It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness

candlebyjamingrayonflickr

This is a guest blog post by Sarah Phillimore.

 

For about the past four years now I have been indulging in that respected pass time of Arguing With People who are Wrong on the Internet. This is the electronic equivalent of picking a scab – it’s not going to achieve anything positive and will probably leave a nasty mark, but at the time it is compulsive and enjoyable.

The main arena in which I flex my gladiatorial powers of quick typing is that of child protection law and practice.  It is something I know about after nearly 15 years as a lawyer in care proceedings, representing parents, LA’s and Guardians.

Over the years it has become a growing source of concern to me just how frequently and with such conviction various extremely serious and inaccurate allegations were repeated about the family law system. The most alarming in my view were:

  • That LA is paid a cash bonus to remove babies into care in order to meet successive government ‘adoption targets’.
  • Most of the babies are removed for no good reason and social workers and experts collude and lie to ensure that they are removed.
  • Don’t expect any help from your lawyer as he/she is likely to be a ‘legal aid loser’ who depends on the LA for money so won’t make waves
  • Parents don’t get to see any of the evidence against them in advance and evidence is routinely withheld from them, with the connivance of the Judges.
  • In fact, it’s so bad that you should leave the country rather than engage with a social worker

Obviously, it mattered not how frantically I typed, how measured and reasonable were my arguments, and how sound were my statistics and case law – that is not what Arguing on the Internet is about. Rather, it’s about shouting loudly enough until every one who disagrees with you loses the will to live and goes off and does something else.

But it was clear that this Arguing on the Internet was having dangerous consequences. More and more people began to arrive on discussion threads to agree that they would now think twice before taking a child to A and E with an injury in case waiting on the ward was a Social Worker who would take their baby. People were agreeing that there must be ‘something’ in these Adoption Targets. Many, many distressed and angry people came to argue that social workers and lawyers were liars, were corrupt and that the system was utterly broken.  One woman even said she was not prepared to have another child unless the wicked and repressive laws about ‘forced adoption’ were repealed.

The reason why these untruths about child protection have gained and sustained so much traction is partly because, sadly, of the prominence of some of the people who make them, together with the inexplicably eager and uncritical repetition of such allegations by various journalists – some of whom at least should have know better.

Matters came to a head at the end of last year with the case of Allessandra Pacchieri and the ‘forced caesarean’ that has been the subject of much media interest and comment. There is excellent commentary from both Carl Gardner on Head of Legal and Pink Tape should your memory need refreshing.

The most prominent proponent of the advice that it is better to leave the country than engage with social workers is of course Mr. Hemming MP who was given air time by the BBC to repeat this ‘advice’ on Panorama. Shortly thereafter; Radio 4 picked up the baton and ran with it on Face the Facts.

So it is no surprise that these dangerous untruths are gaining a prominence and respectability that I do not think they remotely deserve.

But I also have to accept that another part of the reason is that these criticisms and fears feel right to a lot of people. They have sadly, met a lot of professionals who have been rude, arrogant or dismissive. Who haven’t listened. Who have got things wrong and failed to apologise. Who are struggling under enormous and unsustainable case loads with often limited support in place. Mistakes do get made.

There is also a powerful drive to create a narrative to explain why your child was taken away which means you don’t have to confront your own failings as a parent – it can be someone else’s’ fault, the Evil State that wanted to steal your baby.

Therefore I think that this is a potent mixture to explain where we now find ourselves. Of course, those who are heavily invested in Conspiracy Theories are not going to change their minds no matter how eloquently I argue  – last week I was sent a link to a 40 minute long YouTube video which variously asserts that the United Nations is the instigator of international child stealing and a man in Scotland had his child removed because he wore a funny hat.

I am not going to reach these people. They are out of mine, or I suspect anyone’s reach.

But there are others, perhaps parents just beginning care proceedings or worried that they might be, who aren’t quite sure what to believe. Their social worker seems ok, but there is an MP telling them they had better leave the country rather than talk to her.

And then, something really rather amazing started happening on the various internet discussions about the corrupt family system. People started asking for some form of credible and reliable internet resource that could help them find a way though all of this.  Some cited the excellent suesspiciousminds blog post “What you should do if social services steal your children” and wished they had found it earlier. A number of us on these threads – lawyers, social workers and parents – began to see that although there was lots of excellent sources of information on the internet, it wasn’t always easy to find unless you knew what you were looking for and also, there didn’t seem to be anything that pulled it altogether and offered perspectives from everyone involved in child protection from the social workers, lawyers, parents and children.

So we decided to create this resource.  You will find it at www.childprotectionresource.org.uk.

This is a product of many contributions from many areas of expertise and experience. We hope that it will continue to grow and attract contributions from everyone with an interest in child protection. We would like it to be a real and valuable source of help and information and a way to debate what we do need to see change to make our child protection system as good as it can be.

Because, all of us Arguing on the Internet had at least one thing we could agree about: children need and deserve our protection, within a system that is efficient and as fair as possible.

 

Candle picture thanks to Jamingray on flickr.

