South West Wales

Children's rights test case by boy, 15, over foster care

A teenager who wants to live with his mother has a brought a test case at the Court of Appeal on the rights of children to be heard.

The youngster has been put in long term foster care by Carmarthenshire council after his "stubborn and difficult" mother said she wanted to work abroad.

The 15-year-old claims a family judge took an "overly paternalistic approach" when she met him in her chambers.

The three appeal court judges are to deliver their verdict at a later date.

The teenager's case is that he was denied the opportunity to express his views, denying him the benefit of feeling he had played a part in deciding his future.

The court heard the local authority took action last year after the boy's mother "engaged in an inappropriate game of poker" with officials in the hope her son could be put in temporary foster care until she returned from working abroad.

The family judge ruled the teenager should stay in foster care until he is old enough to make choices for himself.

She came to the judgment after hearing from social workers, a specially-appointed guardian acting for the teenager, and after meeting the teenager herself in her chambers.

But the teenager's lawyers told the appeal court judges that the family judge did not ask him for his opinion on the case when the two of them met.

The boy argues that his rights - as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - were not taken in to account by the judge's refusal to let him give live evidence in the case.

'Huge impact'

The court heard the youth accepted his mother could be "stubborn and difficult" but that he still wanted to return to her care as he accepted her character.

Lawyers for the boy argued the judge adopted an "overly paternalistic approach", both in refusing to allow him to go back to his mother and in failing to listen to his wishes.

David Blake, speaking for the boy, said: "It is submitted that this approach does not sit comfortably with what is a growing trend to make strenuous efforts to at least listen to - if not always act upon - the voice of the child and the rights that are contained within Article 12 of the UN Convention.

"The judge has failed to factor in the cathartic welfare benefit in being heard and knowing that you have done all you reasonably can do to influence your own destiny."

Mr Blake added: "The young person does have the absolute right to do what they feel is in their best interests, which is having a say in the proceedings which will have a huge impact in their young life."

Lords Justice Ward, Elias and Pitchford reserved giving their decision until an unspecified later date, saying the court would take some time to think about the important points raised.

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