UK court rules Singapore woman's kids be given up for adoption

A woman from Singapore, who was in financial difficulty with her husband, had two of her children taken away from her and placed in foster care while she was living in Britain.
A woman from Singapore, who was in financial difficulty with her husband, had two of her children taken away from her and placed in foster care while she was living in Britain.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

A woman from Singapore, who was in financial difficulty with her husband, had two of her children taken away from her and placed in foster care while she was living in Britain.

The authorities there said the couple used their children - a boy, seven, and girl, five - to demand welfare benefits and even coached the daughter to claim that social workers had sexually abused her.

The UK High Court decided earlier this month that the children will not be reunited with their mother, but will be given up for adoption there instead.

The woman, who held a Singapore identity card and is said to be of South Indian origin like her husband, gave birth to their third child in Singapore in December 2015 and has lived here since.

Court documents did not reveal the nationalities of the couple and their children.

The UK court heard that she returned to Singapore when she was 38 weeks pregnant. This was a month after the local authorities in Britain started proceedings to remove her third child at birth, to also be placed into foster care.

At a court hearing in February last year, the father had sought the return of his children to reunite with his wife and new baby in Singapore, with subsequent documents claiming the couple would be able to care for the children financially with family support. The judge found this was not a "realistic option", given the evidence and serious findings of emotional abuse, and ordered foster care placements.

In deciding that the two children should be put up for adoption, UK High Court Justice Michael Keehan said in judgment grounds: "I am satisfied that nothing else will do in the welfare best interest of the children, other than to be placed for adoption.

"The parents do not consent to the same. I have no doubt that, very sadly, they will be heartbroken at my decision. I am satisfied for the reasons given, that the welfare of the children requires me to dispense with the parents' consent."

The family's problems came on the radar of the authorities in Birmingham, where they lived, after the husband lost his job in 2013.

It emerged that he did not have valid immigration entry papers and the mother was an overstayer, having first arrived in 2004. They were ineligible for state benefits and the family became destitute by April 2014. The family was referred to the local authority but the parents held the authority wholly responsible for providing for the family.

"The father's extreme behaviour was exhibited as early as May 14, 2014 when he threatened to jump into the river off a bridge together with the children if a new house and financial assistance to the level sought were not provided," noted Judge Keehan.

The couple did not care for the emotional well-being of the children, using them to demand more money, as well as keeping them out of school and even hiding them in cupboards to prevent social workers from seeing them, he added.

In 2015, the father coached the girl to falsely make serious allegations of sexual abuse against the school and social workers, which triggered a full probe by the police. The boy's school attendance was also falling away and his behaviour was deteriorating.

In August that year, the children were removed from the parents and placed in foster care to prevent further absconding after they had earlier tried to flee to Glasgow but returned to Birmingham.

At an earlier court hearing in February last year, the father had sought the return of his children to reunite with his wife and new baby in Singapore, with subsequent documents claiming the couple would be able to care for the children financially with family support.

The judge found this was not a "realistic option", given the evidence and serious findings of emotional abuse, and ordered foster care placements. The case then went to appeal as the parents tried to be reunited with their children.

A three-judge court last October ruled that the case be remitted for a further hearing to the High Court.

At issue before Judge Keehan was whether the children should continue with long-term foster care, or be placed for adoption with a "forever family" as sought by the local authority.

Based on the woman's written submissions and the father's testimony at a hearing last month, the judge concluded that their "beliefs, views and stance" had not changed "one jot" since the proceedings first started in August 2015.

Justice Keehan concluded if the children remained in long-term foster care and the father had contact, he would do everything to "undermine the placement" and be wholly incapable of supporting them.

"Neither parent accepts that there are any deficits in their parenting or any reason why the children should live separately from them."

He added there was no evidence of any material change in the circumstances of the mother, the father or the children so far to cancel the foster care order as sought by the father, and ruled that there be a review in due course on the progress of finding suitable adopters.

"Adoption would bring to the children a degree of stability, security and permanence that long-term foster care cannot achieve."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'UK court rules S'pore woman's kids be given up for adoption'. Print Edition | Subscribe