Happy Families – The conversations we are not having about adoption – Feedback from London Event


On Saturday October 28th 2017 we gathered again, this time in London, for the ‘oral installation performance’ about adoption and the problems caused by lack of honest and open conversation about its meaning and consequences.

The main questions Pamela and I hoped to pose were these:

  • Can we make happy families?
  • Can we impose identity on a child?
  • Do we need to ‘rescue’ children or should we be trying to support unhappy families?
  • What is really at the heart of our child protection system and adoption and why aren’t we talking about this?

Again, I was really pleased that the audience seemed keen to talk and the conversation was lively and wide ranging. It was also great to finally meet in person some of those I have been ‘talking’ to on line for some time now. 

I hope that the conversations we started in Bristol on September 23rd and in London on October 28th can carry on elsewhere. If anyone reading this would like us to come and perform in your area, let me or Pamela know!

Themes emerging

A member of the audience recorded the following as those issues which attracted her attention:

  • Is there another side to the issue? The talk seemed to imply that adoption is negative, but if so, what’s the alternative?
  • Who is going to do the research into outcomes? How is it to be funded?
  • Adoption seems to involve ideological judgement and even social engineering, and is used as a solution to problems within the care system generally. Why isn’t there conversation about all the possible consequences, good and bad, short and long-term, for everyone involved?
  • Why isn’t there legal and financial help for, say, the parents of split siblings, to enable a sense of family to persist?
  • Social media has raised the profile and voice of adopters, but again, it is usually the articulate middle classes who benefit. How can this be made more of a level platform?
  • How successful is the assessment process at preparing adopters to be parents?
  • Are support services adequate in the era of austerity, particularly in view of the needs that may arise in adopted children from different backgrounds?
  • What qualifies a parent for serious intervention such as psychotherapy? There is no clinical criteria, and the distribution of these resources seems to depend on how wealthy and/or how vocal you are.
  • Is the problem that research may be carried out but is unheeded by policy makers? If so, is it because of (lack of) money? Or prevailing ideology? Or lack of belief in public discourse by the general public?
  • The UK concept of ‘childhood’ is adult-led, which is behind the times compared to much European thinking. Should the UK widen its perspective?I]
  • Is it worth saying that you can’t prevent the death of every child deemed to be at risk, regardless of any external circumstances? There would and will always be cases like Baby P, leading to knee-jerk reactions by the media, and potentially causing as much harm as good.
  • How do you counteract false narratives that are propagated by sections of the media for political ends?
  • Should there be a set timeline for adoption or not? If yes, what should it be? If no, how do you set parameters?
  • Is there a wider question about the way society undervalues diversity and views disadvantage?
  • How can we stop money being wasted by the government on high-profile, ‘scattergun’ interventions which are often shown to have achieved nothing when they are evaluated by practitioners?
  • How big a problem is trafficking of children? Can we believe the narratives in the media?

Comments from the audience

I have just started my MA in Social Work and this has made me aware of some disturbing elephants in the room and what sort of actions I need to think about supporting.

I found the method of presentation simple, powerful, effective. I thought Your performance Sarah was excellent. It was gripping. I think you didn’t need to try and answer the q’s ( except the first that was framed firmly as a q to you).

It didn’t make me think afresh about adoption as i already do but it was good to be able to ‘come out’ on those views in a public debate. My sense is that there has been a big shift in recent years to voices accepted as credible (rather than othered as disgruntled or extremists – some of course, being actually so) being able to question current adoption policy & practice.

I think you could have done even more to engage w evidence in support of adoption & eg the idea that it was precisely because Jobs was removed & adopted that he developed capacity & opportunity to have such an impact. Tho u said u had no views the choices about what material used & ansa’s given suggested u had strong views that much is broken & dysfunctional, just not on how to achieve change & what good wld like.

31 thoughts on “Happy Families – The conversations we are not having about adoption – Feedback from London Event

  1. Angelo Granda


    1. Can we make happy families?

    Readers who work in child-protection and any trainees planning to should recognise this question is an unrealistic one. Why? All members of a family are individuals; they chop and change; moods change; home conditions change; environmental conditions change; incomes change. Their needs, wants, preferences, likes and dislikes all change periodically. They age, they become ill, they die. Individuals develop their own ambitions, they may be happy one minute and unhappy the next and all differ. The happiness of one may cause another to be unhappy and vice-versa. Individuals fall out………. and make up. Brothers and sisters have diverse characters which may conflict. It is unusual for them all to be happy at the same moment in time. This is simple humanity! Families are human.’Life is made for joy and woe’.

    2. Do we need to ‘rescue’ children or should we be trying to support unhappy families? It is impossible to ‘make’ happy families. Thus we should not aspire to ‘rescue’ children from unhappiness and perceived dysfunction. The best way for social work professionals to influence families and lessen social problems existing within them is by supplying help and support and particularly to encourage them to remain together. That is the vocation most social workers believe in and have taken on. That is their duty .We all agree on this already as demonstrated by previous discussion in these columns and at conferences. We seem also to agree that resources felt necessary to achieve our aims are withheld by the Authorities. Many social workers have written about it as have right-minded lawyers and many social workers have quit positions with local authorities because of it. They found themselves unable to follow their chosen vocations honestly within the current system. Let us not discuss this any longer but accept it.

    3.What is really at the heart of our cp system and adoption and why aren’t we talking about this?

