Response to Commentators #1

Our aims as a site

We want not only to provide useful and credible information to ALL those involved in the child protection system, but also to be part of the debate about what we can do to make our child protection system the best it can be.

That means we don’t want anyone to feel shut out of the debate or that we will censor or ignore their contributions.

However, we worry that for far too long, constructive debate has become hostage to a number of people who put forward extreme and unsupported allegations about the ‘evil’ and ‘corruption’ of an entire system.

We are going to try to strike a balance between welcoming debate and views that may not chime with our own and not becoming overwhelmed or overrun by hyperbolic conspiracy theorists.

It may take a while to see if we have that balance right. But in the spirit of welcoming debate we here provide a response to a number of points raised by commentator ‘Winston Smith’.

We are having discussions at the moment about the best way to deal with comments here that we feel are not helping: we agree with this very helpful article from Urban 75 about the kind of commentators we don’t want to encourage.

We think we will probably delete comments to various posts which we think are obvious trolling or attempts to push unsupported theories.

However, we will continue to collect them in Mythbusting and try to answer them. In that way, we can’t be accused or ignoring or censoring, but equally our attempts to debate and inform won’t be derailed by malice, ignorance or wild accusations made without any evidence in support.

This response is provided by Sarah Phillimore, a family barrister since 1999. If she has got anything wrong or there is anything you would like to add, please let us know.

I am going to respond to some of the recent comments of a Mr Winston Smith. Mr. Smith asserts:

Adoption targets

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

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

This appears to be the familiar territory of ‘adoption targets’ where the wish of successive governments to increase the number of children adopted from the care system led to targets and performance incentives to encourage LA to find permanent homes for children who may have spent many years in the care system.

This is of course very different from a system which sets ‘targets’ for the removal of babies because they are easier to adopt.

We don’t deny that most adopters would prefer to adopt a child who is as young as possible – hopefully the younger a child the less trauma he has already suffered and the more easily he  will become part of the adopter’s family.

But does this translate into LA taking babies for no good reason, because babies will be more easily adopted and this in turn will enable them to meet their ‘adoption targets’ ?

I don’t agree.  We have already dealt with this issue in our Mythbusters section but I think I should repeat the salient points here

  • Even though local authorities have targets to match children in their care with adoptive parents faster than before, in England the average age at adoption was three years and eight months at 31 March 2013.  Just 2% of children adopted in England in the year ending 31 March 2013 were under one year old
  • Only 6% of Looked After Children in England were under one year old at 31 March 2013.
  • It usually takes at least three months for adoptive parents to be matched with a child after they have been approved to be adopters (see column A12 in the Underlying Data spread sheet)

Although the amounts of money paid to local authorities who meet their targets for placing children in their care and for assessing adoptive parents can be large (see this official Written Answer from 3 September 2007 towards the bottom of this page) they do not exceed the cost of the proceedings.  For example, the largest payments in this table were made to Kent County Council, who received £2,156,583 over three years.  Information on the numbers of children placed for adoption by Kent County Council in 2005-2007 is not readily available, but more recent information suggests that the average number is 205 children per year (see the adoption scorecard for 2008-11 here).  Dividing £2,156,586 by 205 would give an average payment of £10,519.93 per child placed for adoption.  Even without details for the costs of all social workers involved in a case, plus legal representatives at court – usually for both the local authority and the family involved – plus court time, plus foster carers, it is clear that any money paid in the form of a bonus does not come close to covering the cost of removing a child from their family and placing them for adoption.

 

 

Since then subsidies have returned on a more indirect basis.

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

This has always been the focus of all of this.

Sadly I cannot respond to this as I don’t understand what it means, so I will need Mr. Smith to clarify.

 

 

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

We agree that if a child is subject to care proceedings and is aged 5 or under, then adoption is much more likely to be considered as part of the final care plan than if the child was older. Simply, adoptions are less likely to succeed the older a child gets and once a child is over 7 it is unlikely that adoption will be a realistic option.

