Foster family gets to adopt child

Judge rules against natural mum who couldn't stop abusing 10-year-old daughter

A woman who was unable to stop abusing her 10-year-old daughter has lost her to a couple, allowed by the family court to adopt the child against her mother's wishes.

The girl's father had agreed to the adoption by the foster parents, who have cared for the child since February last year and during two other periods between 2008 and 2011.

District Judge Regina Ow-Chang said in decision grounds released yesterday that the "test is not what is best for the natural parents and their right to bring up the child, but what is best for the child".

Acknowledging that it was a "painful decision" to take a child away from her natural mother, the judge found that in this case, it was best for the child to be adopted.

But she made clear the mother's contact with the child would not cease as the adoptive parents had agreed to allow the girl's natural parents to see her.

The adoption agency, MSF Adoption Services, has offered to facilitate any contact.

DJ Ow-Chang noted that the child had had six hard years, from the age of three, being shuttled between her parents and three foster homes.

In September 2008, she was referred to the Child Protection Service (CPS) by a family service centre following claims of physical and emotional abuse. She was placed with a foster family, with her parents' consent.

In January 2009, she returned to her parents, who had learnt positive parenting methods, but the physical abuse allegedly resumed, and the CPS had to step in again.

The natural parents quarrelled often over the mother's treatment of the child, which led to her threatening suicide along with their two children. The girl went to another foster home, and then back to her first set of foster parents when the second set could not continue.

In July 2011, the child was transferred to a third foster home when questions arose about her first foster parents' remaining in Singapore. But the first foster couple then applied to adopt the girl in May last year, and the Guardian in Adoption appointed to assess the case found that efforts to re-integrate the child with her natural parents were futile as she continued to be the subject of their quarrels.

She was afraid of her mother and brother, and expressed her wish to be adopted by her foster parents.

"The natural mother showed poor insight of what the child needed most and triangulated her children into her marital conflicts with her husband," said DJ Ow-Chang.

She found the child had a good relationship with her foster family, and they had put her in a top school.

The foster parents were represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, while the mother defended herself and asked for a second chance.

She did not want the child to be adopted by foreigners, and suggested her parents or her brother instead. Alternatively, she was prepared to let the applicants look after the child as long as they did not adopt her.

DJ Ow-Chang said these plans showed "she was only concerned about the fact that she would 'lose' her child", and did not have the child's interest at heart.

Noting the " factual matrix of this case is unusual", the judge found "CPS had done all that was necessary to re-integrate the child back to her natural family before making the difficult decision to put the child up for adoption".

The mother is appealing the case. The parties cannot be named.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Foster family gets to adopt child'. Print Edition | Subscribe