    A hiatus exists between the aims of Children’s and Families ‘social care’ and those of the Local Authorities as represented by its management and lawyers. Local Authorities need to accept that they exist to foster conditions of security ( including adequate, secure housing; education; healthcare; SOCIAL CARE and to guarantee access to regular employment for breadwinners). All citizens must be protected from criminals within family and society as a whole. It is the duty of the Police and the CPS alone to ‘rescue’ them from domestic and other violence; illegal drug-runners , sex-abusers and other predators.
    Above all families must be guaranteed freedom and their human rights as laid down by convention. They have to be granted the ability to follow their own way of life, morals ( including diverse faiths and cultural heritage) so long as they keep within the criminal law. The liquidation of families by Local Authorities is predatory and unlawful especially when carried out on the false premise that children must be kept safe. Why? It is impossible to guarantee complete safety thus the aim itself is illegitimate as we all know.
    When stating this as its aim and even its duty , in truth the offending Local Authorities seek dishonestly to grant themselves the power to interfere in the life of every and any child they choose ; the power to abuse and degrade children in care as well as the families as a whole. Yes, it is true! Children are unsafe in care. Children are abused in care.Past form shows us there is a long history of institutional wrongdoing and deceit within the ‘care’ system. Power corrupts. ( See the recent and past Public enquiries). The Local Authorities must be made to accept the truth and face it head-on. They must outlaw managers and lawyers who set out to procure children for illicit reasons often related not only to sex abuse but mainly to budgetary considerations including the ‘growth’ requirements of private profiteers operating within the care industry.

    Moreover, it goes without saying that these aims conflict with the true objects of social care as laid out in the Children Act. The setbacks, contradictions, authoritarianism , lack of transparency ,unfair decisions and general systemic dysfunction currently prevailing has already been researched and questioned fully several times over the years. Because of the inadequacies uncovered ,the Government has already set out an image for the future which envisages major, radical changes to frontline practices. The project appears to have become stuck despite the good wishes of all caring professionals and parents both natural and adoptive. Since this vision was published those with the power to introduce the changes have failed miserably which leads me to question their competence and true aims.
    The questions we should be asking is why and which factions are responsible for opposing radical, useful change?

    Hope this helps. Thank you,Sarah, for asking questions and giving readers the opportunity to give their views. I look forward to those of others as usual and you can all look forward to mine on the question of imposing identity shortly.

  2. Mara Mack

    I am a registered nursery nurse (retired) In 1992 our local authority asked for volunteers to take part in a project funded from the EU, we were asked to childmind babies/toddlers from families in Crisis, within our own home. I had most referral’s from Social Work, mostly teenage mums with newborns or toddlers, who were in therapy. I had the little ones from 9am till 5pm five days per week. This service brought the mums into a relaxed home environment, although apprehensive at the beginning very quickly the mum’s and I built up a rapor of total trust and TEAM WORK, introducing gently, the joy of parenting, and PARENTING SKILLS, coupled with budgeting for the home,which many, having been brought up in care, had no knowledge of family life at home let alone budgeting. This service was a great success, a service I was humbled to be part of, once funding from EU ran out, we were commandered by the childcare partnership team to participate in a review with the local authority to see if funding for this project could be continued through them, we were 100% successful, and today this service is provided. We gave total support to the families for the first three years, then the little ones moved on to nursery school. Many of my mums and I are still to this day in contact, and indeed some made a career in childcare, some a career in caring for elderly, the point I am making, is this, if we as a nation were PREPARED TO INVEST in FAMILIES IN CRISIS and give support and encourage all parenting and family skills, for the first few YEARS, not months of these families in crisis, then indeed we would see the fruits of our labour HAPPY FAMILIES yes STILL a family, that avoided the care system, and the total devastation of adoption. I could elaborate more in-depth regarding the service provided but suffice to say, the joy of being part of these families in crisis and witnessing the outcome of such a service, gives me the greatest contentment. and I count it a privilege I have the babies I once cared for, now adults. visiting me with their little ones. Family Preservation MUST be the clarion cry throughout our nation.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      That sounds a really excellent project – do you have any further information about it? The service is now funded by the LA after EU funding ceased? Can you tell me what area you are in?

  3. Angelo Granda


    Can we impose identity on a child?

    This is an apt question and a discussion we should be having.

    Enforced adoption under any circumstances under any circumstances is humane ; this is my revised view. [EDIT Angelo has confirmed he meant inhumane] Certainly adoption can never be in any child’s ‘best interests’. There are always more humane alternatives; particularly I agree with Mara Mack that family preservation must be our new clarion call. Adoption and other family liquidation plans are totally devastating as she says. True, children are resilient ,all of them are individuals and all will react in different ways. However, it cannot be said that adoption does not impose mental torture, emotional turmoil and degradation on children which lasts a lifetime. Too many adopted children, even those who have grown to love, respect and appreciate the many benefits they receive from their new parents and even when they have been kept together with brothers and sisters, have spoken about the immense unhappiness they live through due to being parted from their natural family. What do these children find so difficult?