87 thoughts on “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness

  1. My two biggest problems with the Italian case are “Regarding in the judgment, namely the fact that Ms Pacchieri was at the material time clearly habitually resident in Italy but yet being the potential subject of an order of the Court of Protection. Nothing in the judgment in JO v GO discussed elsewhere casts doubt upon the proposition that Ms Pacchieri was habitually resident in Italy, and in the cold light of day, it is perhaps of some note that there was apparently no discussion during the hearing of whether the Court had jurisdiction at all to make an order of the nature sought. By virtue of paragraph 7(1)(c) of Schedule 3 to the MCA 2005, the Court of Protection only has jurisdiction on the basis of presence alone if the matter is ‘urgent.’ This word derives from the 2000 Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults, mirrored by Schedule 3. The approach of the Court of Protection has been to seek to interpret the provisions of Schedule 3 compatibly with the Convention, and to have to regard to the Explanatory Report thereto (see Re M [2011] EWHC 3590 (COP)). From that Explanatory Report, it is clear that ‘urgency’ for purposes of the Hague Convention, and hence Schedule 3, should be interpreted strictly in the medical context. Ms Pacchieri’s position as at the time that it came before the Court might quite properly be described as urgent given that the procedure was scheduled for the next day (although this gives rise to a separate question discussed below); in future cases, we would perhaps expect to see the judge recording in a preamble that they were satisfied that they had jurisdiction on the basis that paragraph 7(1)(c) of Schedule 3 to the MCA 2005 was met; Perhaps more troublingly, it is not clear on the face of the transcript of the judgment why it was that the application was only made the day before the procedure was scheduled. After all, it was presumably evident to the NHS Trust – who had been caring for Ms Pacchieri for several weeks under the provisions of the MHA 1983 – that (a) she was in the later stages of pregnancy; and (b) she had had at least one previous Caesarean section. Given that the primary basis upon which the procedure was said to be in her best interests was the risk of uterine rupture if she underwent a vaginal birth following her previous Caesarean sections, it would therefore on one view seem rather obvious that the Trust should have moved with greater speed to bring the matter to Court in advance of the procedure. The Court of Appeal in Re MB and – even more emphatically – in St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S [1999] Fam 26 stressed the importance of bringing applications regarding Caesarean sections to Court in a timely fashion. Assuming (if such is a correct assumption) that the procedure had to take place on 24 August, and hence the proceedings could not be adjourned, the fact that the application was only issued the day before radically limited the ability of the Official Solicitor to take steps to investigate and (if appropriate) consult with Ms Pacchieri to obtain her views; Leading on from this, it is not entirely clear from the transcript whether the fact that Ms Pacchieri appears not to have been consulted in advance (and was not to be informed subsequently) was the result of a considered decision that such was not in her best interests. If it were – and it is quite possible to envisage why that might have been so – then one would perhaps have expected to see this recorded in the judgment. If not, then some potentially difficult questions arise as to whether the decision could be said to have complied with s.4(4) MCA 2005.”

    The other big problem I have is why the NHS and the courts kept the Italian authorities in the dark and barred from participation. Is this normal procedure?

    • John,
      Can I ask you to try and keep your comments a little shorter please? It makes for tough reading of a thread otherwise.
      Thanks

      On the habitual residence point, aside from the question of the apparent failure to notify the relevant Italian authorities, it certainly seems as if there was a need for protective action / treatment of one kind or another for the mother (which may or may not have included the c-section itself) at that moment and in this jurisdiction and I don’t think that habitual residence bears upon jurisdiction in relation to CoP proceedings in quite the same way that it does with CA 1989 proceedings, where Brussels IIR applies.

      Lucy

      • I am speaking more about the less than timely application for a c-sect when they knew she was going to be detained for many weeks until the birth. You can’t claim they were incompetent to the point of not knowing that pregnant women give birth.

        • They may have hoped she would recover sufficiently to undergo a natural birth.

          I keep reading the assertion that the Official Solicitor did not see Ms Pacchieri or arrange for anyone else to do so, but I have never seen any verification of that fact. Could I ask what is your source?

          • I think that is in the judgment of Mostyn J, Katy. The OS was called in at v short notice and the hearing convened urgently. I don’t think there is anything to tell us about the steps the OS took after that initial hearing.

          • The NHS has already said that they refused to give her drugs fearing that they would harm the unborn baby. Exactly how was she to get better without treatment? It would be irresponsible to believe that she would magically recover without any treatment. I know I am not the only one that finds it chilling that no one ever mentioned her wishes in the very brief hearing in which she was not privy to.

    • Northern Lights

      I can answer only the last part of your question, or maybe 50% of it. From the Italian part, NHS has not a duty to communicate anything to Italian authorities, given that we are both in Europe. NHS and Italian ASL communicate with each other only when they ask for payment of fees. If Ms. Pacchieri had a EHIC card or tessera sanitaria (which she should have), there is no need to inform anyone at home. Concerning Italian embassy, they actually wrote on their FB page they had been informed, although belately. Where did you get your info about them not being informed?

      • They were not informed as per the guidelines of the Vienna conventions mainly BR2. Contacting the Italian authorities after everything has been said and done is unacceptable. Are you seriously implying that the protections and rights of the Vienna conventions do not apply in the EU? If you check the UK government tourist website they would disagree about not informing foreign nations about such things especially if it concerns their own citizens.

        • I am Italian and know the Italian Law. Foreign authorities are not ‘forced’ to inform Italian authorities for anything happening in their territories, because it is out of Italian jurisdiction. The only exception is death. So get your facts straight and blame Italian authorities for not applying the Vienna convention (it is not a mystery for any Italian that Italy uses European law and conventions as ‘toilet paper’)

          • Italy signed on to the Vienna Convention. If you don’t believe me check the UNs website. Perhaps you should research more before stating that Italy isn’t part of the Vienna Convention.

          • Why would Italy apply the Vienna Convention if they were not aware of the UK detaining their citizens? Should the UK not apply the Vienna Convention being that they were the ones to detain her?

          • http://www.esteri.it/MAE/IT/Italiani_nel_Mondo/ServiziConsolari/

            More links to show your need to get your facts straight before putting your foot in your mouth.

          • Alright, let’s keep it polite please.

          • Northern Lights

            John, people speaking of another country they don’t know anything about and spouting nonsense and links they can’t even read properly should avoid to comment. It is called ‘common sense’. If you could read the whole text, not using google translator, embassies and consulates have a disclaimer on their webpages saying they are NOT responsible for the inaccuracies of what stated above. If you were Italian you would understand that is a way for them to wash their hands off everything. In the end, Italy was a country who had a convicted criminal as a Prime Minister for twenty years. You should not be surprised they don’t care about the Vienna convention or any others. Word of an Italian.
            Familoo also asked you to be polite in your debate, thanks.

