The case concerned contact between a child in care and the rest of her family. The child in care was a ten year old who had three siblings. Two younger siblings had been placed for adoption abroad, whilst her fifteen-year-old older sister was living at home with their father. The judge at first instance authorized the termination of contact between the ten year old and her parents and refused her fifteen year old sister’s application for contact to her on the basis that it would be in her interests to have some continuing direct contact to her adopted siblings, and that she could not also have direct contact to her other family members because of the risk that information about the whereabouts of the adopted children’s placement would become known to the parents.
The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal by her fifteen year old sister and her parents and ordered a rehearing before a different judge on the basis that the judge had failed to look into the future, and had failed to consider whether, in two or three years time (rather than now), the importance to the child in care of maintaining contact with her older sister and parents would be greater than being able to see her adopted younger siblings. The judge had also not sufficiently assessed the potential for unstructured contact between the child in care and her older sibling via social media, given its potential to cut across any embargo on contact between them. McFarlane LJ said that the “conventional starting point” for children in long term foster care was to have fairly regular direct contact unless there were specific child focused reasons for taking an alternative course and he was struck by the apparent absence of consideration of the impact on the ten year old, once she reaches the end of her time in care, if she has not maintained any relationship with members of her family in this country during the intervening years.