    Sarah suggests we are ‘imposing identity’ upon children. Another way to describe it is that we are forcing human beings to CHANGE WHO THEY ARE quite literally. We cannot expect children to deal with this utmost privation. We are asking them to forsake and banish from their minds not only their loved ones but to sever genetic links, traditional cultural values and heredity especially in regard to their innate characters and ancestry . The bond human beings have with parents and extended family goes far beyond any thing which can be granted to them by replacements. Even orphaned children and those abandoned by parents have a human right to be reared by surviving natural family ( grandparents, aunts, uncles or even cousins).In fact, in the past it has naturally been counted as the sacred (and legal ) duty of family to provide for orphans,the deserted or those with parents in prison within their genetic, family circle. In the past, the Authorities ( with legitimate aims) would drop parental responsibility into the laps of the next-of-kin and it was incumbent on them to accept it. A certain amount of responsibility also extends by tradition to unrelated Godparents.

    If any reader has any doubt that the permanent liquidation of families is inhumane and totally devastating , even cruel to children because of its impossibility, they should look at the history books. The liquidation of families and forced adoption of aboriginal children not only in Australasia but also in Africa, North America and other parts of the world including East and West Europe was adjudged to be inhumane many decades ago and outlawed. The practice of ‘taking’ young, fit youngsters from their mothers, fathers and tribe was made illegal and apologised for long ago! It was recognised by the Authorities that the practice was not in the ‘best interests’ of anyone particularly of children.Read why slavery and transportation has to be eradicated too. Read why the confiscation of babies from single Mums for placement in convents pending arranged adoption was stopped. Read why all such practises are deemed unacceptable in any civilised society. Look it up and read about the unhappiness, long-term mental illness and other major problems such as self-harming and suicide can be put down to stealing the ‘identities’ of human beings. Read of wars fought and why such policies were found to be totally unacceptable and impractical.Read why family and tribal preservation became the new clarion call way back. Parting children from their roots was deemed to be against their human rights . It still is!

    When, anywhere in the world, inhumanity is imposed upon citizens it is usually due to false idealogy and dogma on the part of the perpetrators. This is a widely accepted tenet. In other words, the perpetrators are wrongly convinced they are doing right! They believe strongly, often religiously they are acting for the good of society. This may be due to complete and utter despotism ( not uncommon even in the 21st century) or it may be due to a flawed, systemic, bureaucratic oppression brought about by illegitimate aims and arrogance on the part of its functionaries.

    Yes, arrogance, discrimination and prejudice can often be a factor; the privileged often look upon the deprived and sick or disabled as inferior beings. Material gains and monetary profit is also at the root of most evil and may cause Local Authorities to sow false dogma and mark down the vulnerable deliberately. See previous discussions on the resource about the ‘necessity’ to eliminate cycles of deprivation, to target the disabled and others in receipt of benefits, in so-called ‘social housing’ and how needy families are responsible for their own dysfunction. Consider proportionality and how barristers regard deprivation and the inability of young mothers to care for children adequately; how they regard shoelessness, squalid conditions and material poverty etc. as justification for family liquidation. Consider the ideology commonly expressed by professionals that outcomes can be predicated on the antecedents and that family dysfunction is determined by socio- genetic factors. Ask why Local Authorities instruct social workers to compile a family tree of problem families on which to base assessments and decisions. If one’s mother was deemed many years ago to be bad by the authorities , can it be right to claim you are likely to be and take your child? If brought up in care, does that mean you will be an unfit Mum thus it is proportionate to rip a baby from your breast? No, that is clearly discrimination.

    The professionals claim to be acting in the ‘ best interests of children’ even though history defines such discriminatory aims as illegitimate and inhumane. They claim it even though they have to defy statute and ignore ECHR conventions. Ask victims, including those dogged by domestic violence and other real problems when their problems began to escalate out of control and they will assert ” when the LA became involved”. We have all discussed how Children’s Services are ‘ unfit for purpose’ and we know that proper resources are withheld by the LA’s. WE have discussed how justice can too easily be perverted especially because of the power unbalance and by repudiating the Public’s collective will to enable family support and reform programmes as described by Mara and many others. Why do they prefer to take children away into care and why do they defy the law? Answer: Because they can!

    The Family Courts allow it. This is another discussion we should be having. The LA’s and their lawyers seek to impose the inhumanity not the CS. Well meaning social workers aren’t the culprits. The Family Courts grant the LA’s wishes. They have a flawed protocol and hearings are known to be unfair ON MANY COUNTS. For example, there is a well-known legal principle that justice must be seen to be done. The lawyers on masse know full well it isn’t and they know that so-called ‘secret’ courts bear much responsibility for inhumanity as demonstrated amply in Europe circa 1930/45 as well as during the cold war. Yet still they prevaricate and express denial . In my view even the use of the word ‘transparency’ is designed to disguise that hearings are held in secret. It is utterly illogical to speculate that the privacy of individuals ( in Public Law cases) overrides the above principle by saying justice does NOT have to be seen to be done.

    Sorry if this comment is not moderate enough for professionals but please understand that parent’s views reflect the fact that it is our children who are suffering. I am trying to make readers think more radically.

    I look forward to further discussion on this thread from all sources and will be interested in other replies to Sarah’s questions.

    1. HelenSparkles

      The cruelty meted out to some children by those who are supposed to love them and keep them safe is also inhumane. Family preservation cannot be at any cost.

  4. Angelo Granda


    In the comment above I got it wrong right at the beginning.I meant to write enforced adoption is INHUMANE under any circumstances.

  5. Angelo Granda

    QUOTE:The cruelty meted out to some children by those who are supposed to love them and keep them safe is also inhumane. Family preservation cannot be at any cost:UNQUOTE.

