SUPPORTING INDIVIDUALS IN CRISIS
Society’s stereotypes mean people make false assumptions. It’s often only when you scratch beneath the surface that you see the bigger picture. This was the case with a father called Tom.
Tom had a turbulent relationship with the mother of his child. Over the years, they’d been stuck in a cycle of being together and breaking up, the pair’s alcohol and drug misuse causing a rift in their relationship. There were also reports of physical and emotional abuse – Tom was wrongly accused of being the perpetrator.
Everything came to a head when the couple decided to take their son on a day trip to Blackpool in Spring 2020. Tom and his partner had an argument, which led to Tom walking away to cool off. He later agreed to meet her back at the train station to travel home together.
But, when he arrived at the train station, she was nowhere to be seen. Tom soon discovered why – the police had found her heavily intoxicated with their child in tow and empty vodka bottles in the pram. Unsurprisingly the police protected their son, immediately placing him into foster care.
Tom turned to the Anthony Collins Solicitors (ACS) team with one goal – to get his son back. However, despite the mother’s behaviour, it was clear everybody assumed he was the problem.
We sat down with Tom and explained his options moving forward. This started with knocking his bad habits on the head, including dealing with his alcohol and substance misuse and finding alternative, healthier coping mechanisms. Tom listened to our advice and turned his life around, changing his behaviour and finding a flat of his own.
At the initial hearing, the local authority didn’t support returning the child to the mother and was equally unsupportive of placing the child with Tom. The social worker had taken allegations made by the mother against him at face value and discounted Tom as a carer for his son.
Delays due to Covid-19 meant the initial parenting assessments weren’t filed until September 2020. In the intervening period, drug and alcohol tests confirmed the mother was still abusing substances but showed Tom was clean. However, irrespective of his changes, there were concerns this was a honeymoon blip and his parenting assessment was negative. The outcome would be to place the child with family or up for adoption.
But Tom was determined and refused to give up. He proved he was capable of the day-to-day aspects of childcare, including finding a nursery for his son so he could carry on working. The ACS team challenged the negative assessment on his behalf.
After reluctance on behalf of the local authority, another assessment took place. This assessment recommended that Tom Jnr was placed with his father. The result everyone was hoping for after he managed to turn his life around.
Tom Jnr is now living in the full-time sole care of his father and the plan is for the child to remain in his care under a Child Arrangements Order.
“This is one of those cases where without the experience and expertise of what you’re dealing with, you’re not going to be able to make a judgment call based on the evidence and challenge it to get the best outcome for the child.”
Paul Nursall, legal assistant, Anthony Collins Solicitors
*not our client’s real name
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