Rescuing children from significant harm: looking forward with trepidation and hope

This is a guest post written by Allan Norman (@CelticKnotTweet). Allan is a registered social worker and a solicitor at Celtic Knot – Solicitors and Social Workers.

[Update from Lucy : Today judgment in this case was handed down (see press summary). The parents’ appeal was dismissed. Some comments which were held back pending judgment have now been published.]


On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will give judgment In the matter of B (a Child).

It will be less than four months since Lady Hale observed,

It is some indication of the importance of the issues that the apparently simple words [of the legal threshold for the making of a care order for a child] have been considered by the House of Lords and the Supreme Court in no less than six cases… [ J (Children), Re [2013] UKSC 9 (20 February 2013) at paragraph 3]

This will be the seventh. And possibly the most important. The Supreme Court is once again considering when the State can remove children from their families. A number of the earlier cases have dealt with issues around the nature and burden of proof, problems arising from the fact that unlike the criminal courts, we are dealing with protecting from future harm, rather than punishing for past harm. Unquestionably important, but dry.

This case concerns a child removed at birth from parents who

“have “a warm, loving and appropriate relationship with their child.” For two years, five days a week they “have not been seen to put a foot wrong in their direct dealings with their child”.” [paragraph 142 of the judgment under appeal]

The child was not only removed at birth, but the order under appeal paved the way for permanent removal and placement for adoption in a case which (again in the words of the judgment under appeal)

illustrates a powerful but also troubling example of the state exercising its precautionary responsibilities for a much loved child in the face of parenting whose unsatisfactory nature lies not so much in the area of physical abuse but in the more subjective area of moral and emotional risk. [paragraph 150]

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the Children Act has been around for a little over two decades, and the history of its implementation can be seen as an Act in two parts. There is a debate about two models of state intervention in family life, broadly coined as “Family Preservation versus Child Rescue”. The former of these dominated policy in the earlier years of the Children Act but, without the legislation itself having changed, the latter has dominated the later years.

The rise of the child rescue model has been prompted by the public reaction to a number of horrific (and, it should be pointed out, criminal) abuses of children, most notoriously Victoria Climbié and Peter Connolly. Their stories are frankly so horrific that it would be astonishing if the public reaction were not, “this must never happen again”. So, shored up by that public reaction, the pendulum swung.

I am not sure how many people actually have the long view over time, or the wider view internationally. Those with the longer view over time will realise that our move towards a greater propensity to remove children does not represent the inexorable march of progress towards a better future, but merely the swing of a pendulum. The next Orkney Scandal, the next Cleveland scandal, maybe even the clamour of the voices of children being removed, and society may be outraged that the pendulum has swung too far, and the policy pressure will be towards family preservation. Those with a wider view internationally will be aware that the United Kingdom in its focus on the removal of children has developed a model that is at odds with that in much of Europe.

And so to the forthcoming judgment and its importance. As the Supreme Court website notes, human rights issues have been raised in this case in stark form:

“The first ECHR reason is the dichotomy which exists between the EU jurisprudence, which see the reception of a child into public care as a temporary measure aimed at the provision of services and the UK approach which is while understandably wishing to avoid delay in decisions for children nevertheless to move very quickly to applications for adoption often at the expense of analysing the true risks to children and balancing them in a way which might avoid such a permanent separation…”

Or to put it another way, it is alleged in the case that we are at odds with both the European Convention on Human Rights, and with our European neighbours in our current focus on child rescue.