    I think we should pay close attention to the Government’s commandments and visions and make a universal, grand effort to change current frontline practises, ideologies and so on. It might bé a good idea were all SW’s to look to the future and from now on to consider well-worn cliches like the one in the above quotation outdated.
    Why not let us make ‘ Family Preservation the new clarion call? If we did this would bé a great start. It would take pressure off the SW’s if they realised it is not their responsibility to ‘rescue’ children but to work with families towards keeping them together. It is the task of the Police and the Courts to take proportionate decisions regarding safety.Leave it in their hands and concentrate on supportive care-plans.
    Remember that if there is factual evidence that parents are guilty of child cruelty , the Police should bé informed immediately and it is their duty to press charges and protect children.If there is no factual evidence then it is not proportionate to remove or plan for adoption on allegations and fears alone.Were it necessary to part the family for safety reasons the Police would do so.
    If a case is referred to the CS by Police then no reasonable person should bé having exaggerated fears about cruelty. SW’s will consider what might happen in the future thats all. Usually no child cruelty has occurred but there are merely concerns it might do.
    Work on that basis . Don’t overreact to suspicions and hearsay. Leave the immediate safety of children to the Police’ hand them any factual evidence of ‘cruelty’ from now on, I suggest.

    1. HelenSparkles

      Once again I find you don’t really know much about policy and practice. Since the Children Act 1989 (so a while back there) the central premise has been that children are better at home with their families unless they can’t be, family members are then explored, and friends. All before any permanent severance. Far from only being the 26 weeks of a court timetable, the court timetable is set because it expects social workers to have done all of those and other assessments before entering into care proceedings. I realise we have a different view about burden of proof vs balance of probabilities, but my response to you is not a well worn cliche. Social workers spend a lot of time with people society looks away from and sometimes, either by design or neglect, some children are not safe and are treated cruelly. Often the police do prosecute, criminal trials take a while, in the meantime would you like a child to be unsafe? Or what about if the person isn’t convicted, because some people aren’t, because the burden of proof is too high to keep children safe. I don’t buy the rescue narrative but I like most people would like children to be safe with the adults who are supposed to love and look after them. You view children as chattels who belong to their parents. They are not.

    2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      The problem with making the police the front line workers in child protection is that they are only involved in the investigation and prevention of CRIME. Crimes have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I am involved in many cases where the CPS decide to take no further action – NOT because a decision has been made that the allegations against the parent are all nonsense but rather because they won’t be able to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.

      Care proceedings operate on a different standard of proof – on the balance of probabilities. This is quite deliberate, on the basis that if it were your own child you would not insist on proof ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ before stepping in to protect them, so why should other people’s children be subject to a more rigorous standard of proof.

      I appreciate all the criticisms and worry about this relatively low standard of proof applied to really serious decisions about physical abuse and sexual harm etc. I hope i am not insensitive to those parents who -rightly – say that having their child removed is every bit as horrible as facing a prison sentence and therefore they should be tried on the same standard of proof.

      BUT. This is the law. Courts, lawyers and social workers have no choice but to apply it. The energies of campaigners needs therefore to be directed at changing the law, not berating courts, lawyers and social workers for simply doing their job.

      1. Angelo Granda

        A Parent’s View

        The standard of proof question has been discussed so many times. Most of us are aware of it and most parents see nothing wrong at all with cases being judged on a factual matrix and the balance of probabilities thereof. We are all willing to accede to fair process and hearings. After all , the jury at a criminal court considers the balance of probabilities based on all the FACTS and arguments put before them.
        We only object to our children’s human rights being contravened. We want all the articles of the ECHR to be adhered to strictly especially 6 ( fairness); 8 (proportionality); 10 ( access to justice ) and 14 ( discrimination, I think).
        I believe I am right in saying that all the facts of a case have to be entered into the matrix. In serious cases when the Police have investigated the facts ( impartially ) and decided there is insufficient evidence to prove child neglect or cruelty then those facts should also be entered into the matrix supplied to the Family Court. Plus the CPS decision and reasons for it entered. This is because on the balance of probabilities if there isn’t enough factual evidence to prove it conclusively after a FULL, impartial enquiry, neglect and cruelty has most probably not occurred. Any reasonable CP professional will have to concede that. If there is no conviction after full investigation, parents must be treated as innocent.
        However, should the LA , AFTER considering the full factual matrix AND all the concerns and hearsay evidence AND all the medical reports and specialist assessments AND the speculative evidence ( antecedents and past record) still be worried the children are AT RISK of significant harm as meant by the Children Act, it can still apply for a care-order but no-one can begin to argue on conjecture alone that the case is serious enough to warrant liquidating the family. Because of the standard of evidence,the standard of proof and the quality of hearings in the inferior court , any such decision must be a disproportionate one . It can’t dish out sanctions in excess of any that can be imposed in the higher court ( see art.8 hidden provisions).
        This is not to say the child is not still in danger of suffering serious harm at the hands of the parents. Reasonable parents will grant that. However, if the Judge finds on the b of p of ALL THE INFERIOR types of evidence that cruelty and neglect is likely to have occurred , that is fair enough. It might well have been likely, but if there is no conclusive proof it did, we should be limited to issuing a full care-order with the family remaining together with support even if Mum has to be institutionalised with the child for a while. With proper protection strategies , significant harm is even less likely to occur in the future. I hope readers understand this comment. If not ,read it two or three times.

