Tag Archives: Children’s views

Myths and Monsters of Child Protection

 

On Monday October 16th I attended the conference organised by the charity The Open Nest at the Foundling Museum in London, which had invited a group of speakers to investigate the ‘myths and monsters’ around child protection.

For more of the discussion on the day, follow the Twitter hashtags #NAW2017 and #mythsandmonsters.

The speakers were:

  • Lemn Sissay: Poet, writer, speaker, actor.
  • Professor Brigid Featherstone: Author of The Adoption Enquiry BASW
  • Professor Anna Gupta: Author of The Adoption Enquiry BASW
  • Footsteps Group: Birth Mums peer support group, Leeds
  • Catt Peace: Social enterprise manager, advocate, blogger, adopted person
  • Anneghem Wall: Therapist, writer, adopted person
  • Rebekah Ubuntu: Musician, multi media performance artist, care leaver.
  • Dr Sue Robson: Special Guardian, community development practitioner.
  • Fran Proctor: Life coach, writer, adopted person
  • Ali Redford: Author, Adoptive parent
  • Amanda Boorman: Founder of The Open Nest Charity, adoptive parent.
  • Georgia Cooper: Therapist, artist, charity professional.
  • Lizzie Coombes: Photographer, community arts.

A key theme of the conference was how in general the reporting about child protection issues had become divorced from the realities – in particular the danger of the opinion that hardens into ‘fact’, recorded in professional records that then becomes the story of a child for the rest of their lives.  As the organisers commented:

Without due care and attention the information given and held on file about a families history can give a ‘fake news’ version of the bigger picture around events that caused child protection interventions. This in turn may hamper an individual’s human rights to accurate life story, individual and family identity and the maintaining of important connections and relationships.

Many speakers showed the importance of poetry in delivering a message far more effectively and powerfully than can ever be achieved by a dry lecture and a powerpoint. Those who illuminated their own childhood experiences echoed the uncomfortable discussions at the recent Nagalro conference ‘What about the children’, which highlighted the invisibility of children in the child protection system, even when it is ostensibly designed for their benefit.

Professor Bridgid Featherstone acknowledged the importance of stories and how we needed to now be taking control of the narrative – sadly, merely holding out ‘facts’ for inspection has historically made little impact.  Both she and Anna Gupta are concerned by what research reveals about the impact of poverty and social inequality on decisions made in child protection, although this is rarely acknowledged as a reason children are taken into care.  Hopefully the conclusions of their recent Inquiry into Adoption will be released shortly and will make for interesting and probably sobering reading.

Again, the importance of siblings was emphasised. This is the problem with a system of child protection that focuses on the rescue of the individual child and thus sees them in isolation from their families and communities.

Siblings become the ‘collateral damage’ of the child protection process. Fran Proctor spoke about being removed from her mother but her sister was returned and was killed. She was made to feel a ‘nuisance’ for wanting to know about her sister, for wanting to know her own story.

 

Both adopted children and adoptive parents spoke of one of the most pernicious myths of the whole system – that a ‘loving family’ is all that is needed to heal the trauma of a troubled child.

Sue Robson – now the Special Guardian of her grandson – praised the work of The Open Nest in providing a therapeutic space to heal her family’s trauma and loss which had lain there for 25 years. She felt that asking for help from Social Services had been one of the worst decisions she had ever made. There was nothing she could do to prove she wasn’t a ‘bad mother’ – if she was compliant she was deemed passive, if she was assertive, she was deemed aggressive.

 

Another theme was the need for professionals to remember that they are human beings, to talk to parents and children and recognise their humanity.  I have considered the dangers of jargon and cliche in a previous post here.

Lemn Sissay reminded us that the first thing he needed when he went into care, was the last thing he got – ‘a hug’. Children need to be touched. To ban touching out of fear that adults would sexually abuse children, Lemn Sissay reminded us, is a complete nonsense. Abusers will abuse anyway – that is what they do, they break the rules. To deprive a child of human touch is a terrible thing and he reminded us just how resilient children in care have to be to endure this.

 

But not only is the child deprived of physical comfort, they are denied the truth of their own history. The importance of family is that we share memories or we argue over who is right! Lemn Sissay realised when he left care that he now knew nobody who had known him for more than a year. The name he had grown up with was a lie, so to the story that his mother hadn’t cared. He finally got to read the letters she had written when he was a child and knew that he had been loved.

