Judge criticises social worker over baby christening comments

Updated: 

A council social worker who told a couple that it might be harder to place their baby son for adoption if he was christened has been criticised by a family court judge.

She said adoption attempts might be hindered if the little boy, now about 15 months old, was "christened into the Christian faith".

Judge Richard Scarratt said her comments were "regrettable".

Details of the case have emerged in a ruling by the judge following a private family court hearing in Chatham, Kent.

Judge Scarratt has not named the social worker but said she worked for Kent County Council.

He said council social services bosses had asked him to make decisions about the little's boy's future.

The judge said Kent council social services staff had raised concerns after the boy's father was convicted of raping a woman.

They planned to place the little boy for adoption but subsequently decided that he could live with a relative.

Judge Scarratt had approved the baby's move to a relative's home and said his parents would be able to stay in touch.

The judge said the couple had wanted to continue to care for their son and wanted him to be christened.

He said the father had taped a conversation they had with the social worker and complained about her conduct.

During the court hearing, the social worker had "admitted" what she said to the couple.

"She admitted ... that she had informed the parents that a christening which they wanted might reduce the pool of possible adopters," said the judge in his ruling.

"This is when, of course, the care plan was for adoption.

"She told the parents that it would hinder adoption if the child was christened into the Christian faith.

"It is regrettable in my view that the social worker ... had indeed acted as the parents stated she had, discouraging the christening because it might hinder adoption."

The judge also criticised the social worker for not visiting the parents at their home enough when making assessments.

He said: "I am not remotely surprised that the parents felt, when the care plan was one of adoption outside of the birth family, that the social worker was gunning for adoption, if I might put it so crudely."

Judge Scarratt said council bosses should hold an internal inquiry into the social worker's conduct.

The judge said the council had apologised to the couple but he said the apology had been "too late and inadequate".

He has not identified the family involved.