        Sarah, next serious case you get check this out. The LA does not wait until it knows all the facts before taking decisions . It does not investigate them itself and it does not stand back and wait until the Police have investigated fully. Plus because of the inferior Court protocol ,the poor,unfortunate child can be weighed off and on an ‘ up for adoption’ advertisement before the Court knows the true facts. The Authorities tend to drag their feet and delay things until the family proceedings are done and dusted.

        Sarah, I do hope some others will join this discussion. It is best when readers see all arguments next to each other.

      2. Angelo Granda

        Sarah I understand perfectly the difference between the different standards of proof and that evidence In- admissible in the criminal court can be heard In Family Courts. However, do professionals understand perfectly that it may be false ideology that the CPS don’t take action because they can’t prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt?
        That can never be assumed to be the case unless there has been a trial in a criminal court.If no charges are brought then it is more likely that:-

        a) Investigations prove that allegations are false
        b) there is no realistic evidence thus no case to answer.
        c) no intent or motive
        d) investigations show that allegations are malicious .
        So cp professionals should not make assumptions along the lines of ‘ there’s no smoke without fire.
        Surely lawyers must wait until the CPS decision is out before examining facts when a s47 investigation is conducted by the Police?
        Do you agree with me?

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          No I don’t. Because children can’t wait. Police investigations can take many months or even years. Family proceedings will start and continue regardless.

          1. Angelo Granda

            Thanks for a reply, Sarah and for the explanation of Family Court priorities but I am afraid it really is not good enough!
            The subjects of supposedly impartial proceedings might think it absurd . It is reckless to make statements of fact on oath to a Court without checking out and vouching for the truth of them.Should lawyers feel they can’t wait for the outcome of an S47 enquiry into freely available facts of a case then how can they possibly expect a court to make well-informed,fair appraisals? If respondents have an alibi the Court must be informed,surely. It isn’t fair to put false facts and reports knowingly or re klessly.
            As a barrister you are aware,I trust,that families aren’t able to raise evidence which proves them untrue whilst a police inquiry is in progress. The relevant witnesses and agencies are commanded not to communicate with respondents or their representatives, not to discuss a case with anyone.
            I think that for a court to dispense with investigations embarked upon under the auspices of fixed statute clajming it is in the best interests of children to be adopted asap is irrational, frankly!
            Perhaps my standards and expectations are too high. I just cannot believe the court makes decisions so recklessly but there you are.
            According to guidelines , the LA should not even initiate an application under oath without checking its facts first.
            I would also like to expose the hypocrisy of the so-called 26 week time scales.No way is it in a child’s best interests even if facts put to court are correct! Why?
            Families will claim that it is in the children’s best interests to be returned home within days to minimise the emotional damage they are subjected to in care.26 weeks is much too long.
            Even the ‘closed’ family courts have to admit a child’s parents! They see what goes on and it is obvious the schedules,diaries and availability of professionals takes precedence over children .Holidays,annual leave etc are more important to a Judge, let’s be honest.
            I hope this comment makes sense and I look forward to yours.

  6. Angelo Granda

    I do apologise. I acknowledge that ordinary parents don’t know as much about policies and practices as professionals. However what I do know and I hope you will accept is that the Government has decided that fundamental changes to frontline practices and polices are to be the order of the day. Current practices and policies are unfit for the purposes of child-protection. The common feeling of families ( service-users) and of progressive SW’s, lawyers etc is that practitioners should lay more emphasis on support, training and reform plans. The trend appears to be that family preservation is the best method of protecting the children from harm i.e. teaching the parents to do it themselves. Adoption and other permanent liquidation plans are too draconian and cruel to families ,the children in particular.


    It is false ideology to declare dogmatically that family preservation cannot be at any cost. It can be at any cost. Professionals have the choice when making care-plans and the Judges are granted the discretion in law to grant the care-plans of your choice. I have a folder full of similar examples of false ideology gathered on this resource. Here is another one:-

    QUOTE: Rights are a hierarchy; children come first because they are more vulnerable:UNQUOTE- H.S.

    Nowhere in the European Convention on Human Rights does it say that rights are a hierarchy. Every citizen has the same human rights. A child has a right to life with natural family and a parent also has one to life with natural family. It is wrong to part a child from hi Mum when both fall into a ditch. A good shepherd would not part a lamb from the ewe and SW’s should not treat human beings worse than they would animals. A seafaring analogy—— If a ship goes down, humanity dictates that we place women and children onto the life-rafts together. A child’s life is harmed irretrievably otherwise and the separation of a Mum from child is unthinkable even in those extreme circumstance. It is traditionally dishonourable and inhumane. So SW’s should correct their current ideology. Especially you should concentrate on changing your ways. You have the choice about family preservation OR NOT when giving your professional advice to the Court. Make it your new mantra and you will restore Public trust in the department. Consign the old false dogma to the dustbin of history. As far as the Children Act is concerned and its desire to keep families together , give human beings more leeway. If there is no conclusive evidence of cruelty , it is unlikely to have happened and with the correct help ,significant harm is is even less likely to occur in the future. Keep families together .Instead of finding reasons why they can’t be, devise ways to ensure they can be!
    For the life of me ,I cannot see how anything I have written can possibly lead anyone to think I regard children as chattels. If anyone, you do, Helen, if you don’t mind me saying. For example if you have a house, a car , electric goods etc. you will endeavour to ensure they are absolutely safe. You will not allow them into the hands of anyone who will neglect and abuse them. Children are human beings with a right NOT to be 100% safe. You should not impose adoption just because he is ‘unsafe’ .You should use strategies like the one described by Mara above . Think before you throw a child into a situation away from Mum where he is likely to suffer a lifetime of anguish about her. Think before you condemn your sisters to ‘walking with the dead men’ as one mother put it.