          • Nl

            Maybe you should take Lucy’s advice on being polite. Also you claim that I do not speak Italian, you sure do like to make baseless assumptions don’t you. Perhaps you can send me a link to this Italian ‘law’ you have sighted? I will wait for the official link, and I don’t mind if it is in Italian, French, Spanish, or English.

          • Right. You two. I’m going to put you both in time out if you don’t stop bickering. I don’t care who started it. NO X-BOX for a week unless you STOP! Oh…wait…

          • Northern Lights

            No, no, no Xbox for one week! Devastated! ;(
            @familoo
            Ok, I know I made a big mistake… Never, never engage with uninformed conspiracy theorists, sorry familoo 🙁
            Dimon, can you speak Italian?If you do, I don’t see to post any links. Browse http://www.google.it. for ‘fatta la legge, trovato l’inganno’. I hope you are happy 😉 last reply from me.

          • Well done for saying sorry. Now give him a kiss and make friends and you can have your lollipop back. 😉

          • Nl

            Thank you for proving my point.

          • No.
            I get the last word.
            So NER!
            😉
            Goodnight chaps.

  2. I don’t know about lighting a candle, but I am sure Sarah has ignited something and I can almost hear Ian sharpening his pencil.

    Surely it is better to be honest about some of these things than to deny they happen at all. Blair’s adoption targets, now dropped, were a disaster. Rather than increase the number of children adopted out of fostering, they led to a dramatic fall in the number of older children adopted and to a rise (of 123%) in children under 1 year old taken from their parents into adoption. Why not admit that this policy, well-intentioned and based on William Hague’s report into conditions in North Wales care homes, failed to have the effect intended and is the cause of what Sarah terms “myths”? Incidentally the website she references acknowledges these targets and admits that one council, for example, was paid over £2million for meeting them. This was the “Baby P effect” some years before Baby P.

    • Northern Lights

      @Nick
      Because we can’t let a wrong fact or event os past mistake (as it was William Hague’s plagued plan!) to become a myth and then a whole conspiracy. Following this reasoning, I should build a conspiracy against all the constabularies in UK, because I was one of the five rape victims in Scotland who were wrongly detained, accused of lying and then released after a CIA-like interrogation (mind you, at least I was not naked during the interrogation, given that some officers stripped the victims of all clothes). In my opinion Sarah is indeed acknowledging there were mistakes and she is trying to give her contribution to make a better system for everybody in the future.
      My best wishes and congratulations to Sarah, wonderful website (happy to RT on twitter too!).

  3. Sarah phillimore

    Nick, may I refer you to the Myth Busting section of http://www.childprotectionresource.org.uk ?

    I welcome a robust and open debate about collectively what we all need to do to make our child protection system better.

    But to repeatedly, as many do, tell vulnerable parents on chat forums that the government is paying money to have their babies taken away and then refuse ever to provide any proof for this assertion, is vile behaviour.

    So I hope the need for open and honest debate is embraced by all, not least our politicians.

  4. “The most alarming in my view were:
    That LA is paid a cash bonus to remove babies into care in order to meet successive government ‘adoption targets’.”

    I’m not sure whether anyone among the child protection practitioners’ most favourite enemies has made exactly this claim. Wording matters. What I’ve read is that LAs were rewarded for meeting adoption targets set by the government. And this appears to be true:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1584940/Cash-prize-for-council-that-hit-adoption-targets.html
    “Hammersmith and Fulham council, in west London, was paid £500,000 as a reward for placing more than 100 children for adoption in three years.”

    • No doubt they have not used those words, but I have certainly seen it suggested quite clearly that there is a direct causal link between the targets and the financial reward and the number of children “wrongly adopted”. I’ve not seen any hard evidence that the targets that used to exist had the effect of driving care planning decisions as opposed to attempts to achieve adoption once plans for adoption had been approved by the court, although we have all seen on occasion a certain unhealthy zeal for adoption wherever parenting is deficient without proper exploration of other options – that is something that B and Re B-S have reminded us is unacceptable.

    • This is what John Hemming has said. I take this from my letter of complaint in 2012 to Nick Clegg and others, which has been simply ignored. It is a matter for you whether or not you find this acceptable from an elected politician.

      In no particular order of importance, in my opinion the most dangerous false assertions repeatedly made by Mr Hemming are:
      1)That care proceedings are initiated to fulfil government targets to bring babies into the ‘system’ to be adopted. Although he claims that this target no longer has Government sanction he maintains that Local Authorities continue to operate towards a non-existent ‘target’. It seems he is confusing this with official policies to try and speed up adoption for children who are already in care and who need a permanent family. This has been pointed out to him repeatedly on the mumsnet forum and elsewhere, but he is either unable or unwilling to understand this point.
      a.See an interview by David Chaplin in Family Law Week http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed2360 ‘He already claims that he has exposed the oft-denied adoption targets with the admission by Hammersmith and Fulham, through a press release in March this year, that they had achieved a target that awarded them with an additional £500,000 of funding for achieving a target of 100 adoptions or secure placements over three years.’
      b.See: Mr Hemming’s Parliamentary website [http://john.hemming.name/news/index.php?yr=11&mth=0] ‘At least 10,000 young children have been dragged from their families and needlessly adopted due to a flawed target at the heart of Government, it was claimed last night Last night backing came from MP John Hemming, who said the policy led to the unnecessary adoption of 1,000 children every year’
      c.See the Families and Social Services Information Team Website [http://www.fassit.co.uk/judge_orders_social_workers.htm] Mr Hemming added: “There are financial rewards – a fund of about £35million – for getting children adopted. Admittedly, it has been proposed that adoption targets are scrapped on April 1, but clearly there are still problems.”
      d.See John Hemming’s contribution to the thread on mumsnet on 26.05.11 at 12:36:30 [http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/1222266-to-think-that-John-Hemming-is-a-dangerous-man/AllOnOnePage] ‘In order to increase adoption numbers here more young babies were taken into care. I can email the stats to anyone who is interested.’

      He has never provided these ‘stats’. He has however provided a spreadsheet which he has filled in with numbers from sources he does not identify.