The other point of significance that stands out for me requires a little delving into the facts of the case. Not too much: once again, the summary on the Supreme Court’s website is enough:

The grounds on which the [care] order was sought were principally that her mother suffered from a psychiatric condition that led her to seek unnecessary medical treatment; that both her parents exhibited a dishonest approach when interacting with care personnel and other professionals; and that it was not appropriate for her father to care for her of his own accord. It was asserted that A was at risk of harm in terms of her emotional and social development and also due to the risk she would be presented for unnecessary medical treatment…

From which, I flag up:

Unlike the horrific tragedies that pushed our policy towards child rescue, this is not self-evidently a case in which criminal harm to a child arises. Much of the harm here is said to arise as a result of the problems in the relationship between the parents and the professionals with whom they would have to deal. Even if there were crimes, they would not be the kind of horrific crimes involving abuse, degradation and ultimately murder that quite understandably excite public outrage. Therefore, a policy push that responded to one kind of problem is now resulting in intervention in quite a different kind of problem.

The case also raises in stark form the significance of harm. Again, I have recently had cause to comment that the Children Act defines harm, but not significant harm. That was in the context of the government having withdrawn the guidance on significant harm that had been developed, leaving a vacuum in its place. The government would argue, I think, that these matters are best left to the judgment of professionals. This case reminds us that the judgment of professionals is going to have to be subject to the judgment of the courts.

So why the headline, “trepidation and hope”?

Well, I have trepidation first because judges are not immune to social and policy pressures. In two other areas involving my work at the interface between social work and the law, the Supreme Court has issued judgments that seem depressingly constrained by contemporary social policy pressures (I am referring to Macdonald on adult social care and SL v Westminster on social care for migrants).

I have trepidation secondly because in fairness to those same judges, they will be conscious that their judgments are susceptible to being overruled by legislation. Judges are constrained by the law they currently have to apply. In this case, the legislation is two decades old, the policy pendulum has swung, and the current government is no lover of human rights at the best of times…

And I have trepidation thirdly because I have to admit that I can see all to easily how the Supreme Court could reject the appeal if it chose: focusing on the “real possibility” test for future harm; interpreting the word “significant” as containing only a minimal gloss on the word “harm”; or even retreating behind the barrier of whether the decision is sufficiently wrong for the court to interfere.

All of that trepidation reflects this: I want the parents to succeed. I have no knowledge of them, or what I would think if I were to meet them. But I want them to succeed on the fundamental issues that are raised about when harm is significant, and about our predilection for early permanent removal of children who have never been harmed by their parents.

And I have hope. I have hope because I know the heights to which Lady Hale can rise to overcome the problem of her judgments being blandly and unmemorably named after the second letter of the alphabet:

“My Lords,

Taking a child away from her family is a momentous step, not only for her, but for her whole family, and for the local authority which does so. In a totalitarian society, uniformity and conformity are valued. Hence the totalitarian state tries to separate the child from her family and mould her to its own design. Families in all their subversive variety are the breeding ground of diversity and individuality. In a free and democratic society we value diversity and individuality. Hence the family is given special protection in all the modern human rights instruments including the European Convention on Human Rights (art 8), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art 23) and throughout the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As Justice McReynolds famously said in Pierce v Society of Sisters 268 US 510 (1925), at 535, “The child is not the mere creature of the State”. 

(Baroness Hale of Richmond in B (Children), Re [2008] UKHL 35 (11 June 2008))

39 thoughts on “Rescuing children from significant harm: looking forward with trepidation and hope

  1. Sadly, it seems that this 3 year old child will be subject to definite future emotional harm by forced adoption endorsed by the Supreme Court. Dreadful.

  2. I think everyone should refrain from any comments until firstly the full facts are know as you are reading it an stating it from what your own authority states about m and secondly judgment is not even out yet

  3. Quite simply “Punishment without crime” is odious.No child should be taken from sane parents unless they have committed a crime that harmed or could have harmed their children or other children.
    Conversations between children in care and parents should never be censored, and the childrens’ mobile phones and laptops should never be confiscated.
    End of a very simple story !

    • Really Ian? I can recall some terribly hurtful, harmful, abusive, destabilising and damaging things that parents have said to their children during contact. You would be happy with that regardless of the effect on the children? How odd and concerning. But not a surprise given some of the recommendations on your website about how parents should behave in contact, particularly final contacts.

