‘Is likely to suffer significant harm’ – to what extent are social workers relying on their crystal balls?

Thanks again to Kate W a retired social worker for her thoughts about the meaning of ‘likely to suffer’ significant harm. Consideration of the ‘risk of future harm’ is often a hot topic in debates about the child protection system; its detractors complain that this is no more than ‘crystal ball gazing’ and removal of children without actual proven harm is ‘punishment without crime’. What does Kate say in defence of ‘future risk’?

There appears to be a degree of confusion/misunderstanding about the meaning of “likely significant harm” Children Act 1989. The standard of proof needed is that the children IS suffering significant harm or is likely to suffer significant harm.

I can to some extent understand this confusion, as the wording can suggest that it is possible to see into the future and there is talk of social workers gazing into “crystal balls” etc. Very often parents involved in care proceedings talk of “future emotional harm” though significant harm covers all aspects of abuse and neglect. It would be difficult to argue that any child suffering abuse and/or neglect was not also suffering from emotional harm.

There are some cases where the issue of “likely significant harm” can be proven in court, and I provide some examples from my own experience below.

Case Studies – when parents just can’t cope

Case Study 1: D is a 25 year old single woman, pregnant with her first child. D suffers from schizoid affective disorder, a complex and enduring mental illness. She was diagnosed with the condition at the age of 18 years, though had suffered from mental illness since she was aged around 13 years. The illness from which D suffers is characterised by episodes of deep drug resistant depression and frequent psychotic episodes (as in not being in touch with reality) D hears voices that tell her god wants her to kill herself and she has made numerous suicide attempts by way of ligatures to her neck. She has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act on many occasions and is well known to the Mental Health Crisis Team and the emergency services.

D lives alone on the 10th floor of a high rise block of flats. She has no family support and her only friends are other flat dwellers, one of whom is allegedly the father of the child. However he is completely disinterested in D and claims that he is not the father of the child. He is a drug user and has criminal convictions. D is a heavy smoker, and a moderate drinker, and self harms on a frequent basis, almost always needing hospital treatment. The only support she has is a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) who visits on a monthly basis to deliver medication. D rarely leaves the flat, only to buy essential items of food etc from a nearby shop. Neighbours sometimes shop for her and generally befriend her.

D is 28 weeks pregnant and refuses to access ante natal care though has allowed the health visitor to visit. D claims that she will be able to care for the baby. The HV does not share this opinion. The flat is very unhygienic, the floors are dirty and sticky, the only furniture is a very worn sofa; there is a TV and small table. The kitchen is dirty and greasy – there is a portable cooker and no fridge. The bathroom is dirty as is the bedroom. D has not collected any items for the baby and is dependent on state benefits and the flat is cold in the winter as she rarely has money for the electricity meter. In discussions D shows a complete lack of understanding of caring for a child, either practically or emotionally.

The psychiatric report states that D’s mental health condition will prevent her from giving good enough care to a child. The point is made that this may not be the case if there was a supportive partner and a good support network but this is not the case.

A pre-birth multi disciplinary case conference made a unanimous decision that the LA should make application to the court for an ICO on the basis that this baby is “likely to suffer significant harm” if left in the care of the mother.

D gave birth at 32 weeks to a premature baby who needed several weeks in the Special Care Baby Unit. D left hospital and didn’t visit the baby or show any concern for her child. The baby made good progress and was discharged and placed with foster carers at aged 3 months.
The court made an ICO and later a Placement Order. D did not contest the application, and the Orders were made by consent.

I would stress that it was in no way any fault of D that she was unable to care for her child. Indeed because of her severe mental illness she was barely able to care for herself and that given the extreme deprivation and poverty in which she lived, the care of a baby would have presented her with insurmountable difficulties and of course would place the child “at risk of significant harm.”

Case Study 2: This case concerns a couple who have lived together for 2 years. B (the female partner) and C (male partner). B has moderate learning difficulties and C has mild LDs. There are 2 children aged 2yrs and 8 months. C is not the father of the elder child. A social worker is allocated to the case and is in frequent contact with the family. The SW is concerned because C appears to be spending very little time at home and instead goes to the home of friends to play computer games. This leaves B alone to cope with the 2 children, which puts her under a great deal of pressure. A family support worker is allocated to the family and she visits twice per week and she too is concerned for the welfare of the children in B’s care. She has talked to C about the need for him to spend more time at home to help B care for the children, and despite his promises to do so this isn’t borne out in fact. C’s mother gives support from time to time but other than that, there is no support, although a neighbour “looks in” from time to time.

A nursery place for the 2yr old girl is being financed by CSs for 3 days per week. When C was part of the family he would take the child to nursery but since his absences, B is not motivated to take the child to the nursery hence the child only attends spasmodically. The nursery are concerned that the child is thin, often appearing dirty and smelly and unable to interact with the other children, preferring to cling to one of the adults.

There is growing concern that C is no longer living with B and the children and has in fact moved in to live with another young woman and her children. Initially B denies this but later admits that she thinks he is “not coming back.” The situation is deteriorating, and it is becoming evident that B cannot cope with the house and children. One day the neighbour contacts the social worker to allege that the 2yr old is screaming and B has shut her outside into the small yard. It is cold and the child is wearing only a vest and wellington boots. When the social worker visits a short time later, the child is in the house but C admits to shutting her outside because she was “getting on her nerves” – the child is still cold and distressed. C admits to smacking her to make her stop crying and is vague when asked what the children have had to eat that day. The baby is asleep in a pram and is suitably clad. During the visit C continues to shout at the 2 yr old and is threatening to shut her outside again and the child is crying inconsolably. It’s a grim picture and the social worker tells C she is not capable of caring for the children on her own. C immediately says “well you can take her – she’s a little shit…” the child is moved to foster carers under a S.20 on a temporary basis.