  5. Nick I am all for honesty, particularly from our elected politicians.

    If the babysnatching conspiracy was real why are 96% of children in care manifestly NOT babies?

    Pretty poor conspiracy implementation that.

    • the “babysnatching conspiracy” IS real. This is what will happen when financial incentives are given to Local Government to do something. Inevitably to maximise income they will go for what most easily meets the annual budget target deadline on 30th March each year.

      Babies are the most adoptable and can be adopted fastest.

      LA’s cannot afford to lose income.

      Under the Public Service Agreements LA’s would have been PENALISED not only on the adoption one, but across the board on the other PSA’s for failing to meet one PSA target.

      Meanwhile it remains fact children for adoption can only bee supplied from Care or being taken into Care.

      It is the only source of supply to meet the market demand.

      It remains POLICY to take the babies of allegedly “problem mothers” into Care at birth from problems identified from their records by midwives.

      All too frequently these allegations may prove to be inaccurate or based on unproven research.

      Oh, by the way, the stats the Blessed St. John of Yardley quotes are those of the DSFC’s statisticians.

      It’s like the story of Lloyd-George and the WW1 convoys.

  6. Thank you for accurately reporting that Hemming has advised that, in certain circumstances, parents should leave the country. Others have inaccurately suggesed that he has advised fleeing, which is a smear.
    There is a great deal wrong with Hemming’s position and Hemming’s statements but that does not justify misrepresenting what he has said. As others have done.
    Again, thank you.

    • Northern Lights

      It was the Daily Mail and The Independent journos writing that, not ‘others’. I have to admit that Hemming did advise to leave the country if not possible to solve the solution yet I wonder if a lawyer could answer my question: “If you are involved in a trial or your children are under a court order and you leave the UK…. Is that considered fleeing?”.

      • I’m not sure what you mean NL – “Fleeing” isn’t a legal term. I’d use it to connote someone leaving in order to avoid a consequence – so in my book what you describe is fleeing. Isn’t it?

        If you take a child out of the country when there is an order in place or ongoing proceedings and without the necessary permission (from other parent or court depending on circumstances) – that could be an offence or a contempt of court, depending on what type of order it is.

        • Exactly, thank you. As I read it Hemming has, in a very few cases, counselled travel when there is a fear or expectation that a court order might be issued in the near future. Once the court order has actually been issued it is too late to legally emigrate in search of the avoidance of injustice. Hemming has never counselled illegal travel; and illegal travel might reasonably be termed fleeing. As contrasted with legal emigration to a land where judges are more favourably inclined towards families and less favourably inclined towards public servants and experts.
          In the EU people do have a right to move away from countries they find to be unpleasant, and that includes mothers with children.

          • I don’t think anyone has suggested he has recommended unlawful travel abroad – whenever I’ve heard / read him he has been careful to say it must only be done lawfully (Not all proponents of leaving the jurisdiction are so careful, mind you). The question is rather whether it is sensible to give that guidance at all, and whether or not the caveat “don’t break the law” really adds anything in the context of frightened parents listening to an MP suggesting its a good idea to leave the country rather than engage with proceedings. How should parents make sense of that if they have been frightened off the legal system? There is a risk they will be put off seeking sound advice from a lawyer and that rather than finding out whether it is a) lawful and b) sensible in the circumstances of their case, and just cut and run. It’s the effect of the advice on vulnerable individuals who already probably lack trust in the system that worries people I think – rather than the carefully worded small print.

          • familoo wrote> to leave the country rather than engage with proceedings. How should parents make sense of that if they have been frightened off the legal system?

            Indeed that is a good point. Engaging would be good. But the problem is – “How can a mother engage with the system without risking the loss of her right to emigrate with an intact family for a better place?” If there were a satisfactory answer to that there could very well be a resolution. But right now staying and engaging is equivalent to rolling the dice and hoping for a desired outcome. Instead of taking a less desirable, but more certain outcome.

            Of course mothers are scared, You can’t threaten people with the break up of their family and expect them not to be scared. Now can you?

          • I don’t expect them to be anything other than scared. That is why they need calm reassurance prior to sound advice.

      • It is not technically illegal to “flee” unless there is a court order. It does paint them in a very bad light if they do so. However according to your statements above if the local SS in the foreign country gets involved they have no obligation to inform the UK authorities in the matter. I would think that the home countries should always be informed and given the option to participate.

        • Northern Lights

          I think you are a bit confused John. You exchange politeness with law. And in my opinion, some countries in Europe have so much going on at the moment and such a mess concerning unemployment and financial crisis that it is evident they won’t take notice of single cases, of any nature, unless it involves a death. Would you bother if you were in their shoes? I suppose not. By the way, it would be a good idea if you could stay on topic and in Sarah’s article there is no mention of any international involvement. Her website is about childprotection in UK, not anywhere else.

          • NL

            You are saying the Italian case is not international? Is that why Italy is involved, or maybe you do not know the difference between Italy and England? UK SS does involve foreign national’s children also making it international. Lastly conventions and treaties are not about being polite, they are based on co-operation with other nations. If this only involved UK citizens than I would be off topic and yet they even refer directly to the alessandra pacchieri case.

          • Northern Lights

            Sarah mentioned the Pacchieri case as a reason why many women decided to unite and start a website about child protection. The website itself doesn’t have an international page nor any international case is involved. So stop being off topic.. or familoo will take your xbox away from you too 😉

  7. Thank you for the link, Sarah, which I had already followed – hence my observation that your article above contradicts the website.

    I haven’t anywhere promoted what you call the ‘babysnatching conspiracy’; I have merely noted that Blair’s adoption targets – presumably well-intentioned (his father was adopted) – had unintended consequences.

    The conspiracy theorists’ response to your question would be because the babies are snatched for adoption and do not remain long in care, while most children who do remain in care for a long time are over 10 and cannot be found adoptive families.

  8. Sarah Phillimore makes 5 points ,said to be the views of those who campaign against the family courts ,which Ireproduce here,the better to answer them.

