Social Work Leaders Mightily Naffed Off With Transparency Ruling

As well they might be. It’s the instinct of self-preservation kicking in I guess. I can’t blame ’em for that. But whilst sympathetic on a human level I do think they’re wrong.

Children & Young People Now report that “Social work leaders criticise landmark child protection ruling“, that ruling being the decision of the President in Re J (A Child) [2013] EWHC 2694 (Fam). I’m not going to analyse the merits of that particular case in this post. I want to look at what the social work leaders take on the transparency issue.

BASW are reported as saying this in response to Re J:

“While we agree that the public should be better informed about what social workers do and the decisions they take to protect children, this is not the way…Posting emotive footage of emergency care orders being undertaken is always going to be hugely distressing, but such images do not tell the whole story of the work done by many professionals which result in a child’s removal from their parents…If the public want children to be protected, they have to get behind social workers, understand that removal of a child is not a decision taken lightly by them alone and stop this demonising of social workers who are trying to work in accordance with the law.” 

To me this completely misses the point, and misunderstands the task of the court. It is no part of the court’s job to make decisions about the publication of information based on a desire to promote a particular view – even if that view is a truthful and balanced view. And what’s more, the court has no effective means, even if it were appropriate, to ensure that material in the public domain is framed in a way favourable to any particular political or personal viewpoint or taste. The court’s job is to make decisions about publication of information based upon a) legislation and court rules b) the welfare of the child and c) the competing human rights issues. Whilst the court will wish through its decisions to promote and maintain confidence in the justice system one can argue that transparency is intended to further that aim, even if individual reports of particular cases may tend to reduce that confidence.

Nor is the court responsible for a PR campaign to improve the image of social workers (or lawyers or whatever). It is engaged in a process of making transparent the workings of the judicial and child protection system, so that others can make form their own views, it is not in the business of filtering information in order to influence those views – that would be propaganda. I suppose some might argue that a public judgment is on this basis a sort of propaganda (Think of judicial laments about the quality of Christopher Booker’s “tendentious” journalism and attempts to set the record straight) – but of course the purpose of such judgments is to say what has happened and why (no more and no less) – it is not a husting in support of the justice system – as the recent case of Re A (A Child) [2013] EWCA Civ 1104 demonstrates (of which more in a further post). It is the official public record of the basis of judicial acts and of state interference with family life. But where proceedings are held in private a judgment is not in itself enough to maintain public confidence.

A spokesperson for the College of Social Work is reported as saying that “While it is understandable that families may feel powerless during care proceedings, and may want evidence for themselves, a video or photo only provides a snapshot of the situation as opposed to the care proceedings in court which allow all involved to give their views and cross-examine each other…The risk is that social workers may be named in the media but due to confidentiality for these very same families, the social workers cannot put things into context and defend themselves.” 

This of course is to fall into the very same trap. It may be a mere snapshot, but it is the family’s perspective which, subject to the permission of the court that is tasked with protecting the welfare of the child, they are entitled to voice. More than that it is not just an “opinion”, it is a real, lived, painful experience even if it is profoundly at odds with other realities.

And of course, visible just beneath the surface of these quotes is an understandable fear that individual social workers will be harassed or pilloried online and even potentially in person. For me, part of the image problem child protection social workers have is created by or at least fed by the secrecy surrounding their work. I don’t think that the image problem can be solved without letting people voice their own lived experience of child protection professionals, and without allowing the public to form their own view. There has been vast amounts of inaccurate and highly inappropriate information in the public domain relating to care proceedings for years – and that will continue to be there, corroding public confidence regardless of what steps are now taken to lift the lid through publication of judgments, permissive reporting orders etc. Transparency of family proceedings can potentially dilute the effects of those negative reports, making available to the public a wider range of viewpoints.

In cases where there are direct threats to social workers, or incitement to commit offences against them of course the court is likely to take a different view but actually, if a child can’t be identified (big IF) and there is no harm to the child – why shouldn’t they be able to say “this person took my child away and I think it was WRONG”?

The problem, rightly identified by BASW is that the ability to tell one’s story is one sided. Inaccurate reports cannot be responded to. But there is in fact nothing to prevent Local Authorities from seeking permission to publish information – some form of agreed facts or press release – so that a case can be understood and inaccurate statements publicly rebutted (again if the big IFs are satisfied). Of course the reality is that such applications incur cost and inconvenience. But if publication of some information is warranted, yet the information as selected by the publisher or the perspective given is highly partial and misleading, the answer may be in more publication. After all, you can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube.

In due course the President of the Family Division hopes to make some documents from care proceedings available for reporters so that journalists are at least able to present a balanced and informed picture, although one suspects in some cases they may choose not to in the interests of a good story. But for the time being it IS skewed – Local Authorities are often unfairly criticised, errors are exaggerated and it is difficult for them to respond, and no doubt upsetting and distressing for social workers who are identified. And we know too that  sometimes criticism of social workers or other professionals is warranted and it is in the public interest for us to know when things have gone wrong, and to know that the errors have been identified and dealt with. As far as the anonymity of social workers is concerned well, that ship sailed with the Bristol City Council v C & Ors [2012] EWHC 3748 (Fam) case. Being subject to professional criticism or complaint in private is enormously stressful, and undergoing public censure is even worse (it doesn’t matter whether or not it is warranted – I speak from experience) – but as with many professional and public service roles it comes with the job. We have to be prepared to stand by our professional conduct.