However, here Mr Smith appears to ignore all the other options that are routinely before the court in care proceedings such as Residence Orders or Special Guardian Orders to family members. The LA is under a statutory obligation to undertake kinship assessment.

Presumably Mr Smith must have access to some clear statistics to be able to assert confidently that those under 5 are ‘likely’ to be subject to ‘forced adoption’ and we would be grateful if he could share this information with us so we can consider it.

 

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

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

I think this comment shows Mr. Smith has misunderstood the aims of this resource. We do not say and have never said that the system is perfect and that no mistakes are ever made. What we do say is that we do not accept that professionals routinely lie and collude to ensure that children are removed from loving homes for the purposes of meeting adoption targets.

We are keen to discuss new and better ways of operating, the only rule which we insist upon is that serious assertions require serious evidence.

If Mr. Smith truly believes we wish to be ‘another campaign which denies everything’ then he needs to have another look at the site and what we are trying to do. Hopefully then he will accept this criticism is untrue and unfair.

 

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

Mr. Smith appears to be referring here to attempts to speed up adoption times for children in care and to make it less traumatic for children by encouraging their foster carers to adopt them. I think both are very good ideas. I do not see how this fits into an allegation that the State steals children for adoption. Rather they are examples of how the State is attempting, quite rightly, to improve outcomes for children already in the care system.

 

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

I cannot and do not deny that mistakes are made and mistakes in this field can have very serious consequences. But none of us here, from a variety of perspectives within the system, accept such mistakes are routine or are made deliberately and maliciously in furtherance of some State plot to steal babies.

It is emphatically NOT my experience that children are taken into care for ‘silly reasons’. Again, assuming Mr. Smith has some statistical information to back up this assertion, we would like to see it. As far as we know, serious reasons are needed before a child can be taken away from his home – which is entirely as it should be.

I refer Mr. Smith to the legal section of our site and in particular our discussions of what is meant by ‘significant harm’. I  can find nothing ‘silly’ there.

I reject the assertion that evidence is routinely ‘concocted’ and again would request that Mr. Smith provide his evidence for this extremely serious assertion so that we can consider it.

In 15 years I have never come across deliberate concoction of evidence. Yes, I have seen sloppy evidence gathering and reporting, misunderstandings that became hardened into believed ‘facts’ and people making assumptions where they shouldn’t. It is my job to challenge that.

But deliberate falsification of evidence? Never. So either I am a stooge of the system and too stupid to notice when this is happening under my nose OR it doesn’t actually happen very often or at all.

 

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

Mr. Smith seems unaware of recent changes to public funding of expert witnesses. The sums paid on legal aid rates are very far from ‘huge’ and in fact the prevailing concern is now that we will lose the services of valuable expert witnesses as they won’t agree to be instructed on the new low rates.

I would urge Mr. Smith to read what the Legal Aid Agency are now saying about the remuneration of experts.

I don’t understand what he means by ‘repeatedly give diagnosis NHS or private clinic experts say do not exist’ and again I think that such a serious allegation requires some serious proof.

 

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

I accept that if care proceedings are brought, the most likely outcome is that a court will make a care or supervision order. Two conclusions can be reached from this:

  • Care proceedings are a farce and the conclusion is a rubber stamp; OR
  • Care proceedings are not bought lightly given the enormous expense and time they involve for cash strapped LA and only the most serous cases will go to court.

I support the latter conclusion.  Mainly because this fits exactly with my own experience over many years.  In fact, when I am critical of the way a LA has conducted a case, I can think of only a handful of cases where I felt they acted too quickly; the majority of my complaints are that they waited far too long before taking decisive action.

 

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

Here Mr. Smith refers to a number of ‘megascandals’ and appears to lump our site in with those ‘true believers’ who continue to doggedly defend the indefensible, even in the face of evidence.

I am  not quite sure what he means here and again, suspect he has misjudged or misunderstood the aims of this site.

I think this artice from Slate is interesting about the hysteria which surrounded the issue of child satanic abuse. It is a good example of the danger of proceeding to reach conclusions about extremely serious matters when your evidence is weak or even non existent.