    On another thread, I have asked the question, which faction is opposing changes to frontline practices? Is it the unenlightened senior SW’s who fight against change? The youngsters and other foot soldiers appear to support it.I understand that it will be quite difficult for the more senior managers and SW’s to break with the habits of many years. Once false ideologies take hold upon an organisation, change is bound to be harder for the old-stagers. For that reason , the old -style managers should be removed from office forthwith and the youngsters sent in with a new broom. Out with the old and in with the new! I foresee there still being a role for these elders in the department but it will be confined to training and teaching new procedures .It cannot be hands-on control of practices and policy.

    Helen ,do you have time to let us have your views on Sarahs questions?

    1. HelenSparkles

      “However what I do know and I hope you will accept is that the Government has decided that fundamental changes to frontline practices and polices are to be the order of the day.”

      There are systemic issues and nobody would say that the child protection system is prefect, but I’d hesitate to place any confidence in government rhetoric if I were you. Successive governments have lauded adoption as the holy grail and cut services and support. This government will be the last to fund the very expensive support, training or reform you seem to think they will. What they will do is tell everyone about the ‘new’ Frontline scheme, which recruits the brightest and the best, they might not tell you how short that course is and how limited.

      “The trend appears to be that family preservation is the best method of protecting the children from harm i.e. teaching the parents to do it themselves. Adoption and other permanent liquidation plans are too draconian and cruel to families ,the children in particular.”

      Successive governments have promoted adoption and advocate for it being the solution more than anyone I have ever met in CP practice. The direction of travel continues to be adoption ties everything up with a bow, it doesn’t, and luckily the law hasn’t actually changed. Adoption remains a last resort. This applies to most of your post.

      Rights have to be a hierarchy, not everyone can be entitled to the same rights at the same time unfortunately, the right to x is balanced with the right to y.

      I am lost with the animals and ships and possessions.

      I don’t know who you think the elders are. If it is me, permit me to take offence.

  7. Angelo Granda

    Not half as offended as the poor child victims of institutional inhumanity , believe me! Or a quarter as offended as libelled and slandered parents.
    For change to happen we need SW’s at the helm who are prepared to hold out their arms and embrace it. They have to cast away the old , false and flawed ideologies and practices. Anyone who opposes the flow or stirs up cross currents must be driven out. Look at the papers this morning and you will see more Governmental revelations and apologies for child-stealing, social engineering policies . This time Canada. It will be a long time before we get anything done here because currently you all seem to be in denial. I hope these comments don’t ‘lose’ you too.

    We are not that far apart really. QUOTE: I don’t buy the rescue narrative but I like most people would like children to be safe with the adults who are supposed to love and look after them : UNQUOTE.

    Why not concentrate on devising care-plans which grant this possibility. Forget about the money ,that is the LA ‘s worry. Professional practitioners are responsible for advising the LA and telling them what to do not vice-versa. If there are alternatives to family liquidation but the money just isn’t available , it is your duty to inform the Court. If you did and the Judge still ordered it, the decision would be instantly appealable.

    1. HelenSparkles

      “Why not concentrate on devising care-plans which grant this possibility. ”

      Actually this is exactly what we do in social work. Then, if in proceedings, SW tell the court what the plan was and whether the family have or haven’t been unable to work with it.

      Just because some other people are offended by something else doesn’t mean I can’t be offended by being called an elder. Can we keep the personal comments out of this please, it will absolutely ‘lose’ me if you don’t.

  8. Angelo Granda

    Of course I didn’t mean you in fact I think the better proffessionals should be promoted. Helen are you saying that the C.S. enter proceedings with an open mind and only start to plan for adoption if directed to do so by the court which believes parents won’t work with support plans?

  9. Angelo Granda

    All comments from progressive or trainee social workers,lawyers etc are to be welcomed on this thread so may I call upon them to put their views forward.
    The thread is headed ‘ Happy Families,the conversations we are not having’.
    Let us have it! The CPR is neutral and gives all the opportunity to put views without prejudice. Social workers, if LA’s discourage you or parents,if sw’s have warned you off using internet resources ,I suggest you use a pen-name
    As you will see above,one sw has said the object is actually to devise plans which enable families to live together.
    The permanent liquidation of families is the last choice and one none of us want to see.We seem to agree on that.
    Sarah raised the subject of standards of proof ,family courts and so on but that is not the main issue on this thread. The main conversation ought to be about how we can keep families together and support them.
    The need for protection and the issue of care-orders is secondary.The PRIMARY issue for children is the CARE-PLAN.Adoption is to be the last resort under the current law.
    Removal from family is known to traumatise children.
    So why does it appear to be the option taken by LA’s and lawyers?
    All replies and comments welcome!

    Please note,there is much evidence that Local Authorities ignore the best interests of children giving more priority to their own convenience and budgetary interests.
    For example, they don’t usually like children to live at home under a care order even when it is quite possible and feasible.Why not? Because it is easier for them to take children into care and it gives them more control.Hardly the last resort scenario more its own convenience.

