A unique High Court bid by social workers from Haringey to break up a family by giving two young children new identities and banning their five older sisters and brothers from seeing them was stopped in its tracks by a judge today.
Senior Family Division judge Mr Justice Holman refused to rubber stamp the plan and ordered that the children be separately represented so that their views could be heard.
All seven children are the natural siblings of the same Nigerian parents, who are both currently in prison serving sentences for ill treatment of all or some of their children.
Prospective adopters have been found for the two youngest children, and social workers want to change their identities to protect them from their abusive parents.
Social workers wanted to change the children’s surnames and forenames, as well as stopping their brothers and sisters from contacting them or knowing where they are in case their whereabouts was revealed to the parents.
Several years ago the eldest five, now aged from seven to 13, were taken into care by Haringey social services, but no adoption was ever contemplated, and they are with long-time carers in three separate homes.
In May 2012 the two youngest, now aged three and two, were taken into care with plans to have them adopted, but they were granted contact with their siblings.
Mr Justice Holman said that since then there had been contact and “it appears that all the children enjoy and gain support and benefit from that contact”.
He said: “I understand that the essential reasoning and justification that lies behind that is that the parents of the children promoted a considerable campaign on the internet and in other places with regard to this case so that the names of their children have apparently gained some notoriety.
“The local authority is fearful that unless the two youngest children are given completely new identities with completely new names, they will be tracked down and the placement potentially destabilised.
“But to change now the forenames by which a child, now almost four, has been known and has known herself throughout her whole life obviously raises considerable issues with regard to her sense of identity and self-esteem.”
The judge said the council’s own social worker admitted that splitting up the children with no contact between the elder five and younger two until they were at least 18 would cause “grief” as well as “pain and loss.”
But he said there would be help and support from the professionals and foster carers to help them cope with it.
He added he was “frankly astonished” that he was expected to reach a decision about their futures in a day without hearing from the children, but was also “deeply conscious” of the “worrying” delay in the case.