TWO children had to spend months in foster care – because a social worker feared they could not adapt to Yorkshire culture.
The boy and girl were in care in Hampshire, 200 miles from the White Rose county, and the social worker said they would be “isolated”.
But now a Huddersfield lawyer has helped the children’s Kirklees-based aunt secure custody of the children and won another legal battle over funding for their care.
And Nigel Priestley said: “Choosing to put children into foster care because of the ‘Yorkshire culture’ is one of the most bizarre social services’ decisions I have ever come across.
“This case is an extreme example of the challenges that many kinship carers face.
“All sorts of obstacles can be put in their way by social services but thankfully, my client had a very sensible judge and the support of an excellent legal team.”
The nine-month custody battle started last August, when the aunt applied to the courts to have her niece and nephew placed with her.
But Hampshire Social Services decided not to place the children with her and the reason given was that the social worker didn’t think they could cope with “a different culture”.
Where was this different culture? Yorkshire!
Hampshire has the New Forest and towns like Winchester and Southampton.
Yorkshire has the Dales, the moors and towns like Huddersfield and Leeds. Hardly worlds apart.
The aunt, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was stunned when told the reason that her nephew and niece could not come and live with her.
She herself had been brought up in Hampshire but moved to Kirklees several years ago, along with other family members.
“The children had been in foster care for several months. They needed to be with their family at such a difficult time for them.
“I put myself forward as a carer. I work. I have a loving family close by. I thought that, together, we could show them what real family life was like. They had had a tough time at home.
“The court ordered an expert independent social worker to prepare an assessment of my ability to parent the children and she had no hesitation in supporting my application.
“But to add insult to injury Hampshire ignored this assessment even though their own social worker decided that I could ‘provide a good level of care’.
“Their social worker decided that the children `had grown up within the southern region and couldn’t adapt to the change in area and culture’.
“Apparently, speaking with a Southern accent would cause ‘difficulties and isolation’ .”
Mr Priestley, a senior partner with Ridley & Hall, said he was staggered to read the report.
The lawyer said: “I was born in Stalybridge, Cheshire, so I’m a comer-in but I have settled in Yorkshire.
“The aunt has provided a great home for the children and they will adapt as children do.”