      • Familoo,
        Do you agree it is acceptable for Social Workers and contact supervisors to prohibit a parent from saying to their child/ren “I love you” or even as a response to the child saying those words to their parent at contact? Kindly explain how a parent should hold back their expression of love to a child who says “I love you” to their parent? Do you also endorse social workers and contact supervisors forbidding parents from giving their children a hug or any touch contact during supervised contact when the parent is not a physical abuse risk? Do you endorse contact supervisors and social workers forbidding a parent from using the toilet facility in the contact centre when they are pressed to answer the call of nature? I have witnessed first-hand, the shocking abuse of fundamental human right that goes on in these contact centres and it certainly changed my perspective for good and I totally agree with Ian Josephs!

        • Hi Rani,
          This is a guest post not my own. But no I don’t see any reason why a parent should not be able to express love to a child at contact, nor why they should be prevented from hugging a child (unless for some reason it is distressing to the child). I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a parent being prevented from using the toilet, but perhaps you mean that a parent is prevented from going into the toilet with a child – this is often prohibited where a parent is likely to make inappropriate remarks to the child when out of earshot and where supervision is required. That is sometimes necessary but often is not – and many of my clients are able to pop to the loo with their children during contact.

  4. Philip Measures

    Why would anyone use Dr Peter Dale as a so-called ‘expert’ witness? – his comments remind me of the worst of conclusions without the facts. As an adoptive parent I find his assertion that the child will “be subject to definite future emotional harm by forced adoption…” deeply offensive and unproven.

    ‘Michelle’ is correct – it is the FACTS that matter.

    • You have jumped to conclusion with regards to what you have interpreted him to have said without taking a balanced view – yet you accuse him of doing precisely what you have just done!

  5. Unless children’s act 1989 can be re-written and replaced with a a law that is more sympathetic with family values, the unjustly removal of children will be continue, giving powers to the local authority and to the well paid judges whom often abuses their position to sign Emergency care orders and Interim care orders ignoring the evidence, that the parent will submit before the judge co-operating Only with the local authority.

    The state has powers to “correct” and intervene so to adjust and remove the danger that they (social workers) have identified so to assist the parents to become safer in their daily contact towards their child.

    Never the less the public in general we have to recognise that there are cases that parents are a danger to their children.
    These cases should identified through criminal courts where the burden of proof will be presented beyond reasonable doubt.

    Basically If the parent(s) found guilty in regards of offences against their child/children such as child abuse, child neglect, then the state has a duty to protect the child.

    In this instance the state should seek to place the child with the nearest relative rather to place the child in the hands of strangers, who will care for this child for profits and not for love.

  6. In light of Michelle’s comments, I shall say nothing more than that I thought this was an excellent piece of writing.

    • I have had a number of comments on this thread today, which in light of Michelle’s request I will hold off on publishing until after judgment is handed down (the eagle eyed will note I published one just now in error thinking it was a comment on another post but I will republish it once the judgment has been handed down). Lucy

    • Please do not think I am judging or that your above post is wrong in any way I am not .. I will be honest with you and state I have come across some and seen some very nasty comments in relation to m and they have been after the person has posted your link … Clearly no one knows the full case and events that have happened and it just shows me how people are .. Your whole article I cannot fault and do apologise if you may have thought this is what I have done once again sorry

  7. So, if there was no significant harm or risk of it proven, where does the S.47 come into it? Isn’t this supposed to be a threshold test and didn’t the parents pass it with flying colours?

    • I’m not sure what you mean about s47 in this context, but I haven’t had time to read the full judgment yet, only the summary. According to the Supreme Court the parents did not “pass the threshold test”, rather the threshold WAS met meaning the court was able to go on and consider making placement orders.

  8. [edited]

    I have no idea who Phillip Measures is; nor why he holds such over-generalised negative opinions. Mr Measures, can you explain?

