Couple try to unadopt violent child

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The Independent Online
A COUPLE in the Midlands with an adopted child will make legal history when they attempt to have the adoption revoked because he proved impossible to manage.

They are reapplying to the court which granted the adoption to have the order set aside on the grounds that they, and the judge at the hearing in 1987, were not told that the child had been seriously sexually, physically and emotionally abused. His subsequent behaviour showed every characteristic associated with abused children.

The boy, now 13, became uncontrollable and violent. He attacked other children, and was finally, reluctantly, returned to local authority care by the couple in 1991. He is in a secure therapeutic institution, and is thought unlikely ever to be able to lead an independent life.

The couple, who cannot be named because the child's identity has to be protected, had desperately wanted a child, and like thousands of others turned to adoption after fertility treatment failed.

After a heartbreaking struggle they became convinced there was no more they could do for the boy. But unless the adoption is legally revoked, they remain liable to contribute to his upkeep - and he retains a legal claim on their property if one of them dies.

Under the Children Act, they are legally liable for any damage he causes - two couples in Hereford and Worcester are being sued by the education authority after their sons burnt down a school.

The couple's greatest fear is that at the age of 18, when local authority care ends, he would be legally allowed to know their address and on past history would be likely to return to try to attack them.

The Independent reported this year that the couple have issued a writ for damages against Solihull council and Barnardo's, the adoption agency which placed the boy with them. They have been granted legal aid for both actions.

The couple allege that they were not told he had been seriously abused, and that the local authority had had earlier reports of his extremely violent behaviour.

Several of the boy's brothers and sisters, who were taken into care at the same time, have behaved in the same fashion.

The father said yesterday: 'In five years we tried to do everything possible for him. But by the time he left us we had given our all. We were physically, emotionally and financially broken.

'It's obvious we're of no further use to him in any way at all. He never mentions us now. We have no control over him. If he kills or rapes somebody later in life, I don't want to read in the paper that it is somebody with our name.'

The family had been told the six- year-old boy they adopted would respond to loving care, and while he became intermittently charming, he remained manipulative, cruel and deceitful. They moved from a suburban home to the country to try to give him more space. They sent him to a top preparatory school, but he showed no signs of long-term improvement, and had to leave after other parents complained that he was sexually abusing younger boys.

While living with the family he attacked pets, ate compulsively, soiled his clothing and hid the evidence, and had no conception of play.

The legal basis for the attempted revocation is that any court order can be overturned if it can be demonstrated there was material deceit, fraud or a mistake about information on which the decision was based. Adoptions have occasionally been revoked when social services departments have found that adopting parents are unsuitable, for example where one is found to be a bigamist.

The closest legal precedent for revocation at the instigation of the couple adopting a child is believed to be a case where a couple split, the mother remarried, and with her new husband adopted the child. She had failed to reveal that she had terminal cancer, and died soon after. The child's father was able to have the adoption revoked and 'reclaim' his son.

Solihull council and Barnardo's say they cannot comment on individual cases, but deny any failure to disclose information.