 

But the speakers also recognised that some children do need to be ‘rescued’ from their birth families. And for some, being adopted will indeed be the best thing that happened, But the theme running through the conference was a plea for truth  – even painful truths can be comforting, once we are allowed to know and tell our own stories.

I was very grateful to Amanda Boorman for letting me speak for 5 minutes about my performance on October 28th. The themes of that performance are echoed so strongly by what the speakers said at this conference. There is never anything dangerous or unsatisfying about being closer to the truth.

What do children think about opening up the family courts?

There is serious concern that opening up the family courts, for increased media access for example, is going to harm children and is not what they want.

The Children’s Commissioner investigated this issue in 2010 and said:

For our research, we spoke to more than 50 children and young people, and what they said raises a number of serious concerns. The overwhelming view was that reporters should not be allowed into family court proceedings because the hearings address matters that are intensely private. The events discussed are painful, embarrassing and humiliating and the children and young people said their deeply personal details were the business of neither newspapers, nor the general public.

They did not trust the press to get the facts right and felt strongly that articles would be sensationalised. They were worried about being identified and fear being bullied as a result.

It is of great concern that the children and young people said that if a reporter was in court to hear the evidence, they would not speak freely to professionals charged with undertaking assessments. This could seriously impact on a judge’s ability to make difficult and often life changing decisions in the child’s best interests.

You can download the report here.

 

There has been a further report by the ALC and NYAS in 2014 which you can read here.

The children interviewed were not happy with the idea of information about their cases being widely accessed and did not think that was a solution to dealing with criticisms of the family court system.

  • In the context of early discussions young people said they are not always informed about what is happening in their case – before or during proceedings. They said out dated paternalistic approaches by professionals are not in children’s interests: they need honesty and accurate information about processes and decisions about their care and at a time when they can make informed choices.

Further reading

The not-so-secret life of five-year-olds: legal and ethical issues relating to disclosure of information and the depiction of children on broadcast and social media

Marion Oswald, Helen James & Emma Nottingham

Abstract

Widespread concerns around the privacy impact of online technologies have corresponded with the rise of fly-on-the-wall television documentaries and public-by-default social media forums allowing parallel commentary. Although information about children has traditionally been regarded by society, law and regulation as deserving of particular protection, popular documentaries such as Channel 4′s ‘The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 year olds’ raise questions as to whether such protections are being deliberately or inadvertently eroded in this technological ‘always-on’ online age. The article first describes the documentary series and the results of an analysis of related Twitter interaction. It considers responses to freedom of information requests sent to the public bodies involved in the series with the aim of establishing the ethical considerations given to the involvement of the children. The paper goes on to explore the privacy law context; the wider child law issues, the position of parents/carers and the impact of broadcast codes. It considers if lessons can be learned from how decisions in the medical context have dealt with issues of best interests in decision-making and in disclosure of information concerning the child. The paper concludes that additional legal and ethical safeguards are needed to ensure that the best interests of children are properly considered when images and information are exposed on broadcast and social media.

 

Directly involving children in the court process

In care proceedings children are represented by a solicitor and a guardian – this is called the ‘tandem model’ of representation. The solicitor may also instruct a barrister for certain court hearings. The child’s solicitor takes instructions from the guardian about what to do in the child’s best interests, unless the child can show that he/she has enough understanding to give their own instructions. This post considers various options open to the child who wants to directly express their wishes and feelings. 

I don’t agree with what my guardian is saying and I want my own solicitors

If the child has a good enough understanding of what the proceedings are all about, s/he can chose to be represented by their own solicitor. The guardian should be alert to the possibility that an older child may not agree with the guardian’s recommendations, and that the child may want to give instructions directly to the solicitor.

A child can also write a letter to the judge or ask to speak to the judge directly – see discussion below.

There is a useful case from the Court of Appeal W (A Child) [2016] EWCA Civ 1051 which discusses the relevant test to see if a child is capable of instructing their own solicitors. The Court of Appeal decided that the Judge at first instance had been wrong not to allow a 16 year old girl to have the solicitor of her choice; there was a confusion over issues of ‘welfare’ and ‘understanding’.