 

However, regarding KinCarers , this statutary duty is regularly ignored by LA’s.

Admittedly grandparents maybe too old but other relatives are ignored.

Regularly aunties or sisters are advised to file for Residence Orders or SGO’s themselves. Uproar round at LAQ legal offices.

LA will go for Forced Adoption and only after a bitter battle with numerous court hearings agree to an SGO.

This isn’t my experience. Every case I do, when a family member puts themselves forward they are assessed – they have to be. It is the law. If the LA assessment is negative, the family member can come to court and argue their case or even seek permission for a further assessment. I was involved in a very recent case where the court agreed the maternal grandparents hadn’t been properly assessed and ordered a further report from an Independent Social Worker.

 

This includes busting the Placement Order in the CoA on Appeal.

I would like to respond to this but I don’t understand Mr Smith’s point.

 

These are usually either with the foster carer or a remote relative with either no contact or once every six months.

Again, I am going to need some statistics to back this up as it is very far from my own experience of the orders courts will make and the contact parents are likely to have.

 

LA’s and FD judges will move heaven and earth to prevent any child’s witness statements, prevent the Wishes and Feelings Pact being done, and prevent them being called as witnesses in violation of Practice Direction on Child Witnesses Dec 2010.

The children are kept isolated to prevent their view a being known and the are routinely obstructed from instructing their own solicitors if Gillick Competent.

Again, evidence please. This isn’t my experience. Courts are rightly worried about the impact of children becoming directly involved in court proceedings, particularly if it involves them giving evidence about the abuse they have suffered but to say ‘heaven and earth’ is moved to prevent them is nonsense.

I invite Mr. Smith to read the case of Re W in 2010 about the court’s approach to children giving evidence, which may assist his understanding.

18 thoughts on “Response to Commentators #1

  1. Matt Harding

    It is disheartening to hear that children 7 and up have little chance of adoption. From what I have read of the outcomes of children “in care” they are more likely to be arrested, addicted to drugs, and prostitution. Why are families unwilling to adopt older children? In the US children can be adopted up to the age of consent (18) and in places like Japan you can adopt people of any age as is their custom.

    Reply
  2. Winston Smith

    I’m sorry to enlighten you but all this is true.

    1) John Hemming and others are CORRECT that unless you flee abroad before court orders are issued. your child will lose its home and family, such is the state of how the Family Court operates.
    Irish to Ireland.
    Eastern Europeans home.
    Brits somewhere abroad like Spain.

    I will not say what I think.

    But we’re are literally in the state of the Children’s Pimpernel and incredibly, I learnt the Resistance Network had reopened in Northern France and Belgium to hideout not Allied airmen but British families.

    Otherwise your child will end up Forced Adopted or if you are lucky on an SGO with limited contact.

    2) This is because of the secrecy of the American-style Family Court since it was introduced (the secrecy being because of the scandals that preceded its introduction) so no-one is fully accountable.

    3) The sole supply of children for the flourishing adoption industry is kids in Care. No other supply is available and as not been since the system was introduced 40 years.

    But it’s not kids IN Care, although the theory is built around this, as they are “difficult to adopt” and adopters don’t want them so the theory fails at the starting gate.

    So it is kids being brought INTO Care, especially babies as they are easiest to adopt.
    And preferably identified BEFORE THEY ARE BORN under the ICS.

    This is the preferred solution, so your kid has had it if taken into Care.

    Hence the term Forced Adoption.

    The numbers of adoptions has fallen since the 2008 scandal. Present policy recognises children over around 5 are unsuitable, as the drive gets under way to increase Forced Adoptions, so this means babies and very young children.

    I can go on and on.

    I am surprised all this is simply denied.

    Reply
  3. Sarah Phillimore

    I wish you would go ‘on and on’ to provide the proof behind any of your assertions.

    But you don’t.

    Is this because you have no proof?

    Your surprise at my refusal to accept your arguments is in itself surprising. Why should I believe anything which is a) contrary to my own direct experience and b) utterly unsupported by any evidence from you?