    • Sorry Dr Dale I have edited your comment partly because it may contain information about the proceedings that is not otherwise set out in the judgments (I think this unlikely but don’t have time to check) and partly because I don’t think it’s appropriate for a debate to begin on this blog about your view as an expert in the case. My understanding of Ian Measure’s comment was that it was aimed at the general views you expressed about the harmful quality of “forced adoption” rather than the specifics of the case.

  9. I know what I’m talking about with s.47 because my child was made the subject of one and we bear the scars to prove it. Sometimes when there is no risk, because evidence is non-existent, professionals just make it up as they wish others to perceive it. Other professionals simply kow-tow and defer either to the nonsense postulated by the previous professional in the child protection chain or to someone higher up.

    If you read the story it comes down to a wobbly judgement by one judge, not exactly endorsed in full by the opinions of the other two. In a case where two groups of experts disagreed, where the child’s original guardian supported the parents’ appeal, where the parents’ suspicions of professionals generally and disinclination to be involved with those they distrusted proved pivotal to the case of “proving” anticipated future harm but where over two years the parents’ own observed behaviour with the child was found as “exemplary”, how can this judgement be considered sound? Because of my own bad experience, I am innately suspicious of local authority assessments and I would caution other parents and legal professionals to be so too.

    This child’s life could have continued with her parents in the manner that was proposed by one of the doctors involved. I am not convinced by this judgement. It comes across as sad, not sound.

  10. I have to say, having briefly read through Lady Hale’s judgment, I do find her argument for allowing the appeal and remitting to explore options less draconian than adoption to be compelling. I wonder if this might end up in Strasbourg…

    Combined with Prest, seems like yesterday was not a great day for family law in Parliament Square.

  11. Sorry, I meant to say that the boundary between intervention or not comes from the threshold test, above which significant harm or the risk of it, is deemed to exist and the s.47 statutory child protection process kicks in as part of a core assessment. Above this threshold, the needs of the child are deemed to require the services of the local authority as a “child in need”. Not being a social worker or public law lawyer, I loosely called this S.47 which in reality forms part of the core assessment process. S.47 is the bit where child protection concerns have to be either substantiated or not. Further procedures then flow from that. Parents with PR ought to be properly consulted during this process as it develops, although it seems to me to be a grey area if it spins off into a crime enquiry as the police may not want to alert a presumed abuser. It is pretty twattish of the police though when they designate you a criminal suspect right off the bat, as they do, without the initial assessment being properly or fairly conducted by social services.

  12. Philip Measures

    Just to confirm ‘familoo’ that your assumptions above are entirely correct.

    I also believe that this Judgement was not a ‘re-visiting’ of the original case but rather whether the original Judge arrived at his decisions properly.

    There will always be differences of opinion, especially when ‘significant harm’ is not really properly defined and it is also clear that emotional harm is assuming a far higher profile in recent times.

    The real dangers in respect of emotional abuse is that often it is not immediately visible or quantifiable but we know that it can, and does, destroy emotional well-being in many sufferers when its effects are realised. As a ‘stand alone’ symptom I appreciate the conflicting opinions but unless and until we have far more longitudinal research available around children and young people who have been adopted primarily on the grounds of emotional abuse the judgement calls will inevitably not always be right – but how long do we wait to see what damage is caused before we act – and when is it too late?

  13. Forced adoption is ALWAYS ALWAYS wrong no matter what the facts of the case.That is why it is very rarely practiced in Europe outside a backward and barbarous UK !

  14. In all fairness to Peter Dale, I think a lot of people (myself included) are slightly perplexed by his comment given his position (at least, apparent position) as an expert-for-hire.

    Leaving aside the decision to use the rather emotive phrase “forced adoption” (which, as far as I recall, was a term coined having regard to the extra-judicial and irregular nature of the then process in Australia, and its focus on unmarried mothers), it isn’t clear if Dr Dale is suggesting that any order for a child to be removed, freed and placed is going to cause “future emotional harm” and is “dreadful” per se or if his comments are limited to the instant case?

