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May 31, 2009 permalink
Nottingham England found a way to get a child from Rachel without paying all those lawyer's fees. They declared her imcompetent to hire a lawyer, or even instruct one, and appointed the official solicitor to represent her. He let the child go without opposition.
'They stole my little girl,' says mother judged too stupid to care for her baby
By Andy Dolan, Last updated at 11:03 PM on 31st May 2009
A young mother who was judged too stupid to care for her own baby has accused social workers of 'stealing' the child from her.
The woman, who must be identified only as Rachel for legal reasons, is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in a last ditch attempt to halt the adoption of the child, now aged three.
She has told the Mail that she was bitterly unhappy with her treatment at the hands of social workers at Nottingham City Council.
Her daughter, referred to only as K, was born three months prematurely with severe medical complications. Officials felt the first-time mother lacked the intelligence to cope with the child and care for her in safety.
K was eventually discharged from hospital and given to a foster family.
But although her health has now improved to the point where she needs little or no day-to-day care, the child is due to be handed to adoptive parents within three months.
Rachel will then be barred from further contact.
The adoption is going ahead despite a recent psychiatrist's report which declared that the 24-year-old has 'good literacy and numeracy and that her general intellectual abilities appear to be within the normal range'.
It said the unemployed former cleaner had no previous history of learning disability or mental illness.
The single mother told the Mail that she had been 'totally let down' by the system.
She said: 'Social workers and the psychologist keep saying I have got learning difficulties but I do not. They go after the wrong people. There are people out there harming children. All I want to do is look after mine but they will not let me.
'That girl has been stolen from me. They might have stamped all the paperwork, but she has effectively been stolen from me.'
After a hearing earlier this month, a family court judge reduced her contact visits with K from 90 minutes every fortnight to five minutes a month in preparation for the adoption.
Rachel's battle was compounded by the fact a psychologist concluded that her 'learning difficulties' would leave her unable to instruct her own solicitor.
As a result, Alastair Pitblado, the Official Solicitor, who acts for those who cannot represent themselves, was called in. He declined to contest the council's adoption application, despite Rachel's wish to do so.
She told appeal court judges last year that the Official Solicitor's involvement had reduced her to a 'spectator' in the case, even though she had the mental capacity to take part.
A study last year found that Rachel's IQ was rated at 71 - the IQ of an 'average' adult is 90-109.
Rachel will claim at the European Court that the lack of a fair hearing and the enforced adoption has infringed her human rights.
Social workers first raised doubts about Rachel's parenting capabilities soon after her daughter was born with chronic lung disease and other complications.
They were 'concerned' that she initially only visited the baby for one or two hours each day.
K was discharged from hospital aged six months into the care of the foster parents she remains with today.
The child's father, aged 66, has no contact with his daughter and he and Rachel are no longer together.
Rachel is being supported by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, a vocal critic of the family justice system.
Mr Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley, said Rachel had been 'swept aside by a system that seems more interested in securing a child for adoption than preserving a natural family unit'.
The council wanted Rachel to remain anonymous, but she successfully argued that allowing her first name and picture to be used would allow the case to be discussed publicly.
The Daily Mail has long campaigned for greater openness in the family courts.
In February last year, Nottingham City Council conceded social workers had acted illegally in removing a baby boy two hours after his birth because no court order had been sought.
The council claimed that the mother's troubled childhood and mental health problems threatened the baby's welfare.
Nottingham City Council said that adoption cases were 'decided by the courts, taking into account all the information presented by all parties and putting the future welfare of the child as the priority'.
Source: Daily Mail