Some would argue that inside the court doors the imbalance appears to run in the opposite direction: with few independent experts now, 90% of all information upon which the court’s decision is based drawn from the Applicant Local Authority. Whatever the truth, that surely is the perception of a parent, (particularly as they are unlikely even to see the Guardian as independent). From the standpoint of a parent the cards are stacked against them from the start (more so when all the work is done pre-proceedings). No wonder they want to tell the world what they see. We should  not dismiss their perspective even if we disagree with it, nor should we protect the public from the “emotive” and the “distressing” – it is the reality of care proceedings and of taking away children. It may be justified but it is draconian.

So, whilst there are all sorts of complexities and practical difficulties in achieving transparency without impacting negatively on the children at the heart of these cases it is right that the courts are striving to do so, even though as a result of each case requiring individual consideration there are significant resource and cost implications.

58 thoughts on “Social Work Leaders Mightily Naffed Off With Transparency Ruling

  1. “They would, wouldn’t they?”

  2. Sounds like the ‘enemies of progress’ and startled by the recent progress.

    Frankly I get a lot of calls from people in Public Law cases, and even though I can’t help them (don’t know enough about it) and refer them onto specialists, I have heard some horror stories.

    “While we agree that the public should be better informed about what social workers do and the decisions they take to protect children, this is not the way…Posting emotive footage of emergency care orders being undertaken is always going to be hugely distressing, but such images do not tell the whole story of the work done by many professionals which result in a child’s removal from their parents…”

    they can’t have it both ways.

  3. Google it, dear heart. Mandy Rice-Davies.

  4. Good piece Lucy. You are quite right that cheerleading for social work, or for the family justice system is not the Court’s job, which is to hear the facts and apply the law and give judgments and decisions on the facts and the law.

    And a judgment like this was absolutely inevitable once our new President was selected.

    Such campaigns are, for me, better accompanied by the anonymised judgment giving some context to the background and allegations of wrong-doing by professionals; but it doesn’t surprise me that Re J got decided before the routine anonymisation of judgments got implemented. It was quite a sharp way of boxing those bodies who might have been against such routine publication into a corner.

  5. Sorry to be pedantic but it is (unfortunately in my view)not the case that the court takes the child’s welfare into account when making a decision about publication, because this is not a decsion about the child’s upbringing. However the court is supposed to take child’s Art 8 rights into the equation. It would take a lot to persuade me that this child’s privacy has not been breached.
    Otherwise I agree that some responses to the judgment have muddled protection of the child and protection of the social worker/social work profession. I have sympathy for the latter as well, but at least the social worker has a professional assocation which has contributed to the debate, unlike the child.
    (BTW was rather taken aback to read that Mandy Rice Davies was only 18 when she came up with the classic line!)

    • Julie,
      Don’t apologise – it’s not pedantic, it’s absolutely right. Perils of late night blog posting etc etc. Although arguably the court should not be exercising its discretion in relation to publication in such a way as to frustrate the primary purpose of the proceedings i.e. to protect / promote the welfare of the child.
      The child’s “professional assn” I suppose is CAFCASS – wonder if they’ve expressed a view? Seems unlikely.

  6. I may be a bit late to this but if it’s so clearly not the job of the courts to protect social work from negative public opinion, why is it inferred that the responsibility falls with social workers – or even SWdepartments? Their hands are tied by so many bounds – KPI’s, Timescales, staff case loads, staff burn-out and illness, procedures which aren’t standardised across all LA’s, clunky inefficient IT systems, ineffective multi-agency work due to colleague’s work load, INADEQUATE RESOURCES…. The list goes on and on! Suggesting Social Workers should let the public see into their work is not always in the best interests of the child (- yet some BBC programmes are attempting it) But SWdepartments do not have time for PR!! They’re too busy engaging with people who are pressured by unfair social strucural problems which layer on each other, insulating them from reach, like very thin jumpers against the cold. there is a way to get in and help but workers need to be able to provide alternatives. People live in poverty, bad housing, with unemployment, cultural substance abuse, community crime etc… Workers have to reach the ‘gold’ in people who can’t see much ‘gold’ out there!

    The media should back off. Funding should be gushed in! it is also worth thinking that children are safer today than ever but the public perception of risk has changed (Fergusson, H 2004)

  7. Social workers make their living taking children from their parents and putting them in expensive fostercare or with strangers for adoption.They have become the most despised and feared “profession” in the country so no wonder they fear “transparency” and consequent publicity.
    They are agents for “punishment without crime”.
    Mothers who have committed no crime have their babiestaken at birth for risk of emotional abuse;Young children are taken at around 6.30am from their homes by squads of uniformed police screaming in vain for their parents.These young children who have committed no crimes are treated worse than murderers and rapists .Their mobile phones and laptops are confiscated to isolate them from family and friends.Unlike criminals they cannot phone out and any eventual visitors are ruthlessly censored so that ant untoward remark about their case or coming home results in contact being stopped immediately.
    Hard to believe this is happening in the UK but it is!

