Court allows foster parents to adopt girl in their care for 8 years despite biological father’s objection

A Family Court judge made the decision after the Ministry of Social and Family Development assessed that the adoption would be in the child’s best welfare. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE – The foster parents of an eight-year-old girl, who was placed in their care shortly after her birth as both her biological parents were in prison, were allowed to adopt the child despite her natural father’s objections.

A Family Court judge decided to dispense with the biological father’s consent and grant the adoption to the foster parents after the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) assessed that the adoption would be in the child’s welfare.

The girl’s biological father, who was incarcerated for a drug-related offence at the time, had contested the adoption application.

In written grounds for his decision published on Saturday, District Judge Jason Gabriel Chiang said: “It was not an easy decision. I could clearly see the dedication of the applicants to the child and the earnestness of their application.

“At the same time, I also had great sympathy for the natural father’s position, and I further commend him on the strides he has already made for his recovery and his commitment to staying drug-free.

“However, the paramount consideration of the child’s best welfare necessitated the making of this adoption order.”

The biological father has filed an appeal against the decision.

The two applicants are a married couple in their mid-30s who have no children of their own.

The girl, who was born in 2014 while her biological mother was in prison, was placed in the couple’s care when she was about a month old.

The couple was subsequently also appointed to be the foster parents of two younger children from different families.

The girl, who was then already aware of her birth history, was agreeable to the adoption and reported having a good relationship with her foster parents.

She said she wanted to stay with them “forever” and enjoyed spending time with them, including trips to Hong Kong, Paris and Japan.

The girl has special needs and was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and selective mutism when she was about three years old.

Her foster mother completed a programme to learn about strategies to deal with the issues. The girl also showed improvement after going through the programme.

The girl’s biological mother consented to the adoption. The 31-year-old woman did not initiate any contact with the child after she was released from prison in 2016.

However, the girl’s biological father is unwilling to consent to the adoption.

The 54-year-old man has served five separate prison sentences, which largely related to drug use, and his risk of reoffending was assessed to be moderate by the Singapore Prisons Service.

He admitted that he started using illegal substances when he was around 15 or 16 years old, and has been jailed for using cannabis, heroin and methamphetamine.

He was released from prison in July 2015 after serving time for an unlicensed moneylending offence.

After he found a job as a forklift driver, he was allowed weekly, supervised two-hour visits with the girl from July 2016 to February 2018.

Out of the 48 scheduled sessions, he missed 29, citing work commitments or not giving any prior notice.

Given the irregularity of access and the frequent cancellations, the girl had difficulty forming an attachment with the man and even had trouble identifying him.

Between August 2018 and November 2022, he was jailed for taking methamphetamine.

During MSF’s investigations, the man said he would consider consenting to the adoption if the applicants gave a written agreement allowing him to continue to have access to the child.

The couple said they were uncomfortable giving such a written agreement as they were worried that the girl may feel abandoned if he did not turn up.

Ultimately, the man did not consent to the adoption. He asked for the adoption to be dismissed for the potential eventuality that he may be reunited with her.

He stated that he intended to stay with one of his sisters until he is more financially stable and can find a place of his own, and also made a commitment to stay drug-free.

Judge Chiang said the biological father’s commitment to changing his life was very heartening, but the paramount welfare of the child takes precedence over his wishes and aspirations.

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