    If the former, depending upon what is meant by it, it might raise some interesting questions his value to the court as an expert. I suppose it rather depends on whether he would consider it possible that the harm suffered by adoption might be less than the alternatives. And quite why adoption without the consent of the parent is worse than adoption by consent.

    I hope Dr Dale can find the time to clarify his position.

  15. Familoo I just noticed your para advocating censorship of conversations between parents and children because on some occasions parents have said abusive and harmful things ! Such as “we love you and are fighting to get you back” for instance ? How dare parents tell their children the truth when the ss are feeding them on a diet of lies! Nobody censors the conversation of murderers and rapists in prison when they have visitors ;These criminals also have the right to phone out once a week or more but children in care have their mobiles and laptops confiscated to isolate them from relatives and friends.Barbarous treatment of children who are also forbidden to report abuse by their fosterers to their parents;(see the grandma with the blog “children screaming to be heard”)
    Isolation and censorship of one’s children in so called “care” is so wicked that nobody believes it happens until it happens to them !

    • Ian, As I’ve said before – we disagree and I don’t propose to try and convert you nor argue with you. I think you are mischaracterising my views but I’m not really interested in this argument – and those who read the whole thread will work it out for themselves.

      • Why not? You raised the question, so why shy away from it? I would like to know your views about the questions Ian has raised which echo the ones I raised to you earlier.


    (1) Everyone has the right of freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without inference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

    (2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

  17. If emotional harm is such a big deal these days that a child can be taken away from its parents even when nothing yet has happened, how comes it stands for nothing in private law. In case after case mothers are seen to alienate children from their fathers. The emotional harm is real, evidenced and an ongoing risk yet social services do nothing. The double standards seen in family law is breathtaking.

    • I completely disagree with this Paul. Nearly all the cases I have been called into at a late and damaging stage have always been cases where the child/ren have clearly been abused (mostly sexually) by the father, yet the mothers are almost always, dare I say, falsely accused of parental alienation/emotional abuse and promptly the child/ren are removed from the care of their mothers and placed with their identified abusive father and soon after the abuse resumes with no further challenge! Parental alienation in the context of private law is the intra-familial paedophile’s choice defence and it works every time until I get called in. So you are wrong that Local Authorities do nothing – they infact use this to silence the child and place these children with alleged paedophiles even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

  18. I’ve only just found this blog – thanks for it. This thread just another illustration of how complex and emotive this area is. As an adoptive parent, now a grandmother, I think few people understand how deep-seated and long-term the damage to children is from emotional and other kinds of abuse. I think many adopted children I have met had a worse time at home with their birth parents than was officially known about or would have come up in court. But I feel for parents who probably were hurt themselves in childhood. Can’t see how we change the current situation without harming children unless we are prepared to put more resources into family support and intervention, therapeutic support for children who are in care – and generally have a more child-focussed approach – but none of this very likely in the age of austerity.

  19. I completely disagree with Michelle, who seems to have been paid by the state to come on here and say that we should all shut up while it commits its crimes and sets extremely dangerous precedents for enacting more censorship, more intervention, and more control over its people.

    About the only person who seems to make sense here is Paul.

    He asks sensible questions, and it is very telling that they are simply ignored.

    Yes, millions of children are emotionally abused in this country on a daily basis, through parental alienation, and by being told that their father is a piece of trash. But that’s all perfectly acceptable in our country, where child welfare is foremost!!!

    It’s strange that none of us wants to ask who benefits financially from all this? At the end of the day, all of this is about money.


    This article from the Sunday Telegraph shows how much more dangerous it is to put a child in care for”risk” from parents than “risk in care” ABUSE IN CARE CANNOT EVEN BE REPORTED AND CONVERSATIONS ARE CENSORED.