The Court of Appeal agreed the relevant rule of the FPR to be applied was Rule 16.29 which sets out that when a solicitor is appointed for the child, the solicitor must represent the child in accordance with the instructions received from the guardian. If the solicitor thinks that the child wants to give instructions which will conflict with those received from the guardian and that the child is mature and understands enough to give his/her own instructions, the solicitor MUST conduct proceedings in accordance with the child’s instructions (rule 16.29 (2))

If the child wants to terminate the appointment of their solicitors, the child may apply to the court and the Judge will consider this application and the solicitor and the guardian will have a chance to have their say (rule 16.29 (7)).

I want to talk directly to the Judge

There is a very helpful article here from Family Law Week which discusses how Judges have become more willing recently to meet children and talk to them. However, the Judge must not use this meeting to collect evidence from the child, or test the existing evidence, because that that has to be done in court with everyone present. But this meeting will allow a child to tell the Judge what he or she wants and will allow the Judge to explain what the court does.

Such a meeting between Judge and child is not intended to undermine or displace the work of the guardian, but it is hoped that such meetings could help the child understand what is going on and feel reassured that people are listening.

Obviously, for very young children this could simply be overwhelming and not very helpful but it will be a matter for the individual Judge in each case whether he or she thinks meeting the child is the right thing to do.

Familly Justice Council Guidelines

In April 2010 the Family Justice Council published guidelines for Judges who want to speak to children. The purpose of the guidelines is:

… to encourage judges to enable children to feel more involved and connected with proceedings in which important decisions are made in their lives and to give them an opportunity to satisfy themselves that the Judge has understood their wishes and feelings and to understand the nature of the Judge’s task.

What happens when meeting the Judge goes wrong?

For an example of the problems that can arise if a Judge doesn’t follow the guidelines, see the case of KP in 2014. Although this was a case involving the Hague Convention, (a dispute between separated parents who wanted the child to live in another country) the points raised apply to any situation when a Judge speaks directly to a child:

Despite having great respect for this judge, who is highly experienced in the conduct of proceedings where the voice of the child needs to be heard, our conclusion is that on this occasion the conduct of the judicial interview did indeed fall on the wrong side of the line. Having summarised the submissions of Mr Turner and Mr Gupta, with which we agree, we can set out the reasons supporting this conclusion in short terms as follows:

i) During that part of any meeting between a young person and a judge in which the judge is listening to the child’s point of view and hearing what they have to say, the judge’s role should be largely that of a passive recipient of whatever communication the young person wishes to transmit.

ii) The purpose of the meeting is not to obtain evidence and the judge should not, therefore, probe or seek to test whatever it is that the child wishes to say. The meeting is primarily for the benefit of the child, rather than for the benefit of the forensic process by providing additional evidence to the judge. As the Guidelines state, the task of gathering evidence is for the specialist CAFCASS officers who have, as Mr Gupta submits, developed an expertise in this field.

iii) A meeting, such as in the present case, taking place prior to the judge deciding upon the central issues should be for the dual purposes of allowing the judge to hear what the young person may wish to volunteer and for the young person to hear the judge explain the nature of the court process. Whilst not wishing to be prescriptive, and whilst acknowledging that the encounter will proceed at the pace of the child, which will vary from case to case, it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which such a meeting would last for more than 20 minutes or so.

iv) If the child volunteers evidence that would or might be relevant to the outcome of the proceedings, the judge should report back to the parties and determine whether, and if so how, that evidence should be adduced.

v) The process adopted by the judge in the present case, in which she sought to ‘probe’ K’s wishes and feelings, and did so over the course of more than an hour by asking some 87 questions went well beyond the passive role that we have described and, despite the judge’s careful self-direction, strayed significantly over the line and into the process of gathering evidence (upon which the judge then relied in coming to her decision).

vi) In the same manner, the judge was in error in regarding the meeting as being an opportunity for K to make representations or submissions to the judge. The purpose of any judicial meeting is not for the young person to argue their case; it is simply, but importantly, to provide an opportunity for the young person to state whatever it is that they wish to state directly to the judge who is going to decide an important issue in their lives.

 

I want to give evidence in court

The courts used to be reluctant to agree that children should give evidence in court, but there has been a shift in attitude more recently as we see with the decision of the Supreme Court in  re W [2010] UKSC.