    • Oh Ian, WHY do you insist on panicking parents like this?? The system is not perfect but this DOES NOT HELP ANYONE! Children being taken at 6.30am by squads of uniformed police – how often does that happen? Very very rarely. They don’t do it like a dawn drugs raid, although of course sometimes they have to act in an emergency at all hours of the day or night!!

  8. I can tell you about a dawn raid, back in 1975 where two boys were removed from their parents, in the middle of winter. The police and social workers found the two boys being hosed down by the father,in cold water and in the back garden, naked and screaming, after one of them had wet the bed. I was a new residential social worker who received them into care.

    Another reception into care the same year was of 2 more children, a boy and a girl. They were filthy, stinking and covered in lice and we had to cut their clothing off their bodies after soaking them in the bath for an hour. All 4 children were extremely damaged by their ill treatment and 2 of them were successfully adopted, whilst the other 2 were placed in long term foster care.

    This was in my first year in social work and I was deeply shocked by the state they were in when I opened the front door to them. Both fathers received a term of imprisonment for their dreadful neglect. When the boy and girl moved into foster care they both gave me present which they had made in their schools.

    I still have their gifts over 30 years after they gave them to me. These are the things the public never sees or hears about unless children like these end up dead, and I for one am pleased that they were permanently removed from their parents to start new lives in loving families.

  9. Dawn raids happen quite frequently Lucy(to make sure there is no resistance from parents) but if they only happened once or twice it would still be a disgrace to traumatise children in that way.
    The confiscation of mobile phones and laptops happens ALWAYS when children who have them are taken.Blameless children are abused emotionally then isolated from family and friends as a matter of routine wondering what they have done wrong to be so severely punished.I think you no this to be true Lucy and also the censoring of children and parents;preventing discssion of the case or child abuse by fosterers , contrary to the Human Rights Act granting to all the freedom of expression.

    • There are a number of legitimate reasons for controlling the use of phones or laptops by children whilst in foster care (and indeed in the course of parenting generally). Freedom of expression is important and is protected by law but it is not the only thing that must be factored into the balance when dealing with child protection.

  10. I agree with the above post. @Forced adoption you’re clearly knowlegeable about certain aspects of social care, so why are you seemingly resenting these restrictive measures regarding how children communicate and with whom? Of course children’s safety is dependant on who they communicate with.

    i have known a young mum with special needs – age 19 in a women’s refuge who invited her paedophile boyfriend to visit her – despite the fact that these locations must be female only, kept top secret, and – more importantly – that she had the child removed because she continued to see this man, and assessed as being unable to protect her baby. I’m not writing to attack that lady, but if she was younger and a social worker could have taken her phone off her, that little baby might have more easily been returned. I think you’re forgetting that people want to communicate with children for more reasons than to build their confidence and value them.

  11. There can be NO legitimate reasons to traumatise innocent children cutting themoff from family and friends in this way;treating them worse than convicted rapists and murderers as they are allowed to phone out and discuss their cases with visitors unlike the unfortunate children who are denied these “privileges”

  12. It isn’t treating them like prisoners, it’s treating them like children.keeping them safe from people who have an undesirable influence on them. I can’t see how this obvious security measure would inspire such emotion. Why are you so angry about this?

  13. AL, the lady you mention was a mother not a child in care .To take children aged from about
    7 to 12 and cut them off from their parents ,and schoolfriends so that they are surrounded by strangers without one familiar face or even a familiar voice or email is a wicked crime and those responsible should be locked up for a very long time !

  14. The lady I mentioned was in many ways just like a child. She couldn’t see that the “love” her partner gave her was actually abusive and that he had bad intentions towards her baby.

    Let me phrase it like this: If you had harmed your child to the extent that a court had ordered social workers to take your child into care. Would your child be better off recieving an email from you? Don’t you think that enough would be enough? Any contact from you would cause your child more distress – even if you were only writing to say sorry! However it’s likely that the child would also be able to arrange to meet up with you, eg ‘for a hug’ which would make returning to the home very difficult – and that is IF you kept to your word and only met with love in your heart.

    It takes a LOT for a child to be placed with strangers, usually they are placed with other family members. Basically that means that the child is not safe with their parents/carers and are not wanted or safe with other “familiar faces”.

    Any contact from them may encourage the child to run away back to them, or worse. The parent may heap guilt upon the child in their vulnerable position until the child can no longer cope. This makes the child even mire vulnerable to abuse by other people as well as the originsl abuser.

    I could have made this hypothetical situation a hundred times more exlicit and graphic but there is no meed. even with this “best case” scenario you should be able to see my point.

    With all due respect, you seem to have quite a rosy view of parents. I hope that you are not being naiive in your understanding of family life in those households which social workers get involved.

    Think about what a child needs – protection from harm is a basic expectation for all children. You cannot *expect* parents who’ve had theirchildren removed to be a benign influence on their children. Sometimes when emotions are high everyone needs to be kept apart from people they love… Even if only to let the dust settle.

  15. Al, you are right, but you are preaching to the inconvertible!

  16. @Andrew. 🙂 Unconditional positive regard.