The issue of “likely significant harm” arises with the 8 month baby. He is of normal weight but very pale and has bad nappy rash. Again C cannot say what the baby has had to eat and there is no baby food to be seen in the house. C is disinclined to talk about the child’s diet other than to say he has a bottle of milk at bedtime but there is no formula to be seen, though there are feeding bottles which are dirty and have encrusted milk around the rims. The social worker asks C if there is any formula for the baby or baby porridge/jars etc and C says she doesn’t know but he can have some orange squash. This of course is not suitable nourishment for an 8 month baby. C is disinterested in the baby or his care but is very distressed about B leaving her, which is understandable, and is threatening to go round to the flat where he is living and leaving the baby with him. The social worker speaks to B on his mobile phone and he confirms that he has left C and has a new relationship. He does not want to care for the baby and claims that he is not the father. He is told about the EPO on the 2 year old and makes no comment, other than to say it’s a good thing as C is a “lazy cow who sits on her arse all day.” The SW asks if C’s mother will look after the baby and he says he doesn’t know but provides a telephone number, but she is totally unwilling to care for the baby or support C and repeats the claims that her son is not the father of the baby.

The social worker goes next door to talk to the neighbour who gives more information and states her concern that things have “gone downhill” since B left the family. Upon the social worker’s return to C’s home, she is half asleep on the sofa and the baby is wailing. She is refusing to give her consent for the baby to be taken from her. The social worker advises that she will have to seek an EPO on the grounds that the child is “likely to suffer significant harm” if he remains in the care of his mother. The EPO is granted and the baby moved to foster carers later that evening. He thrived in the care of the foster carers and was described as an “easy pleasant baby who ate and slept well.” C made very little effort to take advantage of contact offered to her whilst the children were with foster carers. However it was recognised by all concerned that C needed care and support for herself, given her moderate learning disabilities and this was provided by a social worker to some extent. It was an impossible task to expect that she could care for 2 young children when she was functioning as a child herself. It had been possible while B was in the family home as he was far more able than C and there hadn’t been any serious concern until he actually left the family.

Both children were later made subject to Placement Orders and adopted, though separately as it became clear that the 2 year old needed to be the youngest child in the family as she had clearly been immensely traumatised in the first 2 years of her life in the care of her mother and step father. This was manifested in some very difficult and challenging behaviours – and like many children who have suffered abuse/neglect, there was a significant gap between her emotional age and chronological age. Additionally she was also failing to meet her developmental milestones and there was concern about global developmental delay. The baby fared better as he had been with the mother and step father for a shorter time and so was much more able to form secure attachment patterns with his adopters.

Case study 3: this involved J (a young woman aged 18 years) who lived with her mother and younger brother. It was a very stable family and J enjoyed a close relationship with her mother and brother. Her mother reported that J was a quiet girl who had a few friends but was a “homebird.” Then J formed a relationship with a man (T) she met through a friend also in his late teens. J became pregnant very soon after the relationship started. Her mother was shocked and very concerned as she had no liking for T sensing a difference in her daughter, in that she seemed afraid of him although she denied this was the case.

The couple moved into a flat near to J’s mother’s home and the baby (M) was born but it was obvious from the beginning that the baby had physical disabilities – diagnosed as cerebral palsy of a severe nature. The young parents and J’s mother were distraught as can be imagined. J’s mother did all she could to support the young family and ensure that baby M got all the medical support that he needed. However a few weeks after M’s birth J told her mother than she was not to visit the flat again as T didn’t like her and thought her interfering. J said she would try and bring M to see her mother when T was out. J’s mother was a feisty woman (I’ll explain how I know all this at a later stage) and most definitely had J and baby M’s best interests at heart. She refused to abide by T’s rules and continued to visit the family as her concern for J and baby M was increasing. T would usually absent himself when she visited, slamming the door and telling her to F off.

J arrived at her mother’s house one day with baby M and she had a badly bruised eye and was shaking and crying, saying that T had “lost the plot” and she was terrified of him. Her mother immediately said that she and the baby should not in any circumstances go back to the flat. They were both welcome to stay with her and she would tell T not to come near her daughter again. But before this could happen, J took a phone call from T and immediately rushed back to the flat. This kind of event happened several times and J’s mother was very worried and frustrated that J was clearly dominated by T. When baby M was aged 6 months, T was bathing him and held his head under the water, gripping him tightly around the neck. J was hysterical and dialled 999 and M was taken to hospital and T arrested, claiming he was only playing with the baby.

However on examination baby M was found to have bruising and old fractures to both of his legs. T was later charged with grievous bodily harm and given a custodial sentence of 2yrs 6 months. Fortunately baby M survived and was hospitalised for 3 weeks. Obviously CSs were involved and were not satisfied with J’s account that she was not aware that T was harming baby M. They initiated care proceedings and placed baby M with J’s mother (baby M’s MGM) Contact between J and the baby was allowed x 3 per week but always to be supervised by J’s mother. J’s mother did not believe that J was unaware that T was harming baby M but she was convinced that her daughter was dominated by T and would therefore be unable to protect the baby.