When deciding whether or not a child should come to court and give evidence, the essential test is whether justice can be done without further questioning of the child. To answer this question,  the court looks at two issues:

  • The advantages that the child giving evidence will bring to the determination of the truth.
  • The damage giving evidence may do to the welfare of this or any other child.

The following factors will help the court to weigh up these two issues.

The fair and accurate determination of the truth

  • The issues it is necessary for the court to decide;
  • The quality of the evidence already available, including whether there is enough evidence to make the findings without the child being cross examined;
  • Whether there is anything useful to be gained by oral evidence in circumstances where the child has not made concrete allegations;
  • The quality of any ABE interview and the nature of the challenge; the court will not be helped by generalised accusations of lying or a fishing expedition. Focused questions putting forward an alternative explanation for certain events may help the court to do justice;
  • Age and maturity of the child and the length of time since the events.

 

Risk of harm to the child

  • Age and maturity of the child and the length of time since the events;
  • The child’s wishes and feelings about giving evidence. An unwilling child should rarely if ever be obliged to give evidence and, where there are parallel criminal proceedings, the child having to give evidence twice may increase the risk of harm;
  • The level of support the child has and the views of the Guardian and those with parental responsibility;
  • The fact that the family court has to give less weight to the evidence of a child who is not called may be damaging to the child;
  • The court is entitled to have regard to the general understanding of the harm that giving evidence may do to a child as well as features peculiar to the child and case under consideration. The risk, and therefore weight, will vary from case to case.

The Family Justice Council issued guidance on children giving evidence in 2012. 

In the case of R (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 167 a 14 year old was successful in her appeal against the court refusing to let her give evidence in support of her father, saying he had not abused her. Briggs LJ commented at para 36:

To my mind it is the absence of any real recognition of the basic importance of the cross-examination of GR to a fair trial of the serious issues in this case, in the judge’s judgment or even in the respondents’ submissions on this appeal, that makes it necessary that the appeal should be allowed. I would regard the welfare implications of the choice whether to permit her to give oral evidence and to be cross-examined as being evenly balanced. The risk of harm which the process may cause to this bright and articulate fourteen year old does not seem to me to be more substantial than the risk of long-term harm at being denied the opportunity to have her evidence properly weighed in the determination by a court of matters of the utmost importance to her.

 

I want to tell my story to the press

In 2003 Munby j (as he then was) heard the case of Angela Roddy. She was 16 years old and  SS wanted to tell her story to the press about becoming pregnant at 13 and then having her baby taken into care.  She was allowed to be interviewed but the identities of her baby (Y) and Y’s father (X) would remain confidential.

Munby J commented at para 56 of the judgment:

56.The courts must face reality. We must, as Lord Scarman said, be sensitive to human development and social change. Angela may not yet be quite 17 years old but she is a young woman with a mind of her own and, as her solicitor B has said, a mature and articulate young person. We no longer treat our 17-year-old daughters as our Victorian ancestors did, and if we try to do so it is at our — and their — peril. Angela, in my judgment, is of an age, and has sufficient understanding and maturity, to decide for herself whether that which is private, personal and intimate should remain private or whether it should be shared with the whole world. She is what Ward LJ described in In re Z (A Minor) (Identification: Restrictions on Publication) [1997] Fam 1 at p 30 as a “competent teenager taking [her] story to the press”. She is, to use the language of Woolf J (as he then was) in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority [1984] QB 581 at p 596, “capable of making a reasonable assessment of the advantages and disadvantages” of what is proposed.

57.In my judgment (and I wish to emphasise this) it is the responsibility — it is the duty — of the court not merely to recognise but, as Nolan LJ said, to defend what, if I may respectfully say so, he correctly described as the right of the child who has sufficient understanding to make an informed decision, to make his or her own choice. This is not mere pragmatism, although as Nolan LJ pointed out, any other approach is likely to be both futile and counter-productive. It is also, as he said, a matter of principle. For, as Balcombe LJ recognised, the court must recognise the child’s integrity as a human being. And we do not recognise Angela’s dignity and integrity as a human being — we do not respect her rights under Articles 8 and 10 — unless we acknowledge that it is for her to make her own choice, and not for her parents or a judge or any other public authority to seek to make the choice on her behalf.