  17. 27,000+ children snatched last year,and very few for physical or sexual abuse.Children with brutal parents are unlikely to want to phone them but still wonder why they cannot contact grandparents,uncles,aunts,or schoolfriends .Children who beg for contact with their parents,grandparents,playmates and schoolfriends should never be denied but they are; and brutally.IF only it was to “let the dust settle” AL it would be a wee bit better but as you know quite well the restrictions last for years in most cases and even when parents are allowed a brief visit they are ruthlessly censored in true NAZI TRADITION !Children are NOT alloçwed to reveal abuse by fosterers or social workers (remember in the Telegraph “DO NOT SAY WHO BROKE YOUR JAW”?
    Parents and children suffer “punishment without crime” in the majority of cases and that is in iself a wickedness whose perpetrators deserve punishment themselves.
    Modelled on Hitler’s Lebensborn happy healthy children are snatched whilst the baby P,and Daniel Pelka types are viewed as “damaged goods” and are callously left to die !
    Cautious judges rubberstamp most demands of social services and children who are said only to be “at risk” and are then traffiked to make huge profits for the fostering and adoption agencies and an excellent living for others who belong to and live off the system.
    Parents are warned not to protest publicly or face jail.Our family courts and social services have indeed acquired all the trappings of a Nazi totalitarian State !

    • What’s that clunking? Oh. It’s my head. On the desk. #headdesk
      And the sound of Godwin’s Law landing on the desk.

  18. Mike Godwin was right about comparisons with Nazis entering many political arguments. This however is because the majority of governments in the world are totalitarian in character and thus pale imitations of Nazi rulers.It would however be wrong to say those who introduce these comparisons must lose the argument because in so many cases the comparisons are valid.The suppression of free speech and the Lebensborn (taking of young children from their parents) are prime examples in uk.The FAMILY COURTS BEAR A STRIKING RESEMBLANCE TO NAZI COURTS AS DO THEIR DECISIONS.Nobody can assert that ALL the characteristics of the Nazis are reproduced in the UK. Many of them however definitely are;especially where social workers and family courts are concerned.

  19. I don’t want to be labelled a left wing extremist so let me say right away that all the references to Nazis in my previous contribution apply equally to communist courts etc under Stalin and most of his successors up to Gorbachev.

  20. Well, Lucy, if you provide them with the platform, they’ll stand up and spout. Volenti non fit injuria as we used to say when I were nobbut a lad.

  21. Forced Adoption, so you’re saying that adoption and fostering makes money for the government? But only as long as the children aren’t too damaged? Why don’t more children get taken aay early then? Maybe you think that woud be too newsworthy and the public would prevent it?

    Foster carers are paid well for the job they do – more than child tax credits at least. So how is it making money if the service provided costs more than if the children say with their families? I would have thought that if the Government was trying to make money that they woud take fewer children away.

    I also don’t understand why you think the courts are similar to extremist political organisations – I’m willing to hear you out though. I just don’t need it in capitals because then my reading-in-my-head voice starts shoutng!!

    I just read the Telegraph article you mention – and it’s got no references in it. It mentions no local authority, case, or social worker – unsurprisingly I suppose – for various reasons.

    It’s worth mentioning that were I a jounalist you might think I would need to tell you some facts to back up a story like that – one which tarnihes EVERY social worker with the same ‘bad’ brush. In fact, I could have made up a similar story with a positive outcome. Neither would tell you anything much except a story… Without proof how do we know his article isn’t just fiction?

    You don’t know the story I gave you before is real – but I’m not being paid to write something, so there’s less reason for me to spontaneously produce that story.

    What if he hasn’t made it up but he’s been given only one-side of the story? I guess I just don’t find it particularly interesting as it has no “grabbable” factual content in it.

  22. AL at least your comment on my comment contains argument rather than contemptuous abuse;for which I thank you.
    1:- I never said that fostering makes money for the government.It makes money for the agencies recruiting fosterers and adopters.The national fostering agency founded a few years ago by two social workers was recently sold for £130million!
    Others in the system make a good living out of taking children and all those who live off the system defend it vigorously.
    2:-Why are not more babies taken at birth? Well thousands are for “risk of emotional abuse”For the past ten years I have received on average about 3 new calls for help every day from distraught parents ,certainly more than a thousand per year plus at least the same number of follow up calls from mostly non criminal parents desperate to keep their children.
    3:-Fosterers working for private agencies are now paid around £500 per week (the majority) as opposed to a birth mother receiving around £20perweek child allowance.True it is cheaper for the government to get the kids adopted……
    4The uk family courts are not similar to extremist political organisations .They ARE similar to the courts operating under such dictatorships with the following characteristics.The parent victims are in effect found “guilty” by the removal of their children on the word of social workers (government officials)that is believed 99.25% of the time against the word of parents.(judicial stats show that only one in 400 care applications is refused).The courts are secret with jail for parents who protest publicly openly.Lawyers nearly always agree to or do not oppose interim care orders ie support the official line rather than their clients.Experts (described by Professor Ireland in the survey she did for the government as hired guns) diagnose parents with personality disorders relying on social worker’s reports and often without seeing those parents.The child/prisoners are isolated from friends and family; etc etc The list of similarities is endless
    4:-I apologise for the capitals ,but MY KEYBOARD HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN AND i don’t bother usually to go back and correct my typing.See what I just did?
    5:-True there are no names in the Telegraph articles due to the secrecy rules of the family courts.I ,Christopher Booker,and also Lucy wish to avoid jail for publishing info that might help to identify children and Lucy would edit out any names I did publish on her site.Nearly all the cases quoted by Booker come from me after I have studied court papers and concluded that even if everything social workers claimed was true it still does not justify splitting up the family.
    6:-Nearly all the Telegraph cases are referred by me so I can send you names by email if you are willing to risk jail unless you receive them as an individual offering advice and support(which is allowed).
    Literally thousands of non criminal parents (not convicted or even charged with any crime) have contacted me for help over the years and I am not ashamed to have enabled some parents to win in court by representing themselves or to have helped pregnant women to escape to more tolerant countries.

