“The best court hearing ever” – when the child care system succeeds

By Lisa Phillips, Director & Solicitor Advocate, Child Care Law

As lawyers involved in care proceedings, almost every hearing we attend ends with an outcome that leaves at least one party unhappy. However, after working in this area of law for nearly 20 years, last week I had the best court hearing ever…

In 2011, I was asked to represent a young girl through her Guardian, who was removed from the care of her father and his girlfriend. She had no contact with her mother. She was placed with foster carers and quickly settled, telling her foster mum about her experiences whilst at home. After two lengthy hearings it was decided by the Judge in 2012 that she couldn’t return to the care of either of her parents and was placed in long term foster care.

All too often young children in foster care bounce from one home to another and have an inconsistent childhood. Not this child.

After a further set of proceedings in 2013, which centred on letters from her dad, I forgot all about this case. That was until 2017, when I was told that the girl, now aged 13, was happily still with the same foster carers and she wanted them to adopt her – I was delighted.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that the local authority was able to get the necessary paperwork before the court and we could arrange for her to be formally “placed” for adoption. I went to visit her and met a forthright, articulate young lady who was very clear that her foster family were her family and she wanted to formally be part of it. The judge was told this and put in place plans for her to be formally adopted. My role was over.

Fast forward to last week. I was in court and saw this young lady with about 20 people. She was there for her adoption hearing. She saw me, came running to me and insisted I be part of it. Frankly, it was the most wonderful 30 minutes I’ve ever spent in court. The judge was amazing with her and I had the privilege of not only taking the photograph of the entire family around the young lady sitting in the judge’s chair but was also part of a photograph.

All too often we hear stories of a broken care system and how children are failed… but again I’m happy to say, not this child.