J was adamant that she would have no contact with T in prison or when he was released but her mother didn’t believe her and was more or less certain that she was visiting him in prison. She challenged her of course, but she denied emphatically that she would have anything to do with him after what he had done to baby M. Apparently he had told J that he had done it as it was the best thing for a kid like that with twisted arms and legs and wished that he had drowned in the bath. J blurted this out to her mother but later denied that he had made such comments.

When T was released from custody J’s mother kept a close watch on the flat to see if T was visiting J as she believed this to be the case. Within 3 months of T’s release J became pregnant again but denied that T was the father. J’s mother immediately involved CSs and advised that she believed T was the father although she obviously had no proof of this. J’s mother began to visit J at the flat but there was no evidence of T. However one day J’s mother’s suspicion was aroused as J asked her not to visit that day as she was having a friend to visit with her baby. J’s mother kept a watch on the flat and decided to stand outside and wait to see if T went in or came out. She waited for over 2 hours and in the lobby area and finally saw T leaving the flat.

J’s mother “saw red” and as he ran off, she gave chase (she was a very fit woman, a hillwalker and strong swimmer) – he eventually jumped on a bus and the chase ended. J’s mother immediately contacted the social worker and the police (as T was on licence) and admits to slapping her daughter across the face, as she was so disgusted with her. J was apparently hysterical but her mother’s only concern was baby M. and the unborn child. J was trying to convince her mother and the social worker that T had only been in the flat for a few minutes to collect some belongings, but no one believed her, especially as her mother had stood outside the flats for 2 hours. I did ask J’s mother what she would have done had she caught T and she admitted that she didn’t know, as her anger had taken over!

There was a pre birth Case Conference and it was decided to initiate care proceedings on the basis that the unborn child was likely to suffer significant harm, given the injuries to baby M and the fact that J was still in a relationship with T and it was likely that T was the father. It was made clear to J that whether he was the father or not, she had been unable to protect baby M, given her fear of T and his controlling and bullying behaviour, and hence this unborn baby was at risk of likely significant harm. She eventually admitted that T was the father.

The baby girl was born and placed with J’s mother. She was made subject to a Care Order. J’s mother later successfully applied for SGOs on both children. I undertook the assessment initially for kinship care of the children and later for an SGO.

What do these case studies demonstrate?

I hope that I have been able to demonstrate in the 3 cases above exactly why that wording was contained in the CA89 “likely to suffer significant harm” and not because someone looks into a crystal ball and thinks “Oh they look like they might abuse or neglect that child in the future, so we’d better ask the court for an Order to be on the safe side.”

I don’t understand why so many people talk of the injustice of “future emotional harm” – I don’t see how emotional harm (be it in the present or the future) can be a “stand alone” reason to give as a justification for seeking an Order to remove a child. If a child is physically abused, sexually abused or neglected, then they are by definition going to be emotionally harmed – they can’t not be…………..can they?

54 thoughts on “‘Is likely to suffer significant harm’ – to what extent are social workers relying on their crystal balls?

  1. Angelo Granda

    Thanks for this post Kate W.
    As a parent, I agree that future significant harm can be predicted especially when it is known children have already suffered neglect and abuse. Future harm can be avoided if the correct support etc. is put in place. On this subject, I agree with the Doctor of Law Ms Devine that ‘risk assessment’ is not a reliable predictor of future harm and abuse.
    Provided all the safeguards and procedures are observed and provided the Court grants an order in accordance with a child’s human rights ( especially article 6 and 8 proportionality) then I believe family life should be interfered with. However, and this is the view of many others too) , I believe interference should be limited to temporary foster-care always with rehabilitation home the aim. If a parent has not made sufficient improvement after a certain length of time, say six months, the order can be renewed.
    I believe that forced adoption or permanence plans away from family are disproportionate except in the most dire circumstances. It is cruel and inhumane to part families permanently, in my opinion, because the long term emotional impact upon the child is extremely harmful.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      Quite often there has been a six month pre proceedings period before the LA initiates care proceedings, which is the time when change needs to be effected, usually when it hasn’t been under a CP plan. Rehab home, if children are not at home, is always part of that plan/process. This is about timescales for children, your focus is on parents, but children are not their chattels. How long do you really want children to wait Angelo, years? Where is their right to family life with a family that does want to look after them?

      These cases studies give you a lot of information that say exactly that assessing the risks does indicate future harm, I am not sure that even Dr Lauren Devine would disagree with that. I think she instead discusses risk adverse practice.

      Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        My focus was on the emotional impact of permanent removal on children not on parents.At all times I put a child first! Most natural parents do the same.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Most do. Most parents aren’t involved with children’s services or family courts.

          But tell me how you balance timescales for children say a drug addicted parent bailing on rehab for years, how long do you want the child to wait so they don’t have to experience that impact of permanent removal and do have a family to grow up with?

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            Sorry I should have been more specific. Angelo is talking about children being in foster care temporarily waiting for parents to effect change to avoid adoption which means they must be at risk so I meant statutory intervention.

            I don’t know what that statistic involves? Early years help & child in need are voluntary. It would be unusual to discuss foster care in such cases.

          2. helensparkles

            This was an interesting (& distressing) watch for the impact upon children of their parents actions including one mum who was an addict until her prison sentence.