    • Yes well Ian, that article begs so many questions I don’t know where to begin. I will self censor and ask only one – do you think it possible that the child was traumatised by the experience of having his jaw broken in a violent assault and that it would have been upsetting or re-traumatising to refocus his mind on those events by asking him about it? Just a hypothesis, but a reasonable one I think.

      • Familoo, your comment is sadly synonymous with the Police and CPS standard procedure of saying that it is too upsetting for a child to give evidence behind a screen or via video link against a paedophile because the abuse was quite traumatic, but then it is perfectly alright to send that same child to go live with that same paedophile for continuing child rape – it beggars logic.

  21. I don’t think an entirely satisfactory term is as yet established for the practice of legally imposed closed adoptions dispensing with the consent of natural parents/families. I have previously used the term ‘compulsory adoption’, but moved to using ‘forced adoption’ following the formal government apologies (both at a state and federal level) in Australia in 2012 for this past practice. In some papers I have occasionally used the term ‘nonconsensual adoption’, but I don’t know whether that is any clearer or better. However, there does need to be a term for the forced/compulsory/nonconsensual closed adoptions of infants/children. Can Mr Nately suggest an accurate term that would be non “emotive”?

    I have been involved in court cases involving care proceedings for children (in one role or another) since the early 1980s. On the very few occasions that my expertise (as opposed to my opinion) has been challenged, this has been in the context of apparently badly briefed barristers utilising an affected sneering manner whilst attempting to defend rather weak cases.

    With regard to the specific case of ‘Amelia’, I have made clear here, and elsewhere, my view of the damage that is now going to be caused to her by the majority decision of the Supreme Court. I suspect that more detail about the overall handling of the case by the local authority will emerge in due course.

    With regard to the general issue of forced/compulsory/nonconsensual closed adoptions, it is notable that there is a lack of specific longitudinal follow up research of such practices in the UK. This applies to the huge population of young unmarried mothers (particularly) in the 1950s – 1970s where coercion to relinquish their babies stemmed from powerful family, religious and state imperatives. In the absence of family, state, and financial support – such mothers had no alternative than to reluctantly relinquish their babies into a closed adoption system.

    1n 1987 Margaret Humphreys drew attention to the plight of as many as 150,000 UK children who had been forcibly deported from children’s homes in the UK to Australia (and other distant parts of the Empire) in the post-war period (up until 1967). This reflected government policy of forced child migration, and parents/natural family members usually had no idea where their children had gone. Many were told that their child was dead. This was considered, at the time, to be in the children’s “best interests”. Through her astonishing work, Margaret Humphreys revealed the extent of the privation, harm, damage, exploitation (and in some cases serious physical and sexual abuse) that these children experienced. (

    A new wave of permanent separation of children from their parents with no contact has been in train over the past 15 years or so. It is based upon theoretical misconceptions and misapplications )of attachment theory and increasingly neuroscience) – which like so many previous fads and misadventures in child welfare beliefs will ultimately be revealed to be fallacious. This reflects another swing of the social policy ‘pendulum’ away from ‘family preservation’ toward ‘child rescue’.

    Preference for ‘child rescue’ forced closed adoption as the first resort has become the current dominant ideology in many local authority social services departments. Whatever the reasons for this, the practice is not based on evidence from outcomes research conducted with UK families. It has been referred to by one eminent barrister as “a social policy experiment on a massive scale”. In addition to the lack of outcomes research, there are no statistics kept nationally about the rate of adoption breakdowns in general, and breakdowns of forced adoptions in particular. Some adopting parents also suffer badly from the process, particularly when necessary therapeutic services are not provided despite significant post-adoption family stresses developing.

    The ITV series ‘Long Lost Family’ (two previous series and the third currently showing) provides evocative examples of the major unintended negative consequences of the practice of forced/reluctant/no contact adoptions that were considered to be in the “best interests” for children at the time. The escalating practice of forced adoption in the UK is replicating these mistakes and ignoring all international evidence of the lifelong harm or disadvantage that is often caused to children and natural family members.

