When it comes to relinquished babies, when does a local authority not have to notify extended family members? Kieran Coleman explains.
Further guidance on the issue of relinquished babies and notification of family members has been provided in the recent case of Re (1) M (2) N (Twins: Relinquished Babies: Parentage)  EWFC 31. The case concerned two six-month old twins who had been relinquished for adoption by their mother following their birth. The local authority sought a declaration under part 19 of the Family Procedure Rules that it need not contact any extended family members as potential alternative carers.
The putative father was not named on the birth certificate and had been contacted by the local authority who had informed him of the birth of the twins. After initially opposing adoption, the father supported the mother in wanting a confidential adoption and considered it was the best option for the children.
The children did not have an extensive wider family network. There was a maternal aunt who had older children of her own. The mother’s parents were believed to be in their mid-late 60s, possibly older. The court noted that it was not clear whether the maternal grandparents were aware of the birth. The mother had not co-operated with invitations to discuss the situation and had not provided addresses or contact details for the extended family members. The father was an only child whose parents were deceased. The court noted there had been low levels of engagement by the parents with professionals.
Mr Justice Cobb in concluding that the local authority should not make further enquiries with the wider family noted:
- Each case must be considered on its own facts;
- There were few extended family members who could be considered as carers;
- There were no extended family members on the paternal side;
- The maternal grandparents were of an age likely to exclude them as long-term carers for twin babies;
- The maternal aunt had commitments to older children;
- The mother, as a thoughtful mature professional woman, had indicated her intolerance at the notion of the children being raised in her family.
The case follows in the footsteps of Re: RA (Baby Relinquished for Adoption: Case Management)  EWFC 25 and Re: JL and AO (Babies Relinquished for Adoption)  EWHC 440 (Fam). As ever the decision not to notify the extended family is very fact dependent. Practitioners should be sure to remember that a local authority can give no guarantees on confidentiality in cases such as these (per Re: JL and AO) and (per Re: RA) that the use of part 19 of the FPR is open to local authorities to determine difficult cases where a question arises on whether contact with the extended family should be sought.