The ombudsman has criticised a council’s social work practice following the removal of two children from a foster couple who wanted to adopt them.
An investigation of East Riding of Yorkshire Council found an unreasonable delay in starting adoption assessments of the couple, poor record keeping, poor decision making when deciding to remove the children from the couple’s care and poor complaints handling. It also failed to be transparent with the couple about concerns it had about them.
The couple fostered the children after their birth parents were unable to look after them.
The children needed therapy and support, but after two years, the couple decided they wanted to adopt them.
However, the council was concerned about the couple’s ability to look after the children given the amount of care they were requesting and removed them from the foster carers without telling them.
‘Councils must base key decisions about the welfare of children in their care, on sound, balanced evidence and go through the proper process, which takes into account legal requirements and statutory guidance,’ said Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. ‘In this case, vulnerable siblings who had had a chaotic background, were removed from their first taste of a stable family life with a couple who had been clear about wanting to give them a permanent home.
‘And, while reports suggest the children are now content in their current placement,’ he continued, ‘we cannot say what effect the sudden removal will have in the long-term.’
The council has apologised to the couple but maintained it made the correct decision.
A spokesperson said: ‘The safeguarding of children in its care is a paramount consideration for the council. In this case, as in every other, the children’s best interests remained its key priority throughout.
‘The council maintains that the decisions made in this case, over four years ago, were right for these children. However, we fully accept that the decisions were delivered and communicated poorly. The council has learned important lessons arising from this and has made changes to its practice as a result.’