            “Documentary for Children in Need showing what it is like to be a prisoner’s child, giving children often lost in the system a chance to tell their own stories. The number of children with a mum or dad in prison.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0834tmt

    2. Kirsty Elder

      Your absolutely Bang On. What happens when (Believe me this happened to me, And still is ongoing) I met at age 17 with my oldest 2s Father. I was probably desperate to be loved cared for, My Mother (I dont believes my mother) She pulled myself in front of her shes getting dragged around the bottom of Multi Story Flats used me as a shield by my hair whilst holding my sister and then was allowed to take me and my little sister 5 (at the time) My Mother I will never forget seeing her go into the Toilet in the usual flat, usual manner, However this time she was Pregnant with my little sister I was 11yr Old and then her waters broke (My Gran offered us to see our little sister (whom was Stillborn) I know 100,000 percent she caused her own Daughter to be born dead I witnessed this bitch we basically at the time I had NO family to turn too. Oh my children My 7Yr Old Son shldnt have been adopted by the Corrupt System for now my 10year story I only begins with 2009 having my baby removed (Rightly so.. At the Time) Then after 8weeks getting him returned from foster care, terrified of not telling on the father for smoking heroin incase They thot I didn’t love my son and then Removed my 10+3yr old boys so I began lying to them then swine flu he was in Hospital for in January 2010 I ended up losing all my boys after being told to have a abortion and then like a idiot I has another baby But… Regardless I was given all my adopted son’s details by mistake in a Children Panel… I recently went on the parents Facebook page to find out I’d have did a Better job than the mental state whose adopted him. I have a lot more to say being in for 6 days with swine flu… I wasn’t at all clued up and Read failure to thrive his head circumstance wasn’t reaching the line it should implementing Brain Growth and Development.. Idiot I am for Department of upper class workers to continue to bully me Right into suicidal attempts and having so much stress I gave birth at 26 weeks Gestation… Bullied let down by my Lawyer. Failed to get it back to the sheriff and I now know why… He is the Social Workers Lawyer and her Own child has been in the papers Several… I can’t say why??? He’s phsycotic also she obviously has a Degree in psychology.. Unbeknownst Mother brought up on section 20__ was I just a future target for the school bully’s which I certainly won’t be allowing my children to be anyone’s future Target

      Reply
  2. Sam

    “Child B (2001) was referred to Risky Business by her school when she was 15 years
    old. By that time, she had been groomed by an older man involved in the exploitation
    of other children. Child B loved this man and believed he loved her. He trafficked
    her to Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield and offered to provide her with a flat in one of
    those cities. A child protection referral was made but the social care case file
    recorded no response to this. The case was discussed at regular Key Players

    6
    The year in brackets is the year is when sexual exploitation is first known to have occurred, or when the risk of
    exploitation was identified.
    39
    meetings (no records of these meetings have survived). Within just a few months,
    Child B and her family were living in fear of their lives. The windows in their house
    were put in. She and her family received threats that she would be forced into
    prostitution. Child B was assaulted by other victims at the instigation of the
    perpetrator. An attack on her older sibling by associates of the perpetrator resulted in
    him being hospitalised with serious injuries. Child B also required hospital treatment
    for injuries she sustained. A younger child in the family was threatened and had to go
    into hiding so that the perpetrators could not carry out threats against her. Child B
    and her mother refused to have anything more to do with the Police, because they
    believed the Police could do nothing to protect them. Child B had been stalked and
    had petrol poured over her and was threatened with being set alight. She took
    overdoses. She and her family were too terrified to make statements to the Police.
    By the time Child B was 18, her family situation had broken down and she was
    homeless. She referred herself to children’s social care, and was given advice about
    benefits. No further action was taken. This child and her family were completely failed by all services with the exception of Risky Business.”
    I think what happened to this child could be called neglect and harm, imposed on her by the LA.
    This is a random extract from the Jay Report. Some of it is even more disturbing reading. Children get neglected by some LA’s just as much as they would , if not more, if they come into child protection. The managers responsible for Rotherham are still involved with running departments at other LA’s. As far as I am aware there have been no criminal prosecutions.
    It cuts both ways, many children are neglected and emotionally, sexually and physically harmed within the system

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I’m not defending the system or failings, I am though asking Angelo a specific question about how long children should wait, when they are in care because they have been at risk, for their parents to change. I really want to know.

      Reply
  3. Angelo Granda

    We should accept that children are part of a family, good or bad , who should never ever be permanently severed from a connection with her Mum. Should circumstances be really dire,however, and a child has to be sent into foster-care , this should be on 6-month orders renewable. I believe that when a child has hope of rehabilitation and when a mother has real hope of having her child/children back home, she is likely to respond positively. With no hope, she may stay on drugs or drink and die early. Any court or SW which says to mum, you will never get your child back home no matter how you change is probably condemning that Human Being to a premature death. It is inhuman and cruel to the child also who will probably live a lifetime of mental torment and angst for their dear Mums.
    Professionals should grow a heart and maintain the ‘safety net’ for families which have gone awry.

