Four-year-old boy will be taken away from parents with learning difficulties because social workers say he’s ‘not getting the cuddles he needs’

A four-year-old boy must be taken from his parents because they cannot teach him the difference between right and wrong, a judge said today.

The mother and father, who are married churchgoers, are also unable to make sure their son stays safe or to feed and bathe him, the most senior family law judge found.

Social workers also said they were worried he was ‘not getting the cuddles he needs’.

The landmark decision by Sir James Munby, President of the High Court Family Division, means the parents, both of whom have learning difficulties, have lost their fight to keep their son, who will be adopted by a new family.

Sir James said family’s case was ‘wrenchingly sad’. The parents were devoted to the boy, would never harm him, and had done nothing they should be blamed for.

But there were ‘not able to manage’
The judge added: ‘Their own difficulties were simply too great. My heart goes out to them.’

The ruling comes at a time of growing controversy over adoption of children against the wishes of their parents – sometimes referred to by anti-adoption campaigners as ‘forced adoption’.

Recent court rulings have insisted that children can only be adopted as ‘a last resort’ and ‘when nothing else will do’.
Ministers who want to encourage more adoptions of children whose parents cannot bring them up have promised a new law to ensure courts take into account a child’s long-term prospects.
Yesterday’s case, described by Sir James as ‘desperately sad and worrying’, is the latest in a series of deeply disputed adoptions in which children have been taken from well-meaning parents who suffer from learning disabilities.

The boys’ parents, who live in Swindon, both have learning disabilities. The mother was said to show ‘features of autistic thinking’ and has difficulties thinking flexibly.

The father has a ‘significant cognitive impairment’ but has managed to hold down a job for 12 years.

Social workers decided in 2012 that they would help the parents to bring up their child. But in the spring of 2014 they changed their minds and took for the boy, identified only as ‘D’, into state care.
One wrote to the mother saying: ‘I and others visiting your home have seen D hitting, throwing and shouting. I am worried because you have not been able to provide consistent guidance to D and he does not know that this is wrong.

"I am worried that D does not understand from you what he is and is not allowed to do."

She warned the mother that they boy was able to get into the road and had been seen picking up a kitchen knife.

Another assessment found the mother was poor at hygiene, responsiveness, stimulation, guidance and control, responsibility and independence. She was rated between adequate and poor at feeding her son.

A report said: ‘Both parents have difficulties with the areas of feeding, healthcare, parental responsiveness, guidance and control, shopping, cooking, general safety, and safety outside the home.’

A particular difficulty was ‘setting appropriate boundaries’.
Under the parents’ care, the boy was said to be putting on excessive weight and there were concerns over his slowness with speech and language.

Sir James said the parents would need 24-hour help if they were to continue to bring up their child.

He said it had been a courageous decision in the first place by social workers to allow the parents to raise their child.
But ‘the sad reality is it turned out to be too courageous’. Expectations that the parents could cope turned out to be ‘unrealistic’.

The judge added: ‘This is a desperately, indeed, a wrenchingly sad case. D’s parents are devoted to him and have always wanted to do, and have done, their very best for him.

"They would never harm him, and have never done so. They are not in any way to blame. They are not to be criticised. It is not in any sense their fault.

"They have struggled against great odds to be, as they would want to be, the best possible parents. But ultimately it has proved too much for them.’

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