5-year-old finally ‘ready for adoption’

'Baby P,’ whose father is Muslim and mother of no stated religion, has lived with a haredi family for 4 years.

By
February 12, 2012 22:21
3 minute read.
Child eating [illustrative]

Child eating 390. (photo credit: Zach Riggins, The University of Alabama)

 
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The Haifa Family Court officially declared a five-year-old girl ready for adoption on Sunday, while criticizing social workers for taking years to file for the adoption order.

The child, “Baby P.,” is the daughter of a single mother of no stated religion, and a Muslim Israeli Arab father. For the past four years, the child has lived with a haredi (ultra- Orthodox) foster family, which has since expressed a wish to formally adopt her.

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Over 300,000 Israelis, most of them like “Baby P.’s” mother, immigrants from the former USSR, are classified as having no religion, mostly because they do not have a Jewish mother and lack any other religious affiliation.

In her ruling, Judge Esperanza Alon slammed a decision by social workers to place “Baby P.” for such a long time with a foster family whose religious and cultural backgrounds, she said, were very different from the child’s own. Alon said “Baby P.’s” identity and fate remained under question for many very significant years.

“Under the Adoption Law, social workers are supposed to place minors with foster families with the same or similar lifestyles and religion as their biological families,” Alon said. “It was not right that she should have grown up in a haredi family, when the gaps between the community into which she was born and the one in which she grew up have such significant differences.”

The issue came to light when the attorney-general and the Welfare Ministry applied to the court to issue an adoption order for “Baby P.” on the grounds that the child’s father, “B.,” showed no interest in her.

Only in exceptional cases, such as this, will family courts agree to grant adoption orders under the Adoption Law unless both the child’s biological parents agree. While “Baby P.’s” mother formally consented to put the child up for adoption, her father has not done so, even though he has only seen the child once.



Lawyers for the state told the court it is in “Baby P.’s” best interest to remain with her foster family, whom they said loved her and with whom she has “positive interactions.”

“Baby P.’s” life story, while just five years’ long, has been a sad one, the court learned: when her mother was eight months pregnant with her, “Baby P.’s” father was sentenced to three years in prison for armed robbery. “Baby P.” met her father only once, when her mother took her to visit him in prison. At the age of 10 months, “Baby P.” was rushed to hospital, where staff reported that her mother had left the baby unsupervised while she went out drinking, the court heard.

Shortly afterward, the Juvenile Court issued an injunction declaring the baby at-risk, and removing her from her mother’s custody. It was then, at the age of 10 months, that “Baby P.” was placed in her haredi foster family.

“Baby P.’s” mother consented to place the baby for adoption, but when social workers contacted her father in prison, he claimed he wanted to care for the child. As late as September 2011, three years after his release, “Baby P.’s” father told social workers he planned to marry and have “Baby P.” live with him.

“My fiancee is ready to raise the child, who should be with me because I am her daddy,” he told social workers at that time, even though he had only seen his baby daughter once and then not at his request.

However, since that time, “Baby P.’s” father stopped contacting social workers. The judge said he had shown his daughter “consistent indifference.”

In the light of all these circumstances the judge said social workers should have acted within 90 days from receiving reports that “Baby P.’s” parents were not fit to look after her to applying to the court for an adoption order.

“A minor's best interests should be decided by the court in real-time – and then, by virtue of the court’s decision, a minor can have stability, security and an identity,” said Alon.

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