    Reply
    1. Kirsty Elder

      Thank God For People Like You… Especially for Older Children I have Never Been Arrested for a Crime Let alone in jail for anything to do with children… However my Son’s Auntie has been in for 10years taken a life whilst driving Dangerous Driving Killed a Child in Road Accident and then her Father my son’s grandad on dad’s side… Is a sex offender he’s been in jail 20 year later for Raping his Step.Daughter and cause I fought Against the Department placing my son near that home… I’m not biast but he has always had a feminine side (Mummy’s Boy) The Department place him with a same sex couple… Now allowing him to look on.line to have a sex change. I swear I will NOT Lie when it comes to my children… The week he was removed by 8police A Family Support Worker and the Crazy Social Worker with the messed up home life Its not the Child’s Best Interests after they get the Children NO longer a chance to react no chance to get a cuddle.. Not even a pair of shoes on Dragged out into the street Screaming… Then online talking with pedophiles 97% Children taken are groomed online.. I said and I also said K being K could not sleep without telling on himself… The reply from panel Shocked me…. Isn’t it good your son told on Himself…. Oh yeah cause I did that you are Unbelievable

      Reply
  4. Kate Wells

    Angelo – I’ve read many of your posts and never have you demonstrated with such clarity your complete and absolute misunderstanding of the needs of children – naivety doesn’t cover it. So you are advocating that if it is proven that the child is likely to suffer significant harm, he/she should be fostered for 6 months, which should be renewed every 6 months……………………………………until when……………as Helen asks too? until the child is 1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, …………..10/12……………….maybe? The formative years of a child’s life are of huge importance and lay down the foundation for their physical and emotional welfare throughout their lifespan. This is why children who are abused/neglected in their early days, weeks and years will carry with them the scars of that trauma through their lives, to a greater or lesser extent. For a child to thrive they need to be cared for by a nurturing parent who is attentive to their needs and gives them unconditional love, and they need a permanent stable home.

    You really do talk some nonsense I’m afraid as in “when a child has some hope of rehabilitation” – do you honestly believe a young child can have any concept about rehabilitation – what age are you talking about – do you honestly believe that a child under 5 can understand anything about rehabilitation – of course they can’t – children live in the “here and now” and need to have their age appropriate needs met. They are concrete thinkers (as are you ) and cannot understand abstract concepts. Indeed many children show great distress at seeing their parents at contact sessions, as they have some recall of the past.

    Look this is what you need to understand…….children have ONE CHILDHOOD – they don’t have time to sit around or being moved around foster care waiting for the possibility that the parents will change to wean themselves off drink/drugs whatever. In the examples I have given babies were removed through no fault of the mother, severe mental health issues, LDs – only the last one was putting her abusive partner before her children. You talk of children as though they are stuffed toys that can sit on a shelf and wait for their parents to overcome their difficulties/addictions whatever. You are ONLY concerned with the rights of the parents NOT the fundamental RIGHT of the child to be brought up in a loving, nurturing home where his needs are met.

    As for your notion that parents will change if they think there is a chance of getting their children back, they DO have the opportunity to change before care proceedings are initiated. In fact social workers know that they will have to prove in court they they have provided every opportunity for the parent to change before asking for an Order. In the case of the woman with severe MH problems, it would be cruel (to use one of your emotive words) to expect that she was going to overcome her complex and enduring mental health problems sufficiently to parent. Likewise the woman with LDs cannot cope alone and social work support is not enough for her to parent her two children. Only the woman who is putting her children before her abusive partner is at fault as far as I’m concerned. SO taking my examples.

    And NO there is no condemning anyone to a premature death (people don’t actually die of a broken heart) though they can die of drug/alcohol abuse. As for condemning the child to the mental torment and anguish of being separated from the mother, I honestly have NEVER hears such utter nonsense in my entire life. Again this demonstrates you know NOTHING about child development or the needs of children.

    You talk of saving the safety net for “families that have gone awry” – that’s what happens.

    Just out of interest – of the 3 examples I have given what would the “law according to Angelo” do – the prem baby – fostered on a 6 month renewable contract …………FOR HOW LONG? Same with the 2nd examples – 6 monthly renewable contract………………FOR HOW LONG? – same with 3rd example – put the baby back and hope the abusive partner doesn’t try to drown her in the bath too? Or maybe you think none of them should have been removed on the basis of “likely to suffer significant harm” though I”m past caring what you think, as you talk nonsense.

    I don’t even know why I’m bothering to reply to you because you are unbelievably misinformed. You talk of being a parent – I can only hope you understand the needs of your own child/ren, rather than the rubbish you post.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I’m really interested in how long Angelo would have children on a rolling 6 month review programme. Not to mention the anxiety and long term MH difficulties that would cause children whose parents, as we sadly know, do not effect change. Given they haven’t during the CP plan or pre-proceedings, I would love to know how much longer they have to wait wondering about whether they will be disappointed again. What we know about rehab for example it that it isn’t short in itself, approx 9 months, and on average 3 attempts fail. Add that to maybe 9 months of a CP plan, 3 months of pre-proceedings, I am wondering how much damage Angelo would like to do to children on the ground that she needs her mum (all feminine gender again Angelo). It is interesting that Angelo thinks parents are motivated to change so as not to lose their parents, you would think no cases would go to court involving drugs/alcohol/DV in that event.

      Reply
        1. Kirsty Elder

          Parents Motivated Obviously Not To Let the Department Try to justify the best way from my situation.. with my son being online Talking to pedophiles… Allowed to wear Makeup he’s bliddy 10

          Reply
      1. Angelo Granda

        Helen, Until they are 18 unless they choose to return home themselves at sixteen and vote with their feet. Long-term foster care would ensure their safety ( unless the foster-carers or SW’s are predators ) but the possibilities for rehabilitation should be reconsidered at the periodic LAC Reviews. Children should never be condemned to a lifetime in the care-system as so many are now, in this parents opinion. In the direst of circumstances such as those described in this post from Kate W. the current law enables forced adoption but I disagree with that having seen and read extensively of the lifelong emotional disturbance and angst caused to children by such action not to mention Mum ( and Dad).
        Kate, thanks for your comments but I think you show a misunderstanding of children. You are well-meaning and we all appreciate your posts on the forum. Your comments ,however, are typical of you . Over robust tirades but I do accept you are a down-to-earth brummy character.

