Family Justice Narratives : No. 6

This is the sixth of the Family Justice Narratives. You can find out what the Family Justice Narratives are all about and how to get involved here. This narrative is in the format of an email addressed to me, and comes from Brian, a social worker.



Started reading your blog with interest and admire the way you seem to find incredible amounts of time and patience to debate with and answer contributors, especially the distressed and unhappy fathers who can be abusive and emotional. Dialogue is important but sometimes attitudes are so entrenched dialogue gets us nowhere. I’d just like to share my experience of working with children and families in the family court setting. I’ve no axe to grind other than a professional interest in truth and objectivity in so far as it can be achieved and in balancing some of what sometimes appears in your blog with my own perspective.

I’ve been in social work practice in the family courts for over 30 years as a practitioner, manager and also an experienced mediator.  Some believe that people who do my work are not properly trained. I don’t know what training they believe is appropriate, but to hopefully satisfy them, I’m a registered social worker, have a degree in social work, also hold the professional qualification in social work, another qualification in psychotherapy, another in management, a MSc in conflict resolution and mediation and was trained in mediation at the Institute of Family Therapy. During my time I’ve worked with people abusing drugs and alcohol, victims and perpetrators of domestic violence and had some responsibility for a sex offender treatment programme in a prison, as well as working with possibly thousands of families passing through the family courts. Continue Reading…

Family Justice Narratives : No. 5

This is the fifth of the Family Justice Narratives. You can find out what the Family Justice Narratives are all about and how to get involved here.

NARRATIVE NO 5 : Anonymous Advice Worker

The questions:

  • Tell us where you fit in (solicitor, barrister, social worker, guardian, judge, researcher, court staff, something else)
  • Tell us about your typical week
  • Tell us about where you’re at this week (bad week, good week, rewarding week, soul destroying *headdesk* kind of week?)
  • Tell us about the highs and lows and the reasons you do the job
  • Tell us about what works well in the system and tell us about what does not work at all
  • Tell us about how you see the family justice system and how you think others see you and the system you work in
  • Tell us about an important influence on your work
  • Tell us about how you combine your family with your work and how your experiences impact on your relationships and your parenting
  • Tell us – would you choose this job in your next life? and will you be doing it in ten years time?
  • And tell us your bright ideas for change and for dialogue

I suppose I fit in two main ways:

Firstly, I am an adviser to parents on family law. On a daily basis I speak to separated parents about their issues around contact, residence, PR, child maintenance and welfare benefits and property rights. As well as giving parents information on the legal aspect to their situation, I feel that my job involves discussing the ‘softer’ issues around their situation, such as exploring the reasons why they feel a particular way about something, the way their actions could be perceived by others and the possible reactions to that behaviour and looking at the situation from the other parent’s perspective. I approach my work from a standpoint of trying to see if any solution can be found to resolve the issues they have and exploring these softer issues can sometimes help the parent see a different way of trying to achieve a solution. In doing so I aim to maintain their focus on the child and on ways in which they can move their situation forward. It’s important that I keep bringing them back to what they are trying to achieve: the best possible outcome for their children. When not advising parents I’m working on policy development contributing to government consultations on child maintenance, the Family Justice Review and the Welfare Reform Bill, and also help get information out to parents in a variety of ways to try to raise awareness of the free advice we can offer. I’ve also worked on published texts on child support legislation; worked closely with CMEC on their information output and worked with two different universities on both undergraduate and postgraduate knowledge of child support legislation.

Secondly, I’m one of the children that has been through the family justice system due to separated parents. This is probably the fundamental reason as to why I do my job and why I engage myself with the parents and policy issues as I do. Continue Reading…

Family Justice Narratives : No. 4

This is the fourth of the Family Justice Narratives. You can find out what the Family Justice Narratives are all about and how to get involved here.

NARRATIVE NO 4 : Anonymous Guardian


Naturally, it has taken some time to get down to writing this, despite my best intentions. It’s an excellent idea and I look forward to reading all the narratives. I rarely meet colleagues who work in the Family Justice system who are not committed and passionate about what we all try to do.


I’ve been working in Child Protection for 32 years and have been an employed Guardian for the last 10 years. I am filled, like all of us, with trepidation for the future of Family Justice and the impact it will have on the children who deserve the best possible protection, in every sense of the word.


I love the job when I am able to do it properly. It is a privilege to bear witness to people’s painful stories but also their courage, humour, warmth and resilience. It is a joy to form meaningful relationships with children and it is deeply rewarding to know that, sometimes, I really do make a difference


It is frustrating not to be able to do the job to the best of my ability because of the sheer volume of families. I hate the restrictions this places on me and the fears that accompany that.   I mourn the days when I could write a comprehensive Final Report that could stand alone and provide a young person with an understanding of how and why decisions were made on their behalf. I loathe cutting corners, being cursory and not being able to develop relationships which can encourage reflection and sometimes, change. I am determined not to become a ‘lazy’ Guardian, not seeing children, or agreeing with the LA because it is easier. But this all means working longer hours than I have ever done in my career and that involves collateral damage.


Continue Reading…