Family Court Issues Care Order for Distressed 13-Year-Old in The London Borough of Ealing v The Mother & Ors

Citation: [2023] EWFC 201
Judgment on


The case of The London Borough of Ealing v The Mother & Ors revolves around the appropriate long-term care for a distressed 13-year-old child. This Family Court decision, rendered by His Honour Judge Willans, offers valuable insight into how family courts consider the welfare of minors in difficult circumstances. The court grappled with whether to issue a care order or return the child to the mother’s care, and in doing so, explored legal principles vital to child welfare proceedings in the UK.

Key Facts

The child, having been under his mother’s sole care for most of his life, faced significant turmoil due to alleged mistreatment and the mother’s unstable housing situation. The mother, recognized as suffering from mental health challenges, struggled with social isolation and financial difficulties, leading to an eviction that precipitated the involved proceedings. The father, living abroad, proposed alternative solutions, including a boarding school environment, but eventually agreed to a local care order, recognizing the child’s strong opposition to being placed overseas.

The case was marked by a considerable shift in parties’ stances, with both the applicant and the father initially advocating for a child arrangements order but ultimately supporting a care order, consistent with the child’s guardian’s recommendation, recognizing the child’s clear views on his care.

Judge Willans’s analysis encapsulated several legal principles key to family law proceedings:

  1. Child’s Welfare as Paramount: The court prioritized the child’s welfare and considered his wishes, taking into account his age and maturity.
  2. Threshold Criteria: Under section 31 of the Children Act 1989, the court found that the legal threshold for a care order was crossed, as the child was likely to suffer significant harm if not issued.
  3. Children Act 1989: Section 1(3) of this act guided the court in considering the child’s needs, including his educational, emotional, and cultural background.
  4. Contact Plans: It was agreed that post-order, the child would maintain generous contact with both parents, aided by a ‘working together’ contact agreement.
  5. European Convention on Human Rights: Article 8 rights were observed, ensuring any intervention in family life must be reasonable, necessary, and proportionate.

References were made to the case of Re S (A Child) and Re W (A Child)(s 20 Accommodation) [2023] EWCA Civ 1, highlighting the propriety of Section 20 arrangements. This case was not directly invoked to drive the decision but served to underscore the potential breadth of care arrangements.


The court, endorsing a holistic approach, issued a final care order. His Honour Judge Willans placed the child in foster care, due to the mother’s current inability to provide stable and safe day-to-day care and her refusal to cooperate with social services. Although an ethnic match was not prioritized, ongoing and meaningful contact with the child’s parents was maintained to respect his cultural identity. The father was encouraged to keep his commitment to the child, and the mother was urged to reconsider her stance toward support services.


The decision of The London Borough of Ealing v The Mother & Ors delineates the Family Court’s careful consideration of a child’s welfare, the threshold for care orders, and the complexity of parental contributions to child rearing. His Honour Judge Willans’s judgment is representative of the child-centered focus evident throughout UK family law, demonstrating the importance of a stable, secure environment for children and the significance of open dialogue and working agreements in post-order contact arrangements. This case will likely serve as a meaningful reference for legal professionals dealing with similar child care and protection proceedings.