    1:_ That LA is paid a cash bonus to remove babies into care in order to meet successive government ‘adoption targets’.
    2:- Most of the babies are removed for no good reason and social workers and experts collude and lie to ensure that they are removed.
    3:- Don’t expect any help from your lawyer as he/she is likely to be a ‘legal aid loser’ who depends on the LA for money so won’t make waves
    4:- Parents don’t get to see any of the evidence against them in advance and evidence is routinely withheld from them, with the connivance of the Judges.
    5:- In fact, it’s so bad that you should leave the country rather than engage with a social worker

    1:-Huge bonuses were paid in the time of Tony Blair to Councils that hit adoption targets.Such was the scandal that the carrot was eventually replaced by the stick so that L.As now issue scorecards and woe betide those who fail to reach targets (they get named and shamed)

    2:-Most children are removed from parents who have committed no crimes against children.Social workers want to win their cases not lose them and countless examples of their unscrupulous tactics regularly appear in the press.Judges tend to accept hearsay evidence from social workers and hired experts in preference to direct evidence from parents because it is safer for them to do so.If a child is returned to parents and killed or injured the judge will get blamed but if the child is killed or injured in foster care the L.A will get blamed.Q.E.D

    3:- Most lawyers do advise their clients NOT to oppose interim care orders and to “go along with social services”.Who needs a lawyer to surrender to the enemy ?

    4:-Time and again parents ARE denied the right to see the evidence in advance .I remember as a Mckenzie friend one instance when the LA barrister approached the mother I was helping 5 minutes before the court was due to begin and offered her the LA position statement saying “you must not show this to anyone”.I said “she will show it to me!” and the barrister promptly snatched it back and walked off ! It is not for nothing that Michelle F ,a barrister with 10 years experience in the family courts publicly admitted “my clients were like lambs to the slaughter”.

    5:- It is surely obvious even to the most fanatical upholders of the UK family court system that a mother, faced with the stated intention of social workers that they will take her baby at birth with a view to having it adopted,would be well advised to flee to almost any other country in Europe where forced adoption is rare or non existent?Hemming like myself advises quite rightly such mothers to flee in order to avoid losing all contact their babies for the rest of their lives.Simple common sense!

    If Sarah is really interested in improving the shocking reputation of social workers and the family courts she should advocate the abolition of 1:-Punishment without crime 2:-Forced Adoption 3:- “non molestation orders on NON VIOLENT parents depriving them of all contact with their children (Vicky Haigh for example) and 4:-Gagging orders on parents and children who have appeared before the family courts.

    • @forced adoption
      I am writing an article about forced adoption and your policy in case of abuse (of any nature, sexual, physical and emotional) and I am very interested in nailing any idea of yours ‘correctly’.

      1) What do you exactly mean with “punishment with no crime”?
      Do you mean that if there is no conviction no crime? This is an important part for me, thanks for any reply you will give.

      2) what do you know about emotional abuse and what it means for a child?

      3) are you aware that in many southern countries in Europe forced adoption was real and perpetrated by the Catholic church?

      4) are you aware of the fact that in rape cases a ‘not guilty’ verdict not necessarily means the victim is a liar?

      Thanks.

      • 1:-Northern LIGHTS:- By” punishment without crime in the context of the family courts”, I mean simply that the worst punishment a parents can suffer is to have their child or children removed from their care especially for adoption which usually means “for life”.Therefore parentswho have not committed a crime against children should not be punished in this way.
        2:- You ask “what do I know about emotional abuse?” Well I know that everyone has different ideas about what it consists of and when it occurs.I know that everyone suffers emotional abuse at some time (it’s called living);Also I am certain that the mere “risk of emotional abuse” is a crystal ball prediction that can never justify the present wholesale snatching of newborn babies at birth from their mothers with a view to adoption !

        3:- Yes I am aware of forced adoptions perpetrated by the catholic priests and nuns but that does not justify forced adoption or punishment without crime nowadays !

        4:- Yes I am aware that in rape cases and other criminal cases a not guilty verdict does not mean the victim is a liar.That does not mean we should abandon the criminal justice system and criminal courts because they are in fact the best we have got ,and a lot better than the hopelessly biased and prejudiced (L.J.Thorpe) family courts !

        • Northern Lights

          Your point one is a bit confusing and I don’t think I can interpret it correctly, so I will let it go.

          Number 2: I think this is the biggest FLAW in your forced adoption theory. Emotional abuse is emotional abuse, there IS no interpretation and it is NOT normal and NOT something experienced by everyone. This is also clearly stated in Women’s Aid website and any other website all over the world. My husband, for example, never received any abuse, of any kind. I, for instance, I am a survivor. Therefore, from my perspective, I firmly believe that you are protecting parents and NOT children. And when you receive a request of support from these parents, how do you verify if these people are what they say?
          Again, remember that 90% of rape cases see the accused walking away unpunished. Therefore, careful to establish that parents are ok because they didn’t get a conviction.
          .

  9. I’m sorry , Familoo,
    this is not good enough.

    As soon as someone posts the counter argument clearly laid out there is instant censorship.

    What was the objection to my post this time?

    • Sorry, Familoo, I must apologise, it went to the wrong site.

      Sarah, and Lucy,

      I am concerned you say you are unaware of this.

      Unfortunately a major scandal erupted in 2008 when it was finally proved that Central Government were paying generous grants to each LA. to increase the numbers of children Forced Adopted each year. In many LA’s bonuses were also being paid to SW’s to secure Forced Adoptions.
      I have the printout showing the sums paid, including the £1,025,000 paid to “Blogshire Council” , my own, and with which Elected Members still deny was happening and go white when I hold it under their noses.

      They were known as Public Service Agreements and if you failed to meet your target by the end of the year you were financially penalised, not only on this, but across the board on the other 11 PSA’s.
      So you had every incentive to prioritise the adoption of babies.

      Since then subsidies have returned on a more indirect basis.

      There has been TWO MSBP/FII/AIB Relaunches since, on a very similar basis to your site.

      This has always been the focus of all of this.

