Tears as couple lose fight to adopt drug-addict baby

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A foster mother was in tears outside the High Court yesterday after she and her husband lost their fight to adopt a 14-month-old girl born addicted to heroin and methadone. The judge praised the couple for the care they gave the child, who also has eczema, asthma, epilepsy and an allergy to dairy products. "I wish to pay tribute to the enormous contribution they have made to the baby's future," said Mr Justice Cazalet. "It is quite apparent that they love her, she loves them and they are well-bonded."

Removing "Baby S" from their home would cause distress, particularly to the couple's own four children, he said. But there were no grounds for overturning the decision of Cornwall County Council, which found the couple were not suitable for adoption, despite the fact that the natural mother wanted them to have her child. The council's adoption panel disagreed, partly because the father, also a drug addict, had objected to the family and threatened to disrupt the fostering arrangement.

Last month social workers went to the couple's home, in the St Austell area, to take the baby away. When they did not hand her over, police were called but refused to intervene.

The judge said that the attempt to remove the child was "wholly improper" and against the baby's interests because no proper notice had been given.

But the council had since rectified the situation by giving valid notice and it could not be said its decision to remove the baby was irrational, unreasonable or against natural justice. The judge, who directed that the parties must remain anonymous to avoid identifying the child, said the foster parents' adoption application would be dismissed unless they lodged notice of appeal against his ruling within seven days.

After the hearing, the foster mother was comforted by her husband and one of their daughters. They said that the judge's decision was wrong. The couple have been registered foster parents for seven years, have cared for 14 children and were said to be highly regarded by the council.