then it lapsed she says I will not do it again but she does it again repeatedly.

“She frequently argues in front of (the girl), I advise her not to. She listens but does not act on it.

“She does not recognise her daughter’s emotional cues, there is a constant struggle about boundaries.”

Judge Corbett said the council social worker who had overseen the case had an “excellent grasp of the issues” and was “impressive in her fairness”.

The social worker accepted that mother and child had a bond and agreed that placing the child for adoption would have a “significant impact” on her “emotional well-being”.

“She agreed that it had been an unusual situation for the mother and child to live in foster care for four years,” said Judge Corbett.

“She agreed that it could cause confusion for a child and also agreed that the mother has shown love and affection for her daughter.”

The judge added: “She explained very clearly the opportunities given to the mother to enhance her parenting to a good enough standard.”

Judge Corbett said an independent social worker had also carried out an assessment and also concluded that the woman was “unable to meet” the child’s care needs.

The judge added: “In summary her opinion is… the mother has been offered a wide range of support options alongside extensive support from the foster carer.

(The child) now requires permanency and in my opinion carers who are able to make key decisions in her best interests.

“The mother has been offered many different resources by the local authority to boost her parenting skills. Unfortunately, the outcome of this assessment is that she has not benefited from those opportunities.

Judge Corbett said a specialist’s assessment put the woman into a “mild learning disability” category.

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