      Since the mothers are accused of “Munching” the kids and won’t “confess” they if under 5 are likely to end up being Forced Adopted as they cannot be returned home.

      Since peoples’ “professional” theories are involved they have just gone on behaving in the same way and continued to try and prove their theories.

      Ruralsocialworker, the last thing we need is yet another campaign which denies everything, of which there have been a number over the years.

      Meanwhile anew campaign has been created by the adoption agencies and members of the government ,also appointing Martin Nairey as Adoption ,and include bringing in the American “Fost-Adopt” system and reducing times to6 months. So we are back where we started.

      Children are taken into Care for silly reasons and in breach of procedures. Once there they will not be returned and dubious or provably inaccurate evidence concocted as the LA does not wish to be proved wrong.

      The greatest area of corruption is the Expert Witness, in view of the huge sums being paid, and they repeatedly give diagnoses NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist.

      Since the children therefore cannot be returned home, there is only one place for them to go if under 5 – Forced Adoption- which is what happens.

      There is an almost 100% “Guilty” verdict in the Family Court

      Basically we are into the same scenario as Cleveland, Satanic Abuse, Constructive Memory, MSBP, those cosmic megascandals all those years ago, where groups of true believers continued to doggedly defend them, even though disproved.

      I’m sorry, but parents will not get good, helpful, and lawful advice and support to everyone involved in the process.

      .

      • Winston, I am confused about your comment above. I know that there were previously adoption targets. They were abolished. What I don’t understand in particular is where you say “There has been TWO MSBP/FII/AIB Relaunches since, on a very similar basis to your site.” – can you help me understand what you mean by that as I have tried and don’t understand it. I know what the abbreviations are (for those who don’t Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy, Factitious or Induced Illness, Acquired Illness Behaviour) but I don’t get what you mean. The rest of your comment seems to be a series of interdependent and quite bold assertions with little evidence cited. It all sounds a bit hysterical, but then since I evidently fell at the first hurdle and failed to understand your opening sentence, perhaps I am missing something…

        • Lucy,

          since the uproar, scandal, outrage of 2004-2008 (use the name you wish) there has been 2 Relaunches of the MSBP/FII/AIB Theory by its supporters, also in defence of those who originally invented it.

          One renamed it Abnormal Illness Behaviour as its new name. The most recent has not started a new name but is based on the unproved research of one particular group that will remain nameless.

          These are centred around claims of associating all this with Autism/ADHD/Asperger’s to the fury of consultant specialists in these areas.
          There are diagnoses.
          As I say this does not stop MSBP/FII/AIB accusations by SS Depts. and cases that go merrily onwards.

          This is getting worse.

          I am speaking hypothetically of course.

          I am surprised that the Bristol area is unaffected by this and you folk have not encountered it.

          You should also be aware of the scandals of the late ’80’s / early ’90’s that created secrecy in the newly created F C.

          I could send you a copy of that academic paper on Satanic Abuse I wrote all those years ago and just found this evening. That will make your mate Sarah’s hair stand on end. AAAAAAh ! Fright Night.

          Also of the problems of FC EW’s making diagnoses that NHS and private psychs and psychologists refuse to make and refuse treatment, but they are shut out of the FC.

          As you say I am unable to give details because of confidentiality.

          • Winston,
            Nope. Still not understanding what this means “There has been TWO MSBP/FII/AIB Relaunches since, on a very similar basis to your site.” Whose site? What basis? What is the connection??

            I know that MSBP etc is controversial. I have been involved in cases where allegations of FII etc have been unsuccessfully run, and cases where the issue has been alleged pathological overdiagnosis of SpLD or SEN or some other disability, again unsuccessfully run – I think it is poorly understood, difficult to prove, easy to misdiagnose – and probably vulnerable to overzealous professionals manipulating or overinterpreting. That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a genuine phenomenon in some cases. I think you are suggesting that there is some kind of concerted attempt to fabricate a diagnosis (excuse pun) for some malicious purpose.

    • Winston, I see you have realised now that in fact I had censored nothing. But really, even if I had for some reason disallowed a single comment of yours you can see that I allow pretty much any comment through – I moderate only where I have to for legal reasons, taking a cautious approach to “legal reasons” for reasons which I have set out before. Nobody has a right to comment on this or any other blog and I try to be fair and open, allowing through a massive number of comments that I find intensely irritating, wrong or stupid.

  10. This blog would be more accurate if it acknowledged that John Hemming is very far from being the only MP with documented cases on his constituency list of constituents who have fled the UK to avoid misconduct by Children’s Services, or to escape a court case where the judge is plainly not listening to them.

    I don’t dispute that there is media-driven misreporting BUT I work for a local authority and there has been at least one case at that authority of appalling behaviour by social workers, which had nothing to do with overwork and everything to do with personal misandrist prejudice on the part of the social workers. The family affected has been destroyed as a result. Not one of the people involved lost their job.

    The Family Courts and Family Bar Association and whatever group now represents social workers need to acknowledge that dreadful abuses of authority go on up and down the country, and need personally to take steps to bring the people responsible to account.

    • I think that many of us do acknowledge that abuses of authority go on and that errors are made – I’m not sure what you would have us to do personally bring people to account – abuse of authority it something I have rarely encountered (failings, errors from overwork or inexperience, and incompetence far more frequent) but if I saw it I would challenge it in my role as a barrister and report it to the authorities where appropriate. From time to time I write here about patterns of failures or systemic difficulties that I see in the course of my work, although I do so without identifying individual families or cases. If my client were the agency responsible I would be plain about my view of their failings. What more should we / could we do?

      • If a social worker/child services lawyer is involved in a case where a judge finds that the allegation against the parent/family was entirely unjustified and based on no evidence whatsoever it should be a professional mandatory obligation for the Chief Officers involved to notify the professional regulators of misconduct by their officers. A professional misconduct investigation should be mounted immediately and the individual should have their practising certificate/license suspended pending the outcome.

