Wed | Sep 20, 2017

State agencies battle in court over adoption of child

Published:Wednesday | May 18, 2016 | 5:00 AMLivern Barrett
Belliveau

An attempt by a Canadian citizen to adopt a three-year-old Jamaican child has triggered a legal fight among three state agencies charged with safeguarding the rights of children.

According to court documents obtained by The Gleaner, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) wants a High Court judge to green-light a judicial review of a decision by the Adoption Board to refuse an application by Francine Belliveau, a Canadian citizen, to adopt the child.

The Child Development Agency (CDA) is listed as the second respondent in the OCA's application, which is scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court on June 9.

According to the documents, the OCA wants the court to grant, among other things, an "order of certiorari to quash the first respondent's [Adoption Board] decision to refuse adoption application of Francine Belliveau in respect of child [name withheld] without affording a full hearing to the adopter or the Children's Advocate and acting on the advice and directive of the second respondent [CDA]".

Charging that the child has since been placed in foster care in St Ann, the OCA also wants the court to grant additional orders for the Adoption Board to hear and determine Belliveau's application and prohibit the CDA "from making any further changes in the status of [the child] until the judicial review proceedings are heard and determined."

The OCA noted that Belliveau submitted an application to adopt the child in November 2014, but said this was refused by the Adoption Board. It said the Canadian citizen challenged the decision in the Jamaican Supreme Court and, on May 29 last year, a judge directed the board to reconsider the application and make a decision in the child's best interest.

BYPASSED ADOPTION BOARD

The OCA said the Adoption Board was also directed by the High Court to make a decision "forthwith".

However, the OCA charged that instead of complying with the directives of the court, the Adoption Board followed the directives of the CDA and not only refused Belliveau's application, but argued that it had "no authority in law" to delegate its functions to the CDA.

Several attempts yesterday to get a comment from the CDA or its attorney, Shanique Scott, were unsuccessful.

However, the OCA - in court documents supporting its application - included a letter in which the CDA explained the sequence of events that ultimately led to the decision to refuse Belliveau's application to adopt the child.

The CDA indicated that it was contacted late last year by the mother of the child who signalled that she was having a change of heart about putting the infant up for adoption.

"As a result, the [Adoption] Board was of the view that it was in the best interest of [the child] to seek information from [her mother] as to whether she wished to proceed with the adoption before making a decision," read a section of the CDA letter.

"Upon receiving that confirmation on February 22, 2016, the Child Development Agency sought legal advice on the matter and, based on this, the Adoption Board decided to refuse the adoption on that basis," the document continued.

But the OCA fired back, arguing that the decision to refuse the adoption application without allowing its representatives or Belliveau the opportunity to make written or oral submissions on behalf of the child was "a denial of natural justice and the principles of procedural fairness".

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com