A health visitor told the Family Court that she had seen a "cloud of smoke" over the child and noticed that he had "difficulty breathing" during her visit to the home. She said she had never before in her 10-year-career come across a house filled with so much smoke.
His parents, who are appealing against the adoption ruling, deny ever smoking in their son's presence and blamed the smell of smoke noticed by the health visitor on "the pest control people […] in the adjoining house smoking out pigeons from the chimney."
"We were using e-cigarettes when social workers said our house was smoky and took him away," the 22-year-old mother said. "We normally did not smoke in the house but outside. Only occasionally, if one of us was alone at home, we would smoke in the kitchen with the window wide open if our son was there. We smoke 15 cigarettes a day, but when the social workers complained we went on to e-cigarettes. They did not take any notice."
Other factors used in the case for the adoption included the possibility that the father had a drug habit, which was denied by the parents. One nurse described the couple's house as "squalid" and another reported seeing used nappies lying on the floor.
In her written ruling Judge Louise Pemberton said, "All of the professionals tell me that [the boy] seems happy in his parents company and that they show a real delight in their son."
But she went on: "The standard that was needed was simply good enough (sic). I would have thought it would not have been too much of a sacrifice for the parents to stop smoking (or at least to stop smoking in the home) and to ensure that the home was clean and tidy."
She also referred to a previous period the toddler had in care saying, "Has he suffered harm? I am afraid that I find that he has. The impact on a child's self esteem as they get older of being dirty and smelly should not be underestimated. They can be isolated from their peers and struggle to form friendships. I am afraid that all of these matters lead me to an unavoidable and difficult conclusion that the risks to [the little boy] in being placed with his parents are far too high. Adoption really is the only option now available to [the little boy], in my view, nothing else will do."
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