        Moreover, suspension from work pending a disciplinary hearing should be automatic and unquestioned. Anyone who causes a child/family/parent unjustified misery should be absolutely obliged by law to show why they shouldn’t be summarily dismissed with loss of all benefits. and why they shouldn’t be struck off.

        The response from local authorities is always ‘lessons have been learned’ but no-one is ever fired.

        In my particular case the CEO didn’t so much as issue an internal statement for the staff admitting the authority had screwed up and confirming that he had personally apologised to the family affected. As far as I know he still hasn’t apologised to them, neither has the Director of Children’s Services, the Head of Legal Services, the relevant Executive Members or the Leader.

  11. Northern Lights

    I appear to have acquired a doppelganger, Lucy.

    This is my first post on this thread and I’ll limit myself to recalling a comment I read recently to the effect that one of the greatest problems our own children will face in later life is finding a screen name that hasn’t already been taken.

    Excellent article, Sarah.

    • Looking back, there are actually three of you (I can see your email addresses ladies and gents) – which sort of makes sense as I thought the language and tone was rather changeable.

      It’s not helpful for people to pose as other people. I now have no idea who the “REAL” Northern Lights is…

      *Sigh*

  12. Northern Lights

    Oh dear, Lucy, apologies for my part in the confusion but I may be able to account for two N.L’s:

    I’ve been commenting for a couple of years but recently (about a month ago) started using a gmail account instead of the old hotmail one (which also bore a different name…)

    I didn’t think anyone else would use an odd screen name like that (it’s the name of a hit song by Renaissance that I am fond of- but you are much too young to remember them)

    Looks like I’ll have to find another screen name so I’ll have a rummage through my 70’s prog rock collection and see what springs to mind.

    It’s either that or ‘fess up that I’m really George Clooney.

    Deepest apologies again to Sarah for sidetracking an excellent thread.

    • Oh dear. I should have spotted this a while ago. This is why I am perpetually going “oh, I thought Northern Lights was a bloke” and “Oh, I thought Northern Lights was a woman”. Because, without outing either of you I can see from your email addresses etc that there is a boy one (with two email addresses and who makes jokes comparing himself to George Clooney) and a girl one (who talks about her ex husband). Maybe you need to identify yourself as Male Northern Lights or Female Northern Lights in future?!!!

  13. Lucy,

    this is disgraceful, as is Sarah Philamore’s site, and the campaign against JH and CB across the net.

    Because of the failure to follow rules documents and information are frequently not passed to parents or their representatives before hearings.

    If they were ICO’s might not be granted or even sought.

    It is regarded as good court room tactics.

    Once in Care they kids are unlikely to return home.

    Judges collude in this and failure to provide information later on.

    Parents have no choice but to flee the country before orders are made or otherwise their kids will end up being Forced Adopted.

    JH and others are correct in their advice.

    Once a placement order is made the adoption process is virtually impossible to stop.

    A placement order will be made out by the judge as a matter of routine.

    All of this is an attempt to cover up.

    I cannot believe experience legals are unaware of it.

    Been there, got the T shirt, got the video.

    • Well there are a number of assertions there that are just plain contrary to my direct experience of dealing with these cases pretty much every day for over a decade. There are of course occasions when documents that should be disclosed are not, where “tactics” are deployed – but in my experience not so often and largely noticed and deplored in equal measure. If by “collusion” you mean that judges accede to the applications of Local Authorities for orders for removal – well yes they do, but not always. I don’t know what you base your specific allegation of collusion on so I can’t comment beyond saying I’ve never seen it. Most parents do have a choice other than fleeing. And even JH does not advocate fleeing as a blanket response to care proceedings as you seem to be suggesting. A placement order is NOT made by the judge as a matter of routine – you would know this if you had read ANY of the many many Court of Appeal authorities emanating from the Court of Appeal since Re B last year.

      • Whichchoice is this if theallegations are unjustified?

        Stay and see your kids Forced Adopted, Familoo?

        Also with Eastern Europeans, where their kids were being targeted for Forced Adoption – they were – the answer is to get home fast.

        The penchant of SS depts. and FC Judges to have foreign kids Forced Adopted caused an International Incident with Slovakia with our embassy under siege and the recent ruling by Munby that they had to be dealt with in their own countries.

        • Well stay and challenge the unjustified allegations, demonstrate that the concerns are misplaced. Have a chance to keep your children, stay with your family, your roots, your job, your home rather than being on the run isolated and without support or family. That’s a choice, even though it comes with risks of failure and the certain knowledge it will be tough.

          I don’t accept Eastern Europeans were being targeted for forced adoption – as if they presented some reservoir of easy to snatch children.

          Munby and various recent rulings has now made clear that in cases involving forced nationals including Slovakians the appropriate steps need to be taken vis a vis informing foreign authorities, there has been guidance AND examples of transfer of cases to foreign jurisdictions to allow the “home” court to deal with cases, and the guidance makes clear that proper regard has to be had to the fact that not all jurisdiction permit forced adoption of their nationals.

          • Dear familoo, it’s Slovaks not Slovakians. I agree with your post.
            What people forget to ask themselves is what support/safeguards these children have when they are removed by their parents back to their home countries. SSDs virtually have no funds to step in to help these children back home. These children are then left with their parents.
            It would be interesting to compare homicides of these children in different EU countries so some of us can actually grasp how many children are actually saved in the UK.
            I guess westerners here forgot about the stories of children being left in dreadful conditions back in eastern Europe.
            Bearing in mind the mixture of ethnicities and nationalities of the children in the UK, are we seriously expecting their origin countries to deal with their children, who were brought up here? What about the basic welfare principles?

          • Gambling with your family in a court that badly needs reform according to Munby sounds rather dangerous. In some cases the family is probably better off allowing some other country to decide their. Forum shopping is frowned upon yet normally legal.

            Also guidelines are mere suggestions and not absolutes. If they fail to apply the guidelines there is no punishment.