        Sadly, I have seen far too many stories from children on various forums and heard far too many personally from them in the flesh about the mental torture and angst they suffer in the care system especially those who have been forcefully adopted and lose their parents for ever. Do you really think they are happy away from family? If you do ,then you are deluded.
        Thanks again for your post. I await them with interest. I would like to ask are all the cases you dealt with as dire as the one you describe? I have seen placement for adoption orders issued for practically nothing. For example, one woman had her child removed at birth simply because she had been found likely to have neglected a child several years before. That child was taken from her simply because it was said she was unable to acknowledge concerns. Once the Judge made a decision, she did acknowledge the verdict but the child was still taken for adoption. The new-born was taken at birth and adopted. This is the type of case which brings me to my view that permanent removal should be outlawed.
        Kate, we have been asked by the moderator to temper our language and I hope I don’t upset you but please try and make your comments a little less robust? Parents tend to do so.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          Until 18 that’s great Angelo, absolutely no point engaging with you at all, you have no understanding or insight into the damage that would cause children.

          As for robust comments, yours are.

          Reply
  5. Kate Wells

    I don’t think you’ll get any sense out of Angelo, Helen. I don’t usually engage with him as it is not worth the effort. I am fairly certain he is one of the JH/IJBooker brigade (he certainly sounds like one of them) – [Redacted – abusive]

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Sorry, I wrote a comment about redacting Kate’s comment and it seems to have disappeared!

      I think that comment was unfair to Angelo and it was abuisve. If we call people’s arguments ‘garbage’ I don’t think we get any where.

      I will admit to often being exasperated by Angelo and feeling we are going round in circles – but it is because he and I see things in a very different way. I think he is wrong to be so parent centric but I also have to accept that historically I have been wrong in seeing children in isolation from their parents.

      If I censor parents for being rude – and I do – I will have to censor everyone who is rude, in order to be fair and consistent.

      I hope Kate that this doesn’t stop you from contributing to this site, as your contributions have been valuable. So too have Angelo’s and he has consistently tried to contribute in a constructive way – even if many of the things he says I think he has got wrong.

      Reply
    2. Kate Wells

      Is this the comment that you think is abusive Sarah – (above) You claim that I have called Angelo’s comments *garbage* but I haven’t. I have told him he talks complete nonsense, because he does and I make no apology. it’s very hard when you’ve spent 30 years of your life working with the most disadvantaged and impoverished families in our society, and trying your utmost to support them and enable their children to remain with them, but knowing in the end that the children have to come first and don’t have time to wait for their parent’s to learn to parent in a “good enough” manner, to have to read such nonsense about children being fostered on a 6 monthly basis right up until the age of 18 if necessary. People like Angelo have the rights of the parents at the front of their mind, but social workers are tasked with having the rights of the child as paramount, wholly right in my view.

      Angelo if you have tried to patronise me in one of your posts, you did very well, even to the extent of calling me “a down to earth brummy character!”

      No this won’t stop me posting Sarah though I confess to being confused about what language can and can’t be used on the site. Angelo says there is a request to “temper our language” whatever that means. Maybe you can advise?

      Reply
  6. Sam

    I really do think that is completely unfair to Angelo. Your comment does however illustrate the problems that parents have with social workers.

    Reply
    1. Angelo Granda

      Sam, I think readers and Sarah have the common-sense to know that I am presenting a parents view not a lawyer’s or Social Workers. Thus Kate and Helen are bound to disagree with me. If they agreed I would be most disappointed. Discussion is a good thing.
      Thanks for your support and I hope your health has improved . I keep praying for you every day.

      Reply
      1. helensparkles

        You are not presenting a child centred view (even though you say you are) therefore anyone who considers children’s best interests to be paramount will disagree with you Angelo.

        Reply
      2. Sam

        Thank you Angelo, it is much appreciated.
        I think both sides can have a blinkered view, because we only have our personal perspective. I just see the long term damage done by placing children in the care system and I do care about the parents whose children have been taken by a non accountable and dysfunctional system, but I would, wouldn’t I? I do think there needs to be some mechanism such as a truth and reconciliation process for both sides to work together constructively.

        Reply
        1. helensparkles

          I don’t think social workers want to see more children in care either, they want what those children want, change at home. Unfortunately I am at the point where discussion here is pointless. I am more interested in finding out about areas such as Leeds who are reducing the numbers of children in care through their practice.

          Reply
          1. helensparkles

            They are using restorative practice Sam. They have a blog if you want to read more about it. https://childfriendlyleeds.wordpress.com

            I was interested anyway, and unfortunately due to illness/medical treatment couldn’t attend the conference last week, but stats tweeted from it indicate 1474 LAC down to 1225 & 1250 kids on CP plans down to 546. I don’t know the timescale for the stats. I am going to try to get some slides.

