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South Eastern Health And Social Care Trust v. M - (23 Jan 2019)

Court shall regard welfare of child as most important consideration in relation to adoption


In present case, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (Appellant) sought an order pursuant to the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order, 1987 that a child, named Mason, be freed for adoption in order that he could be adopted by his long term foster carers. Question involved in present case is whether Mason should remain in long term foster care with his foster carers or be freed for adoption by them.

Article 9 of the 1987 Order requires that in deciding on any course of action in relation to the adoption of a child, a court shall regard the welfare of the child as the most important consideration and shall have regard to all the circumstances full consideration being given, to amongst other matters, the need to be satisfied that adoption will be in the best interests of the child. This is the welfare principle under which the court is required to consider whether adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Article 9(b) requires that, in deciding on any course of action in relation to the adoption the Court shall “"so far as practicable, first ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child regarding the decision and give due consideration to them, having regard to his age and understanding. There is a fundamental requirement in deciding on whether long term foster care or adoption is in the best interests of the child for the court to ascertain, listen to and give due consideration to the voice of the child.

The judge did not address or resolve the welfare issue as to adoption as opposed to long term foster care and did not consider the wishes and feelings of Mason. The issue as to whether M was or was not unreasonably withholding consent was not appropriately addressed. There was a serious procedural irregularity. The issues are key issues. There will need to be an assessment of the witnesses and in particular M. The matter should be remitted to be heard by a different judge.


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