    • CAPS LOCKS OR NOT the way you employ stats and figures is likely to give a misleading impression. However, having argued this before with you I’m going to point it out but not argue the point. On any sort of close analysis what you say simply doesn’t stack up.
      You are right to point out I would edit out names though.

  23. What you’re saying about the ‘hired gun’ experts is appalling. But I have no idea if you’ve just come into contact with a few bad practice examples or if you are working on too few facts. I’m not attacking you, I’m interested. All I know is that SW’s have few resources and although they may have gut feelings about certain parents they are not medically trained. However, despite short time constraints and heavy caseloads they are trained to record incidents and are meant to work well with other agencies like the police and health to get more info and input. Are you saying that all these agencies work together to conspire against parents? I suspect the hired guns would at least have access to that when they make their decision… and it’s possible the parents are invited to meet the experts but failed to show up. A good relationship with a SW should entail s/he supports that parent in attending.

    What stories do you have about those experts. I won’t take names as I don’t know what support I could offer them!!

    I still don’t understand whether you’re saying ithat fostering and adoption is merely a money-making scheme that only benefits those on its payroll, or if you are saying that in some cases fostering and adoption is necessary but the workers administrating it are paid too much. This bit: “3:-Fosterers working for private agencies are now paid around £500 per week (the majority) as opposed to a birth mother receiving around £20perweek child allowance.True it is cheaper for the government to get the kids adopted”

    … Doesn’t make sense to me at all. Is it a typo?

  24. Professor Jane Ireland made a survey for the governmentof experts in family courts.She described them as hired guns and often unqualified !I confirm that they often diagnose parents without even meeting them preferring to rely on reports from social workers that are usually biased as they want to win their case.
    The reason I dwell on the finances is because those who make a good living or even outrageous profits out of the system naturally defend the status quo however unjust it may be!

    • Whilst Jane Ireland did produce a report I am not sure that your summary of her conclusions is an entirely accurate one (although I don’t have it in front of me). I have rarely seen reports based on reports from social workers, almost without exception psychologists or psychiatrists (who I assume you are referring to) spent several hours with parents. I have been reading a report tonight where the expert spent 6 hours with each parent. That is typical in my experience. Mostly such experts are instructed jointly with agreed letters of instruction setting out agreed and disputed facts in an impartial way, and an agreed set of documents, including statements from parents and social workers. The outcome being adoption or not makes no odds to jointly instructed experts – they get paid for giving a view, they are I suppose more likely to get repeat instructions if their view is given credence by the court and adopted (excuse pun). In my experience the evidence of an expert can turn the case – towards or against adoption. They do not always point in the same direction, although one may over time become astute to whether a particular expert is more likely to adopt a beneficial position, depending on who one is representing – or at any rate the minority of experts which it is wise to steer clear of.

  25. FROM LAW WEEKLY:-

    The concerns stem from these findings in Professor Ireland’s report:

    1. One fifth of experts in the sample were ‘not qualified to provide a psychological opinion’.

    2. Few experts in the sample maintained clinical practice at the time writing court reports.

    3. There was an over reliance on psychometrics; obsolete styles of assessment and invalid assessment tools.

    4. There was little use of recognised methods to assess risk.

    5. A proportion of experts commented on parties’ mental health despite having no indicated knowledge of this area of clinical expertise.

    Litigant’s requests to share in the choice of expert or to help formulate some of the questions are in my experience brushed aside or ignored for litigants in person and not bothered with by legal aid lawyers !

    • Yes, I recall your 1-5 being in there. Not sure about your original point or your last point about legal aid lawyers – think that is your opinion rather than Ireland’s…

  26. Interesting – and more in keeping with what I would hope to hear. Forced Adoption, you still didn’t clarify why you think it’s cheaper for the gov.t to pay £500 per week on average for a foster carer, rather than £20 in tax credits and keeping them with their parents.

    You also didn’t state whether your opinion is that fostering and adoption is merely a money making scheme with no benefit or care to the child involved, or whether you think it is ever beneficial to children but you have seen some bad service provision. Who do you work for, if you don’t mind me asking? It sounds like you provide a support service for parents who aren’t feeling they recieve adequate support from their social workers, but I’d like to know if those parents need to pay you?

  27. AL you keep putting words in my mouth and then criticising them !I never said fostering was “cheaper”;I said adoption was cheaper for the government than fostering !Paying £20/week family allowance to the adopters rather than £500/week to fosterers !(or do you dispute that?)
    Adoption is wonderful if it is voluntary and a crime if compulsory ;As simple as that.Fostering can be benficial for battered or starving children if removed from criminal parents but is a criminal moneymaking practice when children are removed from happy homes and from parents who desperately want to keep them.Under the present system both parents and children are punished even when neither have committed any crime and that is plainly wrong.
    Punishment without crime is itself a crime and judges who impose it should themselves be locked up for a very long time !

