exposing the dark side of adoption
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Battle to get Laura home


Rachel Pullen gave birth to baby Laura - not the child's real name - 18 months ago.

But the tot has never slept in the cradle. The little girl, born 13 weeks prematurely, was taken into care before she left hospital. Nottingham City Council claimed Rachel, 23, was unfit to care for her child, who had severe breathing problems.

Rachel said the news that Laura would be taken into care was broken to her in the neonatal unit at the QMC. She said: "The social worker said Laura is being discharged. I said I would call a taxi and take her home. The social worker said, 'You can't. The child is going into foster care'. They told me to get a solicitor."

The authority has now taken matters a stage further and succeeded in obtaining a Placement Order from the family court in Nottingham to put Laura up for adoption, against Rachel's wishes. Rachel claims she was never allowed to have a proper say in what happened to her little girl and is appealing.

Her case has been taken up in Parliament by Liberal Democrat MP, and family court campaigner, John Hemming, who believes it could become a test of what he sees as unfair treatment of families in adoption cases.

At home in Aspley, Rachel finds it difficult to make sense of what has happened. "I could not see why the council did what they did," she said. "They said if you get a flat and get your parenting skills up I could get Laura back. I did it, but it was still not good enough."

The placement hearing took place in August. Rachel described how she sat powerless in a brief hearing in Nottingham Crown Court while the fate of her child was decided by the lawyers. Almost no evidence was put forward on Rachel's behalf, before Her Honour Judge Joan Butler QC gave the adoption the go-ahead.

Prior to the hearing, Nottingham City Council appointed psychiatrist to assess Rachel. She concluded Rachel was not capable of instructing her own solicitor. Rachel's original solicitor from the Nottingham Family Law Association was removed and an official solicitor appointed.

But when the time came the official solicitor submitted a statement to the court to say he felt the evidence that she could not look after her child was overwhelming. He offered no evidence to support her wish to maintain custody.

He also said Rachel was incapable of giving her consent to the Placement Order, effectively nullifying any objection. At Rachel's request, the barrister appointed to represent her told the court she wanted to care for the child, but no further information was offered. There was no opportunity for Rachel to speak.

Now the family have appealed to the High Court themselves, without legal assistance, and are hopeful an appeal date will be set. This week a petition was put before Parliament by Mr Hemming claiming the case highlighted an "injustice" and even conflict of interest issue in the current system.

Director of Specialist Services in the city council's Children's Services department, Sue Gregory, said: "The council has a long history of involvement with this family. The matter was put before the Family Court which considered extensive assessments.

"The mother was represented in court, independent of the council. The court made a decision based on all the information it was presented with by all parties."


2007 Oct 26