Two young children currently being placed for adoption should be given completely new identities to prevent their abusive parents tracking them down through an internet campaign, the High Court has been told.
Social workers also want to sever all contact between the children, aged two and three, and their five older brothers and sisters to make it more difficult for their parents, who are currently in prison, to re-establish contact.
But Mr Justice Holman urged caution over the “highly unusual” plan set out by social workers from Haringey, north London, and urged them to “pause for thought” despite a desire to prevent any further delay in the adoption process.
He said that while it is common for children to be given new surnames on adoption it was highly unusual to give children new first names, except occasionally for babies.
The change could, he said, have a profound effect on them, particularly on the older of the two children, a girl who is now almost four.
He added that it was clear the plan to cut contact would also cause “grief, pain and loss” to the five other children who, although they don’t live with them, know their younger siblings and have a bond with them.
Adjourning the case for further expert input, he said he was “frankly astonished” that there had been an expectation he would reach a decision in a single day’s hearing, as previously planned.
Details of the Family Division case emerged in a judgment which has been published. The five older children, who range in age from six to 13 were all taken into care several years ago and are now in long-term foster placements.
The parents, who are Nigerian, are in prison for abuse and are banned from further contact.
But the younger pair were taken into care later and the adoption process begun.
As part of the plan Haringey social workers have proposed giving them new names and banning contact with the older children in case this enabled the parents eventually to intrude into their new lives.
“I understand that the essential reasoning and justification that lies behind that is that the parents of the children promoted a considerable campaign on the internet and in other places with regard to this case so that the names of their children have apparently gained some notoriety,” the judge explained.
“The local authority - and maybe also the prospective adopters - are fearful that unless the two youngest children are given completely new identities with completely new names, they will be tracked down and the placement potentially destabilised.”
He said that, although the plan was well intended: “To change now the forenames by which a child, now almost four, has been known and has known herself throughout her whole life obviously raises considerable issues with regard to her sense of identity and self-esteem.
“She is old enough to appreciate that some rather radical change is being made in relation to her identity, but nowhere near old enough to understand the reasons why that is proposed.
“It seems to me, therefore, that in relation both these children (and especially the older of the two) the application to change their names, and particularly their forenames, is one of considerable delicacy and difficulty which will require very careful consideration by the court.”
A further hearing will take place next week.