  14. Male Northern Lights

    (Commenting as the “Male Northern Lights,”)

    Would those of you who advocate fleeing/leaving the jurisdiction accept that this might in some cases place a child who is genuinely at risk beyond the reach of protective services, flawed as you may believe them to be?

  15. Male Northern Lights

    (sorry- didn’t finish that post) Would not that not likely lead to an even greater injustice and horror than an unjustified placement for adoption?

    And who monitors the well-being of children who are removed from the jurisdiction?

    • “who monitors the well-being of children who are removed from the jurisdiction?”
      To answer your question, whatever country they are in. once outside of the UK’s jurisdiction it is really not their problem. The country they emigrate to may or may not be polite enough to inform the UK.

  16. The foreign governments concerned thought so and the FCO got some stick.

    We then got taken in the Council of Europe.

    Because they stayed was why their kids got put up for Forced Adoption on placement orders.

    No.

    The arrogance of British SS Depts and F C judges is unbelievable.

    They are outside their jurisdiction.

    Child protection matters are the responsibility of the country concerned.

    Incredibly, one SS dept. and high court judge then issued an injunction for the country concerned.

    It is this attitude which is causing these problems, foreign governments won’t protect their own children.

    It is not uncommon for British FC judges to issue court orders for foreign jurisdictions.

    Oh, and it is clear blond haired blue eyed NE Eastern European children DO form an attractive target for SS Depts., there are just too many Forced Adoption attempts.

    Posters must realise how emotive this is, as foreign countries regard this as kidnapping and trafficking in their children, and do not understand Forced Adoption.

    Al lit does is give us an incredibly bad image abroad.

  17. I never advise a parent to leave UK Illegally and neither does Hemming or Sabine McNeill or most other campaigners.It is wrong therefore to describe British parents who decide to emigrate to countries with a more humane attitude to family life than that of the authorities in the UK as “on the run” .
    I do help pregnant mothers menaced by social workers who tell them their babies will be removed at birth with a view to later adoption.I do advise them to move to other countries where forced adoption either does not exist or is very rarely a factor.Social workers respond by reporting them to interpol as often as not ! A gross over reaction to mothers who have NOT committed any crimes at all.
    I make it clear that social services UK and interpol will surely succeed in tracking down these mothers sooner or later and will then write scathing reports on them for the authorities in the new countries.I therefore advise these mothers to”get in first ” and report to social services in their new country soon after arrival to demonstrate that they are normal loving mothers persecuted by a vile forced adoption machine in the UK that will pursue mothers and babies to the ends of the earth rather than let one baby escape their clutches! If one or two escape it may open the floodgates they fear…….
    What about penniless mothers living rough in the streets?
    Well I only advise mothers to flee if they can be financially supported by their families or by partners who stay in UK to work,or who have relatives or friends in the country they are going to.”Benefit Streets” are rarely to be found in the rest of Europe.
    Lastly ,why are their babies threatened in this way? The most common reasons are a history of suffering domestic violence from an ex partner,being abused when young,being brought up in care,faling to engage with professionals,diagnosed by some hired gun as “suffering from a personality disorder”,or suffering from mild learning difficulties but supported by a partner who has none. Most other European countries do not consider these sort of reasons serious enough to confiscate newborn babies and give them to strangers for adoption.
    These mothers are therefore more than justified to emigrate and save their babies from the well documented perils of State Care;
    It is therefore common sense for such mothers to protect their babies in any legal way that they can.

  18. In answer to Jim and others making highly dubious legal points, I can only reiterate that in countless cases the uk social services pursue babies born to uk mothers even when those babies are born abroad .They call in interpol (whose mission is to deal with crimes) even when pregnant women have committed no offence by leaving the UK before the birth of their babies.These uk social workers diligently pursue these mothers to the ends of the earth (or at any rate to places such as Uganda,or Laos to name two I know about) to try and grab the babies and bring them back to UK instead of leaving the country where they were born and finally located to deal with the situation with their own social workers and court system.It is hard for anyone outside the uk system with no personal experience of it to believe the lengths to which these pursuers will go.Read Christopher Booker in today’s Sunday Telegraph (jan 9th) for a typical example !

  19. These “highly dubious legal points” are made merely to show, quite conclusively I should have thought, that those countries that voluntarily choose to enter into multilateral treaties with other counties to determine which country has jurisdiction over a child are unlikely to be particularly surprised when one country utilises those provisions to assert jurisdiction over a child that is in another country.

    And also, of course, to show that the statement “[t]hey are outside their jurisdiction” is not a correct statement of international law. Although I question the value of international law to the denizens of the interwebz…

    And it is quite up to you whether you wish to believe me and the statements of EU law to which I link.

    • I have posed a question pertaining to the 1989 Childrens Act and the use/ change of a childs name for Family Court proceedings on this site PARENTS FOUND INNOCENT OF CHILD ABUSE AFTER THER BABY WAS REMOVED FOR ADOPTION
      9th October 2015
      Lucy does not have an answer to my question
      Request: As you have knowledge about this question is it possible for you to visit this blog and any help would be greatly appreciated

      • In fact, I have simply declined to publish details that might be the subject of a reporting restriction order or to advise via blog (which would be inappropriate).

        • The original question was pertaining to the legality within the 1989 Childrens Act of whether a LA had any legal right to change a childs birth certified name for FCP.
          The case was firstly investigated by Cleveland Police ended in Unconditional Release, in the birth certified name of my Grandson, obviously no injuries to investigate, but did not know what they pointing to SS Offices were going to do?
          This is how it ended with Childs name changed Bailli II resources England & Wales Case Law, Court of Appeal Civil Division 1997 B(A Minor) Re (1997) EWCA Civ 2190 (25th July1997)We wrongly were informed by Chief Ex Redcar & Cleveland LA that we had to Appeal to change the childs Case name back to his birth certified name (Which would have meant the Full Care Order would have been made legal) instead of them having to change the name stated on it illegally

  20. Babies with mothers who are UK citizens but who are born, abroad to avoid forced adoption are not covered in any way Jim by the treaties you seem to rely on.These “international agreements” are therefore irrelevant !

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