  10. looked_after_child


    Wonder if any of this crosses the line? It is horrible to think children for adoption need a ‘beauty parade’. Also describing a disability as a ‘developmental delay’ is just wrong. My son had a ‘developmental delay’ and I know what it feels like ‘waiting for catch-up’ that never comes, plus it meant his needs went largely unrecognised and unmet – dreadfully damaging for him.

    A non-verbal child does not fit within any specturm of ‘developmental delay’ that I’d recognise either. Adoptive parents should really be supported around this not misled by ‘tricksy’ profile writing…Community Care is mainstream so is this the norm?

  11. Angelo Granda

    Sarah has asked questions in her post and some have commented in reply but not enough. I do know from experience that parents are strongly discouraged from seeking on-line advice or indulging in forum debates on resources like this one and the FRG indeed they are often warned it will be held against them if they go to meetings laying down their family rights and citing correct processes as described in downloadable advice sheets available on the FRG. I also suspect that certain professionals ( SW’s, solicitors, guardians, foster-carers etc) are deterred from doing so by the Authorities.
    The CPR continues to do its best to bring about change and I thank Sarah for her backing and fortitude in the face of much opposition ,insult and even threats.
    So this thread appears to have petered out as we come to the end of yet another year of our long-running discussions .
    For myself, I would like to wish each and every one reader a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year particularly a healthy one for those who have suffered various illnesses and treatment.

    To child victims hung out to dry ,let the New Year bring you renewed strength to tackle the injustice imposed upon you and may you be granted hope that one day you will be together with your loved ones again.

    To parents who ,like me ,know the real truth , carry on giving your views and let us hope that they will bear fruit in the long-run. It is an extremely long run, isn’t it?

    It is very frustrating for us and one reason for it ,in my opinion, is that lawyers who should know the law don’t actually have much idea of how injustices come about. Closed courts; restricted and summary evidence; control over the number of witnesses and type of evidence allowed; time limits on justice; professional conflicts of interest. None of that means a thing to them, all of it passes as commonplace in Family Courts.
    How many parents have asserted that hearings are unfair ,biased and that discriminatory attitudes they meet within the legal system works against families. I’ve lost count! Usually they are regarded as half-wits unable to understand the law, as conspiracy theorists or as guilty of inventing their own narratives.
    Yet on this very thread, in my opinion, a fundamental, ideological flaw affecting proceedings has come to light.

    QUOTE: I am involved in many cases where the CPS decide to take no further action – NOT because a decision has been made that the allegations against the parent are all nonsense but rather because they won’t be able to prove them beyond a reasonable doubt:UNQUOTE.

    No wonder parents assert hearings are unfair when lawyers take that attitude .It shows they are fundamentally in sympathy with false evidence before a case even starts. If no action is taken by Police ,on the balance of probabilities, the allegations are unrealistic and it is probable there is no evidence to support them plus it is probable that parents have themselves presented genuine evidence which totally disproves them. No fair hearing can possibly begin with an assumption that if no action is taken by Police and the CPS it is because they are unable to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That can never be the case unless a criminal hearing has actually taken place.
    I hope we all accept that.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am afraid i can’t accept that. The CPS have a two stage test before deciding if charges should be bought. This is the ‘public interest’ test and the evidential test. There must be a realistic prospect of securing a conviction on the requisite standard of proof which is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.

      Family cases operate on a different standard of proof – the balance of probabilities.

      Therefore it is entirely possible and quite normal for the CPS to refuse to proceed to a criminal trial because they don’t think they have the evidence to secure a conviction.

      And it is entirely possible and quite normal for family proceedings to continue anyway on the same facts – because the standard of proof is lower.

      1. Angelo Granda

        Thanks again for your reply, Sarah. I suppose it may be reasonable providing the ‘facts’ you talk about are checked and investigated fully as to actual factual content first before being entered into the civil court matrix. A practicing criminal case solicitor told me in no uncertain terms that criminal cases are to be kept entirely separate from any civil proceedings in a Family Court.
        Thus , if the Police investigate allegations of child-neglect and/or child abuse but do not even charge parents let alone gain a conviction in a criminal court that must be kept separate from the Family Court, I would have thought , except possibly for entering into the matrix that no criminal charges have been brought. It would be dangerous for family court lawyers to ‘assume’ that charges are not brought because guilt cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It may be they are not brought because parents have proved that allegations are untrue or malicious. When assumptions of guilt but not beyond reasonable doubt are made that will be why so many respondents in the Family Court claim that they appear to be deemed guilty before their case even starts and they will be right!
        I believe the CP professionals may misinterpret the situation and assume too eagerly that criminal charges have been brought entailing a Police involvement when that is not true at all. Thus they are disposed against parents from the outset. When Police ,following a strategy meeting in a child-protection case, are instructed to conduct an s47 inquiry into facts of a case, then that may not be a criminal enquiry at all. It is a child-protection investigation conducted following their over-arching duty to protect children involved. It is their job to sort out the fact from fiction, to hear both sides, check the truth of allegations and referrals also background information supplied by the CS. Then to discuss their findings with both parties and make a decision as to the credibility of the evidence.
        In my view, it is utterly unfair to initiate a Family Court hearing before the outcome of the S47 investigation is known. No wonder so many children and parents complain!