    • Forced Adoption re your comment 36. You create a false dichotomy of wonderful and voluntary on the one hand and compulsory and criminal on the other, of it being beneficial for battered or starving children if removed from criminal parents contrasted with removal from happy homes and from parents who desperately want to keep them.

      What about the battered or starving children of parents who for whatever reason are not charged with a crime? What about the children who are pinched, sworn at, criticised and excessively punished, with poor diets and neglected appearance year on year on year? Is it wonderful to leave them in those homes? Is it criminal to want to find ways to help them?

      As we have been quite rightly reminded by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal A LOT lately, adoption is a last resort – but you never seem to answer the question as to whether or not it can EVER be right to adopt a child against his parents’ will? It certainly doesn’t help to rule out parents who “desperately want to keep them” or who love them (they all – or almost all do).

      Adoption should not be a punishment for parents. But isn’t it a proper tool if sparingly used, for families who cannot properly care for their children, if all other options have been ruled out? Can you momentarily suspend the arguments about corruption and financial incentives and answer the question of principle?

  28. No… I’m not putting words in your mouth and I’m not criticising anyone. You don’t need to be defensive because I’m just asking questions.

    I can see I missed a connection – because I’m learning a lot from this conversation. I didn’t fully realise that Adopting a child only qualifies you for child tax credits – as in the same cost to the gov.t for birth parents. Well – actually I did know it but hadn’t properly understood it in terms of this conversation – perhaps because of your username I thought you were anti-adoption too and not just fostering. I hope that makes sense.

    So now I think I understand that your earlier anger is due to the breaking up of happy families which were desperate to stay together, and who you think should have been helped to stay together. You’re saying (in summary) that instead of being supported to overcome their family problems, social workers set them ‘high jumps’ which they failed to clear and were punished by having their kids taken off them. In addition, they were judged by experts who were either unqualified to make an assessment of their parenting capacity, or for some readon, made assessments on the basis of reported info and not by meeting them face-to-face.

    Why do you think the social workers set them these ‘high jumps’? Do you think the parents were given the chance to agree to the ‘height’ of the jump before it was established as their goal?

    Plus, I asked you (at the bottom of my last post) who you work for – and how you’re funded. But if you don’t want to be identified or to discuss your funding sources I completely understand. I am just curious anout why you hear so many horror stories.

  29. Also, I heard, (and you may be aware that) there’s an act or a bill being put through parliament right now which will allow social workers to place children into foster care placements but simultaneously apply for their adoption. I don’t think this is possible to do at the moment, butvit would save money and potentially give children more security. If anyone knows more about that legislation I would be grateful to be pointed in the right direction.

  30. AL , I am not being defensive just correcting words attributed to me that I never uttered,thought,or wrote;
    You ask,how am I funded and who am I? Well,my sole claim to posterity is that having coined the phrase forced adoption and named my site http://www.forced-adoption.com about 12 years ago the phrase has passed into the language as has the abbreviation “SS” which I also originated for social services (invoking criticism from L.J Munby recently )!My site explains how and why I got involved in the fight against forced adoption.
    I am also a business man with two enterprises in Monaco,namely “home language international” and “Regency school of languages”which I founded and own and which you can google if curious.I am no Bill Gates but I do fund myself and also pregnant women who need to flee the country to avoid having their babies snatched at birth by social workers anxious to fill up their official adoption scorecards !
    I am against “punishment without crime” and no worse punishment for mothers can exist than to have babies snatched at birth for “risk of emotional abuse”.Nearly as bad is the punishment of young children taken into care by uniformed police and social workers and then put into virtual isolation with their mobile phones and laptops conficated so that they can no longer communicate with family or schoolfriends;What have we done wrong these kids ask so plaintively and answer comes there none !
    Punishment without crime is an aberration and is itself a crime for which perpetrators should be punished no matter who they may be.
    In this respect,the UK stands alone in Europe and in disgrace!

  31. Why do I hear so many horror stories Al?
    Because in response to my site I get a minimum of 2 or 3 NEW calls or emails every single day from desperate parents trying to save the children they love from the perils of “state care”.Plus double that number of follow up calls from those to whom I have already given legal advice.
    Around 2000+ calls a year out of 27,000 children taken last year !But it’s all I can manage….
    So far I HAVE NEVER RECEIVED A SINGLE EMAIL OR PHONE CALL REPROACHING ME FOR BAD ADVICE !
    I must be doing something right !

  32. For what it’s worth, and relative to my very limited understanding of adoption practices in the UK as compared to the rest of the world, the very nature of the process is bound to court controversy.

    I think it’s fair to say that I have heard both parents and counsel alike scowl about social services and the way they use their considerable influence in these matters, quite often out of turn when other remedies might actually be more appropriate than care proceedings, such as proper support for the parent(s) involved.

    I can’t help but agree that social services should be viewed with healthy scepticism, and due to their already public and frequent failures, sometimes resulting in the tragic loss of life; it is difficult not to believe that they get it very very wrong sometimes. I’m minded of the invasion of Iraq argument, we could be wrong but why take the risk?