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    1. Winston Smith

      You your self produce absolutely no “proof” that all is well within the Family Court and no statistics.

      You appear to live in an Alternative Universe with an Alternative Family court.

      In particular all families hauled before the Family Court are guilty, and because those who refused to repent, fall on their knees and do “therapy” fail to do so, their kids should be Forced Adopted if there are no relatives around to take them on SGO’s.

      All too frequently bogus diagnoses have been made by the EW’s.

      What concerns me is the flat denials any objection is met with.

      Reply
      1. Katy Carr

        Not so. I have known parents to defend robustly the accusations made against them and to have their cases upheld by the Family court. There was no suggestion of them having to admit anything.

        Reply
  4. Sarah Phillimore

    Matt – you would have to ask some adopters and I hope some will be posting here soon.

    As I understand it , the older a child, the more likely it is that this child will have suffered a degree of trauma which will make him or her very hard to parent. The child will also retain clear memories of previous carers and can’t ‘slot into’ the new family as a toddler might. Adoptive parents might also want to experience as much of their child’s childhood as they can.

    But I can’t speak for them, I am not an adoptive parent. But I can understand why adopting a cute toddler would be seen as a more attractive prospect than adopting an older, possibly traumatised child, and I certainly wouldn’t criticise anyone who didn’t feel up to the challenge.

    Reply
    1. Matt Harding

      I would hope adopters would not view such human beings as damaged goods that have too little worth to be loved. That is horrible. Hopefully some adopters will give their thoughts and experiences in order to get a better view of it.

      Reply
  5. Sarah Phillimore

    Matt – I think you are projecting unfairly. It is not that damaged children are not ‘worth’ loving, it’s that they are harder to love. It is better to be honest about what you can cope with rather than trying and failing and subjecting a child to further trauma of failed adoption.

    Winston – you have had your chance. I don’t deal with sweeping, unevidenced assertions. I have given you the direct evidence of my 15 years experience of 100s of cases.

    I now know I can ignore you and any further contributions you make with impunity, so thanks for that at least.

    Reply
      1. Katy Carr

        Of course, rather than post this response you could have posted some facts and evidence to support your assertions. The fact that you did not do so is highly revealing.

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  6. MerlinC

    I guess that from winston’s replies it is now clear he is another conspiracy theorist. Well done for setting up a circus where they can gnaw their teeth without spamming the rest of this wonderful website.

    Sarah, I still remember the signature of a mental health patient on a forum saying “people like you are the reason why people like me need medication”.

    Well people like Hemming, Joseph, Winston, etc. are the reason why this website needed to be created 🙂

    Reply
  7. Philip Measures

    Can I comment please on the following from the Site:

    ‘…LA’s and FD judges will move heaven and earth to prevent any child’s witness statements, prevent the Wishes and Feelings Pact being done, and prevent them being called as witnesses in violation of Practice Direction on Child Witnesses Dec 2010.
    The children are kept isolated to prevent their view a being known and the are routinely obstructed from instructing their own solicitors if Gillick Competent.’

    I want to concentrate mainly on Private Law Proceedings but there may well be some equal relevance to Public Law cases.

    Several months ago CAFCASS made some 55 Family Support Workers redundant – these were the very practitioners who had developed some real skills in communicating directly with Children & Young People and were well placed to obtain their ‘Wishes and Feelings.’

    Can we really honestly, hand on heart, ethically and professionally really always be assured that we have done all that we can to ascertain those Wishes and Feelings – or may we sometimes be more led by timescales; lack of Resources and Government / Procedural guidance?

    I well remember when Local Authorities had (access to) good residential Mother and Baby Assessment facilities and also some for families , where parents could be worked with intensively and who prepared Reports for Courts in Care Proceedings.

    Within Private Law Proceedings where there is an Application to cease Contact to a non-custodial parent ; a contested Residence Order Application and a good number of Specific Issue Applications one has to start out with an assumption that there are alleged ‘Safeguarding’ Issues (why else would the Court be involved?).