            From Louise Tickle in The Guardian today “Nigel Richardson, who retired from his position as director of children’s services at Leeds city council last month. While in the job, he led a transformation that means Leeds now has 225 fewer children in care than it did in 2011 – a 15.5% reduction, and a saving of £8.2m a year. By contrast, given the 7.5% increase in looked-after children in England between 2011 and 2015, Leeds estimates that other local authorities are spending nearly £180m more annually on children’s care placements than five years ago. Not using the Leeds approach has cost the taxpayer more than half a billion pounds.”

        2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

          I agree. At the moment what we have is people shouting at each other over an abyss of misunderstanding and mistrust. No one can really ‘hear’ what anyone else has to say as we are constantly struggling to maintain our own world views.

          And I can’t really criticise anyone for this. It has taken YEARS of real effort to accept that I needed to open my mind to some things. And I am probably making only my first few faltering steps.

          But we have to change, we really do. The consequences if we don’t are just too awful to contemplate.

          Reply
          1. Sam

            “Us regulars” chatting away have demonstrated in some small way that we can reach understanding if we try. It has certainly helped me to be more open minded. When I first came across the site, I thought this woman doesn’t have a clue what she is talking about in relation to domestic violence. That’s changed. I would not have talked to a SW, I hated them so much I wished I had a machine gun and could shoot straight ( before anyone reports me I don’t actually have the ability to kill anything other than large spiders and they have to die,because I cannot cope with them in the same room). Now I can see the pressures and have learnt about their concerns about parenting, attachment, harm etc.
            We really are not so far apart all the time.

          1. Sam

            Here it is “I don’t think you’ll get any sense out of Angelo, Helen. I don’t usually engage with him as it is not worth the effort. I am fairly certain he is one of the JH/IJBooker brigade (he certainly sounds like one of them) – [Redacted – abusive]”

          2. Sarah Phillimore Post author

            Dear Kate – the comment I redacted was posted by you at 10.34pm on 25th November. It now reads:

            I don’t think you’ll get any sense out of Angelo, Helen. I don’t usually engage with him as it is not worth the effort. I am fairly certain he is one of the JH/IJBooker brigade (he certainly sounds like one of them) – [Redacted – abusive]

            I redacted this because you referred to Angelo’s arguments as ‘garbage’ and I do not think that is fair or helpful. It is my clear policy not to permit abusive comments on this site because I don’t think it helps the debate.

            I think Angelo is often wrong and dangerously so in some of the arguments he presents – but he is not a troll. He is making real and genuine efforts to engage. If I redact the comments from parents – and I have redacted many – for using abusive terms, I have to at least try to be even handed. There is a fear expressed by many parents – which I understand – that they are judged very harshly by SW for failings that the SW will not recognise in themselves. For example, when my parent clients are late for a contact visit they are judged ‘not to prioritise their children’. If the SW is late to the same contact visit they will blame heavy traffic.

            I am not trying to tell anyone that they cannot have and express their own views. However, this is my site, I pay for it and I spent quite a lot of my time trying to run it so I will have and enforce the rules that I think are appropriate.

            There has been significant and I think very dangerous coarsening of the debate in this arena, fuelled by the behaviour of Hemming/Booker etc. I don’t put Angelo in their camp. I don’t always or often agree with him but he has made me think, and that is one of the primary aims of this site – for us to come out of our boxes and see the world in a different way.

            I am grateful to Sam for recognising this. Even if the only people reading and discussing these issues are me, Sam, Angelo and Helen, I still think it has been worthwhile! for me at least.

            So I hope you will still continue to post as your view is valuable and valued. But there are other views and I want to create an environment where people can express all different kinds of views – as long as they do so politely.

  7. Sam

    Thank you Helen I hope you are recovering well. So really its just confirming what we have been saying that early intervention and support saves money. It would be wonderful if other LA’s are taking notice. I must admit that my LA seems to have changed tactic’s somewhat whether recent judgements (nothing else will do etc) have pushed them that way or the financial squeeze has contributed I don’t know. Not that it has had any effect on my family, it’s too late for that, but I rather wish others do not have to go through such pain.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I think most LAs know early intervention saves £ later & is beneficial, what Leeds had was the backing of politicians (local) to invest. It doesn’t mean people aren’t trying to do that elsewhere, my LA is, but it does mean they are doing it with less.

      Nothing else will do has been superseded, the law is confusing at the moment (for me) slightly less so for the lawyers. But some cases should be taken to court for the court to decide. That is the scrutiny and the decision making process. SW don’t and shouldn’t decide.

      Reply
    2. helensparkles

      P.S. Thanks for your kind wishes, I am having treatment that is vile, but we live for these things being over. Which everything is at some point …

      Reply
      1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

        Such a sad irony that the cancer bit was actually fine – it was the ‘treatment’ that was soul crushingly awful! but 3 years down the line, I don’t really remember it at all and it seems so long ago. I hope the same for you too.

        Reply
  8. Kate Wells

    Sarah – I have no problem with the fact that you make decisions about what is acceptable on your site, and yes of course you must be even handed. I know I come over obviously as presenting the view of a social worker (even a retired one) but throughout my social work career I always treated natural parents with respect and could see how it had come about that they were not able to offer “good enough” parenting in some cases. I firmly believe that behaviour is the product of experience and in 30 years I never met an abusive parent who had not been abused themselves as children, although they often didn’t recognise the way they had been parented as abusive. I am NOT of course saying that all parents who suffered abuse as a child will go on to repeat that pattern.