    The major Australian research study that promoted the State and Federal parliaments to issue formal apologies for past practices of forced adoption is well worth reading:

    Kenny, P., Higgins, D., Soloff, C. & Sweid, R. (2012) Past Adoption Experiences – National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices: Final report, Australian Government: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

    In the UK there is an urgent need for similar research to review past and current practices of forced adoption from a longitudinal perspective. Is it likely to happen? Hardly.

    In all parliaments (States and Federal) the 2012 formal apologies for past practices of forced adoption were delivered with cross party agreement following a long public campaign by many of those affected:

    The Minister for education and child development Hon Grace Portolesi MP: “…I have enormous sorrow for those affected by forced adoption practices. It is harrowing to hear the lasting impact of those practices from our past. I believe in the fundamental human right for mothers and fathers to be parents to their children and that children have a fundamental rights to be careful and loved by their parents. Nurture of children and preservation of family goes right to the heart of our society. That is why the day of apology for all of those affected by forced adoption is so important for our community. A mother whose child has been stolen does not only remember that child in mind, but with every fibre of her being. People are still struggling to reconcile what could have been, what should have been, with what is. Today’s apology says we cannot and will not hide behind our history. There were no excuses for these forced adoption practices then, and there is no excuse now…”

    The Leader of Opposition Honorable Isabelle Redmond MP: “…However well intentioned the authorities were, their practices are now viewed as inhumane at best, and barbaric at worst…”

    Perhaps most pertinently, in his contribution to the South Australian parliament ‘Apology’ speeches 18th July 2012, the Shadow Minister for Families and Communities: Hon John Gardner MP noted: “…There were people at the time who were saying these practices were wrong. There is record of that…”

    What I have written should not be taken as reflecting a view that there are never any occasions when a child/children must be permanently separated (and possibly adopted). I have been involved in many fatal/serious case reviews over two decades. There are cases where a parent is so disturbed, psychopathic, antisocial, vengeful, hostile and unpredictable that it is inconceivable that a child could be left in his/her care. I have been involved in a fair number of such situations during my assessment practice career. In such cases direct post-adoption contact cannot be contemplated because of the very real likelihood that the parent would undermine the security of the placement through intimidation or violent behaviour.

    Despite their troubled histories, the parents of ‘Amelia’ do not fit into this ‘high risk’ category. The original judge, the appeal court, and the supreme court made this explicitly clear. It appears that Amelia will be adopted primarily because the parents would not agree to, or cooperate with the plan of the local authority that she should be adopted. This is socially chilling.

    In the overall population of parents who become involved in care proceedings, parents with high risk (e.g. sadistic/psychopathic/psychotic/severe personality disorder) characteristics are the exception. However, such high risk potential is increasingly being over-generalised to the wider population of parents who come into contact with social services. Many others are being subjected to the draconian outcome of forced adoption in circumstances where packages of monitoring, family support and therapeutic services would ensure child/family safety and well being.

    • Dr Dale,
      I’ve resisted the temptation to edit out of your response the references to the individual case, because it seems to me your views are now in the public domain in any event and it is artificial to edit them out of this blog thread when you are attempting to respond to perceived criticism.

  22. Winston Smith


    the judgement is now up on the net.

    There is a problem.

    It appears to be an MSBP/FII ReLaunch case, in which it was held that the mother suffered from somatosing disorder and therefore FI (Fabricating Illness) and therefore will project MSBP onto the child in the future (the emotional abuse).

    The leading advancer of this theory and the view that it is possible to identify future FIIer’s of their children was involved in the case.

    There has been a series of similar cases.

    From the judgement this does not appear to have been considered.

    Wait a minute, wasn’t MSBP/FII discredited, and didn’t judge Bellamy award £200,000 costs against an LA in such a case…..

    • My goodness! They lost their baby over FII? They should claim against the local authority and take the matter to Strasbourg against the UK. This is just sad indeed!

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