    I understand that CAFCASS has perhaps increasingly undertaken less ‘Wishes and Feelings’ reports – and then only if Court-directed. But, ought it not to be routine? The child has to be the focus and to not be clear what he/he wants has to be a serious omission – except in some of the more serious abuse cases.

    Do I have a valid point?

    Reply
  8. phillimoresarah Post author

    You make a valid point but it serves to underscore the gulf between those of us worried about a system which is underfunded and not properly supported and those who maintain there exists deliberate and systemic corruption.

    I agree that reducing the numbers of skilled professionals is inevitably going to have a negative impact on the people they would have been able to help, had they remained in post.

    But what it does not illustrate is a deliberate policy to ‘isolate’ children or to actively ‘move heaven and earth’ to prevent them from being consulted and their voice being heard.

    And thus is neatly encapsulated my ever growing frustration with those who seek to hijack this vitally important debate with nonsensical allegations, ensuring only that the real and serious problems in the system can be ignored as just another part of these misinformed and irrational diatribes.

    Reply
  9. Philip Measures

    Thank you Sarah but perhaps it is an area where we are beginning to diverge – although I hope not!

    My belief is that IF professionals are not doing all that they SHOULD (and I agree that it MAY be a resource issue) then it is children and families who suffer.

    CAFCASS, for instance, claims to ‘work’ with thousands of children each year but will not define what ‘work with’ means – there is a huge difference between Applications received , statutory Checks carried out and actual face-to-face work.

    Where lawyers are involved they ought to be putting pressure on CAFCASS to demonstrate that it has acted in the best interests of children & young people primarily and not just accept the results of statutory checks, for instance, but ensure that Courts have full and detailed Affidavits from both Applicants and Respondents – unless there is the expectation that both adult Parties provide detailed information then it is not clear what the unresolved (non agreed) issues really are and to what extent Wishes and Feelings work should be undertaken.

    In Private Law allegations have been made and should be properly explored. We know the real dangers of prolonged non-Contact.

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  10. phillimoresarah Post author

    All I can say is that as a lawyer who often works with parents, it is my job and my pleasure to challenge unreasoned and unsupported reports, recommendations etc. The removal of public funding from a huge chunk of family proceedings is going to have a detrimental impact on a lot of people who will now no longer have that protection.

    I don’t disagree that there are lots of examples of bad practice out there. What I do think however is that there is an urgent need for us to explore WHY.

    I reject the assertion that the ‘why’ is because practitioners in this field deliberately and malignly set out to destroy families. But i have wasted far too much time getting drawn into arguments with people who utterly believe that.

    I think the ‘why’ is because funding for the system is being cut dramatically, people are over worked, under supported and fed up. Thus they may not be performing for the majority of the time as the best they can be.

    And of course, I accept it is the vulnerable who suffer. But we will all pay the price eventually. The larger the proportion of people in a society who are miserable and have nothing to lose, the more dangerous for us all.

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  11. Philip Measures

    …’I reject the assertion that the ‘why’ is because practitioners in this field deliberately and malignly set out to destroy families.’

    I agree, but who does? Government, Elected Members or senior managers – because there just has to be accountability – what is happening is not a benign process – it is, in my opinion, a carefully managed and driven one – so those in more senior positions in all disciplines should be speaking out loudly and clearly – by failing to do they, and all of us who do not speak out, are complicit.

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  12. phillimoresarah Post author

    I really hope that it is not a ‘carefully managed and driven’ process – because that would raise some very worrying questions about what they anticipate will follow when they have run all such essential services into ground.

    I take a different view – this is the usual unintended consequence of a quite reasonable desire to cut costs and make systems more efficient. The problem is that those in charge of the cost cutting and efficiency drives do not understand and probably don’t care much for the systems in question.

    But whatever the motivation, the outcome is sadly the same so I agree that all of us involved in the child protection system have a responsibility to worry and to try to do some productive to turn this around. That’s what I hope this site can be part of.

    Reply

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