    • Mckenzie Friend Alex, for sure they get it wrong sometimes – and of course when they do the consequences are grave. But that is one of the reasons that the removal of a child must always (with limited exceptions) be sanctioned by a court after proper scrutiny. Social workers don’t (contrary to what some would have you believe) have the power to just whisk children away for no reason. The only power they have to retain a child again his parents wishes would be if a police officer has used Police Powers of Protection to remove a child due to the urgency of the situation, and has handed the child to social services as a place of safety until the matter can be brought to court. The maximum that can last for is 72 hours. After that its only with the court’s sanction (or under s20 CA 1989 with parental agreement).

  33. On a question of principal familoo and also of fact. When you ask “what about battered and starved children whose parents are not charged with any crime?”As a lawyer I am sure you must be aware that it actually IS A CRIME to batter starve and generally illtreat children.The answer is therefore for the police to leave children said to be “at risk” alone and to arrest and charge criminal parents.Alas however the number of children taken for emotional abuse is far more than those taken for physical and sexual abuse added together (cafcass stats) and the gap widens every year !
    As to my not answering the question as to whether it can EVER be right to adopt a child against the will of the parents;the answer is a resounding NO NO NO ! Forced adoption is a wicked crime banned in most of Europe and is a resounding stain on our british history that will surely merit a shamefaced apology from some future Prime Minister in 30 or 40 years time:much like Gordon Brown’s regrets for 300,000 children sent to forced labour and sexual abuse in Australia and Canada soon after the war when many parents were told their children were dead and the children were told the same of their parents! Couldn’t possibly happen here in Britain they said at the time ;just a mad conspiracy theory….
    But it wasn’t !

    • So what happens to the children whilst their parents are on bail pending a charging decision and until the trial is over? They stay at home?

  34. As to the police and the courts… Well the police tend to obey the social workers and take children under police protection almost whenever asked to do so;The judges are as L.J.Thorpe famously admitted “so prejudiced against parents that once a child is taken it is very hard to recover that child thereafter” The safer option for judge is to go along with social services because if the child is hurt or even killed later the blame will go to the “ss” and not the judge !PUNISHMENT WITHOUT CRIME should be outlawed! End of story….

  35. Thanks Familoo, I understand, however I quote one counsel who I shall not name, but the bulk of her work is care work on behalf of local authorities as ” some of the things that they say about parents sometimes (LA’s) makes you want to just collapse in a pile on the floor ” {sic}

    Sorry, but they can be complete b*****ds.

    • Mckenzie Friend Alex – I take your point, I’m not trying to defend inappropriate social work where it exists, I was simply trying to set out the legal limits of what they can and cannot do, which was not clear from previous comments.

  36. I’ve just been on your website (never clicked your name before – didn’t realise it was linked to your site) …and I’m amazed!

    I will certainly visit it again. I can see that you’re really passionate about your cause and put a lot of work into it. I have (naturally) got some concerns that I would be interested in your response to – namely: a) How did you begin this? b) Have you ever helped someone who you’ve had doubts about? c) What measures do you take to avoid helping abusive parents?

    Oh God, I have too many questions for you – some which I’ve asked before, but many new ones. I would appreciate it if you could take the time to reply to all or some!

    1. Do you think that SW is/has always been completely corrupt in its principle or do you think it should exist but in a more, say, transparent form?

    2. Which reforms do you want British social workers to adopt?

    3. Do you have any faith that British SW could be done differently/better? Or are you too convinced of its deep corruption? (see q6.)

    4. What do you think of the Munro report? Do you think it provides a better vision of the future?

    5. Do you think that what you criticicise in SW today exists because SW has been influenced by what followed the Laming/Climbie Report i.e. over-bureaucratisation of the process?

    6. OR… is the corruption you talk about motivated by self-protectionism of workers and money-making for those you call “birds of a feather”?

    7. – Also, one more, how do you reccomend a worker with no interest in ‘becoming’ corrupted should operate?

  37. Familoo ,turn the clock back to pre 1948 before social workers arrived on the scene. Police dealt with child cruelty.Of course children should now as then, be removed if a parent is charged with a serious crime against children but if found “not guilty” the children should then be returned home unlike the present situation where a not guilty verdict in a criminal court cuts little ice in the family courts where such verdicts are often simply disregarded!

  38. AL,Most of your questions are answered in the introduction section of my site but I will try to reply here also;
    I do not claim social workers are corrupt as quite openly they make their living taking children from their parents supported by judges,lawyers,experts,guardians ,and others who live off the system;
    Abolish “punishment without crime ” and also “forced adoption” and most of these injustices would vanish;No other reforms or reports from Munro or anyone else are needed.The couple of reforms that I suggest above would suffice!BABY P’S MOTHER HAS NOW BEEN RELEASED FROM JAIL AND NONE OF HER SURVIVING CHILDREN HAVE BEEN ADOPTED OR WERE STOPPED FROM SEEING HER WHEN IN PRISON;Social workers go for non criminal parents as they are more easily intimidated.
    I advise anyone who contacts me on the basis of what they tell me plus usually a look at court papers;If parents conceal facts from me despite a fair grilling my advice would be useless anyway but I HAVE HAD NO COMPLAINTS SO FAR.All pregnant mothers deserve the help I give them to escape from the uk to prevent their babies being snatched at birth and then forcibly adopted.Other European countries will give them a chance at least.No lawyer can guarantee the innocence of a client and no more can I . Usually however I find that even if every word from the L.A is true that still does not justify the separation of children from all their families.
    I got involved when the youngest member of Kent County Council 1960–1966 helping mothers in my constituency recover their children from care;A lot more details are on my site ;
    Social workers are not police , should leave child cruelty to the police and parents should be judged in criminal courts;Simple really !

