High Court Encourages Social Workers to Make Use of Facebook
June 7, 2017
In the Internet era, it is wholly acceptable to use Facebook or other social media to make contact with those who have to be notified of family proceedings. The High Court made that point after being forced to abandon an adoption hearing due to a failure to successfully track down a young boy’s natural mother.
The boy had been taken into local authority care following a breakdown in his living arrangements with his parents. He was placed with a foster parent who wished to adopt him. Adoption proceedings were launched, but were resisted by the boy’s father on the basis that he had transformed his lifestyle.
The boy’s mother, who lived abroad, was required to be notified of the proceedings so that she could play a full part in the hearing if she so wished. The council had made abortive efforts to contact her through a foreign embassy. At a late stage in the proceedings, however, the father’s partner claimed that she had very rapidly managed to establish contact with her via Facebook.
The Court found that there was no bar on social workers themselves carrying out such Internet research. It was deeply regrettable that the council had not found a means of informing the mother of the proceedings, of which she had been entirely unaware. That failure had resulted in a substantial waste of both private and public funds.
Notwithstanding the potential damage that further delay would cause to the child’s welfare, and the upset endured by the proposed adopter, the Court found that it was obliged to abandon the hearing. The case would have to start again from scratch, this time with the mother enjoying a full opportunity to put forward her views