    I am still puzzled about your claim that I used the word garbage in relation to Angelo’s post. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t – I have no recollection of this and it’s not a word I use, but you have twice referred to my use of this word. Can you show me where in y post I have used this word. I am assuming that you found my reference to Angelo as being as bad as JH/IJ/Booker (or words to that effect) unacceptable, though you use the word abusive – really? It was a bit strong I admit to make that comment but Angelo’s posts just make me so frustrated because they demonstrate time after time that he has zero understanding of child development and is more interested in parent’s rights than a child’s needs.

    Reply
  9. Angelo Granda

    Kate, Just forget about it, accept the moderator’s decision and move on. It didn’t upset me but, as Sarah says, rules are rules!
    Helen, to be honest, I’m just about fed up as well with professionals. What you have to accept ( but won’t) is that out there are many low calibre social workers who lack basic integrity. As a parent, I have reported it to you all and so has Sam and countless other parents and children. Listen to what parents tell you instead of falling into the same trap as we saw played out at Hillsborough. We don’t complain because we get a kick out of it, we are trying to do something positive to help victims past, present and future.
    Most importantly ,I disagree with so much of what Sarah writes. Parents know that family lawyers are excellent at winning cases for Local Authorities but not quite so efficient when it comes to arguing cases for parents and it is not just me saying this. It is absolutely clear to me that the main difficulty faced by children subject to these public law cases is proportionality and fairness. Many families are permanently liquidated for reasons nothing like as serious as those described by Kate W.
    You had all better believe what parents tell you and drop your fallacies because it is we and our children CP professionals exist to serve. Surely we can all see that something is gravely concerning when Mums are fleeing their homes and going as refugees to other countries! Sarah sees the sense in that ; the public has lost trust in the system because it is open to abuse and it is abused. So once again I ask, if you will still discuss things with me, how do you think we can make the system less ‘Abu sable’?

    Reply
  10. helensparkles

    “What you have to accept ( but won’t) is that out there are many low calibre social workers who lack basic integrity. As a parent, I have reported it to you all and so has Sam and countless other parents and children.”

    Not really, unfortunately there aren’t countless parents here. There are just a few anecdotal examples. I could give you as many anecdotal examples of cases where children really shouldn’t be at home at all which isn’t much of an evidence base.

    I have always accepted that things go wrong in all spheres of life and I don’t condone malpractice.

    I can honestly say I have never been exposed to one single CP case where adoption is the outcome and shouldn’t have been.

    “Listen to what parents tell you instead of falling into the same trap as we saw played out at Hillsborough. We don’t complain because we get a kick out of it, we are trying to do something positive to help victims past, present and future.”

    Please stop accusing me of being in denial, I don’t do that to you, and I do listen – we just disagree.

    There is a problem with your question for me, because your proposals here create what I think is an abusive system for children. You consistently put children in a position where they would be distressed, anxious and traumatised. The family unit is not sacrosanct but your view that it is means that you are parent centric. I have a lot of compassion for parents, cases being mainly sad not bad, but I am at a loss at how anyone could put children in the position you could.

    Reply
  11. Kate Wells

    Angelo – if it’s ok with you I will decide for myself when I move on…………and I don’t really care whether you , are/were upset in the past, present or future.
    Sarah – sorry but I have a tendency to pedantry and I still don’t think I used the word garbage in relation to Angelo’s posts.

    Angelo I don’t propose to engage with you any further as it is utterly futile and I have better things to do with my time. I will say though that quite how you think the Hillsborough debacle is in any way relevant to this debate is beyond me. You have described social workers as “low calibre” individuals before and this time you’ve added that they lack basic integrity. Kettles and pots come to mind.

    I can only endorse every word of Helen’s post. Your last para says it all Helen.

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Then we will have to agree to disagree about this. That’s the word I saw, that’s why I deleted the post. I thought it was unnecessary.

      Reply
  12. Angelo Granda

    Helen, please stop accusing me of being parent-centric. That is rather arrogant, if you don’t mind. To me ,the interests of children are paramount, in fact I believe it is written into the law which also says that a child is better off with natural parents if possible and support should be offered in order to keep families together. Thousands of children would no doubt be safer in care but we have to remember their human rights.
    Kate, Thanks for your comments and Good night for now. I look forward to your next post but rather than complement you on it as I did this time, I shall think twice.

    Reply
    1. helensparkles

      I am not accusing you of anything, I am giving you my perception based on all of the comments of yours I have read. If you want to give me a different impression please do or think about why you give that impression? You can state state paramount all you like but you need to apply it sensibly and rationally. Children are better off with their parents, except when it isn’t safe, and it certainly isn’t emotionally safe for any child to wait on a 6 monthly cycle to see if they can or can’t be at home with their family. UK and Human Rights Law include a right to grow up safely, which might not be a child’s birth family.

      Reply
  13. Kelly devine

    What if said parent is in fact not a risk that the social worker involved built a case without investigating anything the fact that the children are with their dad placed by the mother due to emotional and physical exhaustion she asked children’s services for help and received nothing ppracticing attachment parenting ( so is already in tune with the emotional needs of her children) seeing them 4 times a week and then months down the line she is then kept any from her children for no real reason no communication with the social worker at all fact is this is going on for no good reason and the corruption of children’s services is not only inhumane it’s also illegal fact that a lot of people do not understand its some local authorities that are actively eemotionally harming children not parents

    Reply
    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      Then you urgently need to instruct lawyers to make application to the court. If there is no evidence then the court should not have made any orders. If you are being kept away from your children without a court order, this is also unlawful. Please see a solicitor immediately.

      Reply
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