  39. I know very little of the law except how it is made, and dealt with thereof.

    It seems to me for my very poor and weak understanding, that the problem here is that the lawyers and judges are being led to blame by some for the laws which exist. Equally, none of us would like to see another baby P or the like.

    There is a tendency amongst some to believe that if we take our fight to lawyers and the bench that all will change. I suggest that this is cowardly in the sense that any change in the law must come from our law makers and not by trying to make natural law friends. They already exist and by poking them you make real enemies.

    I don’t know too much about the statute but if it causes this much upset it’s flawed. But having a go at lawyers and judges will not change a damned thing.

  40. McKenzie friend Alex;How wrong you are about judges ! Yes Parliament makes the laws but judges repeatedly interpret them to suit their own political agendas.Two Examples are:-
    1:- Article 8 human rights act states that all have a right to a private family life undisturbed by intervention of a public authority.Clearly drafted to protect the family against the State.Perverse UK judges have alone interpreted this to turn it on its head and to protect the State against families so that any parents who protest publicly identifying themselves when their children are taken by social services goes to jail for breaching the privacy of their own children !
    2:-The word molest is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “to intentionally annoy” and was clearly drafted to protect one person from violence or harassment by another person (often a spouse or partner).Only uk judges once again
    who issue “non molestation orders” would so twist the english language that they jail mothers and fathers for sending a birthday card to their own children,or for waving at them in the street,or for a chance meeting at a petrol station (3 years jail for that one.)
    In fact these judges punish parents who have committed no crime at all .27,000+ children were taken from their parents last year in England alone and 90% of those were from parents who had committed no criminal offence whatever !(cafcass statistics)
    Such judges should themselves be locked up !

    • Forcedadoption, you talk as if that is the ONLY application of article 8 that the courts employ. Have you read ANY of the recent caselaw since the summer from the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court? That depends heavily upon the proper and rigorous application of article 8 so that adoption absent parental consent is to be permitted in exceptional circumstances only and only in cases of last resort.

      As for the FLA 1996 Pt IV, it is intended to prevent harassment, and specifically drafted to cover “relevant children”. It is quite capable of covering harassment in any form against children or adults (I make no comment on the merits of any specific case). Most often an order preventing conduct towards a child will be in the form of a PSO, which is equally capable of enforcement by way of committal, but on occasion a non-mol is more appropriate.

    • And I should have said that Judges of course do interpret the law – that is their role. But they only interpret it as far as the statute permits. Most family law is drafted so as to afford a wide discretion and in that context judges must exercise their discretion as best they see fit. If Parliament wants to constrain judicial decisions it must clearly legislate so as to achieve that. That is a proper question for public debate rather than a basis for criticism of the judiciary.

  41. Hi Forced adoption,

    I am a father of four and the idea of losing my children bears not even thinking about for me.

    I am in no way saying that a judge who poorly performs in a particular case, depending upon the viewpoint of others (which shall always be perpendicular) is worth defending; furthermore any child who is unnecessarily removed from a parent(s) represents a complete tragedy!

    However, Im bloody ignorant and know little about the law, CPR in these matters, and frankly I can only guess at what a judge has to consider when presented with two opposing arguments.

    Judges as I understand it, have to do considerably more than simply ‘follow the letter of the law’ indeed some poor statutes are adjusted in rulings by creating contextualised case law, and I think in fairness that is our only buffer between the hoorays who become law makers and us wee citizens?

    I do not disagree that children should not be taken away unnecessarily. Sometimes however, they clearly must.

  42. PS

    sorry about my poor white trash grammar! I meant that children sometimes must be put into care not that it is necessary to remove them without good reason. I refer to a previous posting about social workers and the failures of social workers in general. Before the social workers attack me I suggest they take a long hard look in the mirror.

  43. Familoo, contrary to what I was once taught, judges nowadays in family courts interpret statutes in ways opposite to that which was intended by those who drafted them;Yes the law does say that adoption should be a last resort and L.J.Munby made it clear that judges should outline all other options and explain why they are not appropriate.Alas they rarely do this and adoption is more often a first resort for eager social workers whose views are then rubberstamped by compliant judges .The despair of hundreds of mothers who phone me desperate to avoid adoption and willing to entrust their babies to family members has to be experiebnced to be believed but they cry in vain before the stony hearted judges who disregard the Children Act and prefer to give these babies to strangers rather than to parents or family members.
    The fact still remains also that “to molest” is defined as “to intentionally annoy” and does NOT by any stretch of the imagination cover loving messages or signals between mother and child ! Judges pervert the english language when they do this to serve their own miserable ends.
    Parliament has hitherto trusted judges to interpret statutes to give effect to their clear intent with words bearing their dictionary meaning and fulfilling the purpose for which they were drafted.All that has gone out of the window with the advent of our appalling family courts.

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