        1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I don’t understand what is meant by ‘entirely separate’. The factual matrix is often the same and the prosecution in a criminal trial is often very interested in the judgment in a family court. If a family have evidence that allegations have been proven to be malicious then they can bring that evidence to the family court – I have certainly relied in many cases in notes from the police that they investigated such and such but felt it was a malicious allegation, so they took NFA.

          you can’t wait to take action for a section 47 in some cases, if the child is at imminent risk of physical or sexual harm for eg. And often it is the police who will take that emergency action by using their powers under the Children Act.

          You seem to be operating from the assumption that we have all the time in the world to carry out exhaustive investigations. We don’t. Sometimes very quick decisions have to be made. Sometimes the wrong decisions are made – a child is take who should have stayed or a child is left in a dangerous situation and gets hurt or even dies. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying to take urgent decisions in an emergency.

          1. Angelo Granda

            I shall try to simplify my point for other readers who don’t understand. Criminal cases and civil cases are to be kept entirely separate because their respective aims are different. When the Police commence an investigation, they do so WITHOUT a factual matrix. It is their task to carry out an exhaustive investigation in order to establish one.
            They begin with a collection of concerns, reports , allegations and suspicions plus tendentious intelligence notes and so on both unconfirmed and confirmed. They have to follow due process and interview everyone concerned including potential witnesses , those making allegations and most importantly the suspects. They have to take down statements from everyone ,date them, time them etc. and establish the credibility of the respective evidence gained. They may even tape-record interviews. THEN they have a factual matrix on which to base any case.
            If following the investigation ,no charges are brought against anyone then there will be no criminal case to consider . The allegations and referrals are probably false and it is highly probable there is no medical or other evidence to show a child has been neglected or abused.
            Should the Police be involved in child-protection enquiries commenced as a result of a s47 strategy meeting ,it may well be that no criminal allegations have been brought against parents. In that case it is the task of the Police to investigate and create a factual matrix to present to the child-protection professionals. The credibility of the allegations, reports, referrals must be subjected to an exhaustive enquiry and a factual matrix established BEFORE the Social Services even think of going to Court. It cannot make well-informed appraisals before Police have completed and sorted the facts from the fiction.
            I have seen a letter from a Director of Social Services to an MP which stresses that the credibility of reports and allegations must be established BY FULL ENQUIRY first! That is a fact. For any of the lawyers to go into a case without a matrix based on fully investigated facts will be totally irresponsible especially in a serious Public Law case and it will be prematurely judgmental and biased to go in believing charges are to be brought or have been brought at all . It would be prematurely judgmental also to anticipate that no charges will be brought and even more so to go into the Family Court assuming that the parent/s are criminally culpable but it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The same applies if it is assumed that Police decide on NO FURTHER ACTION because a Family Court has removed children from parents thus they have suffered enough before the civil court has even taken any decision.
            When considering evidence, the Police should keep Family Court cases separate from any criminal proceedings.
            Sarah, please believe me when I tell you that if a family has evidence that allegations have been proven false and/or malicious, they are NOT ABLE to bring it to the Family Court because Police will not divulge the results of enquiries and evidence collected on any account until they are completed plus witnesses and medical/educational professionals are commanded not to talk to parents or supply them with evidence whether favourable to them or not. That is normal procedure.

            Sarah, thanks for your honesty . I suspect that one of the effects of the bad training of Social Workers is that they THINK that reports, allegations, hearsay, intelligence etc. can be presented to the Family Court in a matrix without establishing the factual matrix even without establishing their factuality . That is a serious error; surely we can agree on that. When they present the matrix under oath, barristers and Judges tend to assume the the matrix is made up of proven facts when it is not!

            Victims will welcome your admission that Civil Courts don’t have the time to carry out exhaustive investigations. To me ,that is another serious flaw with the system . In serious public law cases where a child’s whole life is at stake,quick decisions should never be made . Too much haste will lead to wrong decisions at both ends of the spectrum and increase the likelihood of child-deaths.

            I am dismayed to learn that Police are passing notes around to the various lawyers and other professionals behind the scenes and /or talking to them on the ‘phone. I feel this sort of behaviour should not be permitted. They will certainly not divulge any information or evidence to parents even AFTER they have completed enquiries and taken a decision. Please don’t tell me they pass undated ,unsigned statements and notes about and please, please don’t say you take such notes and opinions as proven fact.
            I look forward to your further comments etc.

    2. HelenSparkles

      Not that you will believe it, but SW prefer it if parents have good advice and know their rights.

      “I also suspect that certain professionals ( SW’s, solicitors, guardians, foster-carers etc) are deterred from doing so by the Authorities.” given all the professionals you name I am a bit baffled about who ‘the authorities are’.

      1. Angelo Granda

        I do believe it, Helen; usually it is the parent’s solicitor who advises them to avoid the FRG and other on-line resources such as the CPR. It does not help when they recommend one thing and the FRG and/or a barrister on the CPR recommends something completely different.
        When I refer to the Authorities ,in respect of the SW’s and foster-carers are concerned ,I SUSPECT it is the CS team managers and the LA executive that discourages them from giving opinion to the CPR , attending our conferences and so on. With solicitors ,it will be their executives and likewise with CAFFCASS guardians.
        Anyway, I hope everybody has a nice Christmas.

    3. Sam

      Thank you Angelo for your good wishes. It is indeed a very long battle, but we must not give up hope. Thank you Sarah for continuing to host this resource. My wishes to all for a peaceful Christmas and a very happy New Year


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