Reform Proposals

In July 2014 Simon Hughes announced at the Voice of the Child Conference the government’s proposals to permit all children over the age of 10 an opportunity to speak directly to the Judge. He said:

Children and young people must by law have their views heard before decisions are made about their future, and where decisions are made that will impact them. At the moment, it is still too often that their views are not heard. Or that the law is interpreted to mean that others can make a assumption about the view of the child or young person – often for the best of intentions and acting in their interest, but nevertheless with the outcome that the child or young person does not feel that their own distinct voice was heard.

I therefore want to announce that it is the intention of the Ministry of Justice, and therefore the government, that we move as soon as is practical to apply in all our family justice proceedings in England and Wales where children and young people are concerned the policy that it will be the normal practice, the norm, that, from the age of 10, children and young people involved in public or private law family justice proceedings before the courts will have access to the judge, in an appropriate way which reflects their feelings and wishes to make clear their views as to what is the best resolution of the family dispute in their interest.

Children and young people of 10 and over will therefore be given the chance to make clear their views in person or if preferred in another way. We will also work with the mediation sector to arrive at a position where children and young people of 10 years old and over have appropriate access to mediators too in cases which affect them.

The Minister also agreed with the following:

Children and young people should be given the opportunity to meet and communicate with the professionals involved with their case including workers from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service ( CAFCASS), social workers, the judges and legal representatives; every child of sufficient age and ability should have the opportunity of meeting with the judge overseeing their case; every child should have the opportunity through Cafcass of submitting their views directly to the judge in writing; all children should be able to communicate their wishes and feelings to the judge; children and young people should be kept informed about the court proceedings in an age appropriate manner, kept informed of the stage their case has reached, and contacted prior to the first hearing, and have the opportunity of giving feedback through email, text, telephone or written form.

EDIT However, as of the time of writing this edit (Nov 2015) nothing further has been heard of these reforms and it is likely they have been kicked into the long grass. 

 

Further reading

A child’s perspective – Tammy’s story

Thanks to the TaKen UK website for letting us share this. Obviously, we don’t know all the details of what happened to Tammy’s family  – the fact that care proceedings lasted from 1989 – 1992 suggests that the case was about more than just one accident in the kitchen.

But whatever happened in this case, her perspective on her pain and hurt about what she believes happened  to her and her family emphasises the emotional cost of decisions in the family courts; something we should not lose sight of.

Tammy’s story – told in 2006

“In the best interest of the child” that’s what the professional’s state, but even the professionals and the family courts can be wrong as they were in my case.

Let me explain about my birth family, and myself. I am a young adopted adult; I was taken from my mum nearly 17 years ago on a false allegation, I was seven months old and sitting in my bouncing chair, my mum had gone into the kitchen to make me a night feed. I was happily playing with an activity toy, which I dropped on the floor; I leant forward to reach the toy but the chair followed me arid tipped forward falling on top of me. I sustained a bruise on my cheek. And that’s where my life was changed forever.

My case was heard within the family court in the years 1989 which lasted all the way to 1992. I was placed with a set of foster carers whom I stayed with for 13 months.

Then one-day social services accused the foster carers of suffering from depression and removed me from their care! I was then placed with three lots of emergency foster carers before being placed with my pre adopters, who then became my parents.

While this was happening to me my mum gave birth to my brother Cameron. One minute after his birth social services (a male) walked into the labour suite and tried to hand a place and safety order in writing to my mum who was laid on the bed with no clothes on and she had not even delivered the placenta. Medical staff asked the social worker to leave on three occasions eventually the social worker left the labour suite, leaving my mum very distressed and losing all her dignity.

My mum and Cameron went home to my grandparents where they resided until the 28th of December 1990. My mum then went to the family court as social services were trying for an interim care order to remove my brother from her care. My mum fought and won full parental rights of Cameron and no further action was taken.

All my mum wanted was to fight for me, she attended many family courts, which were held in secret and she was not allowed to talk about our case or me to anyone.

Time passed and Cameron reached the age of 21 months old, when the social services actually reached a date for my freeing order, which was in the year of 1992; there were no concerns to Cameron’s welfare. She was an excellent mother to him.

The judge who heard my case made his decision on the basis that social services had delayed my case for over two and a half years. On reading his decision to my mum (he stated) “Miss Coulter if I return your daughter home to you, you will be a stranger to her” and on that decision I was freed for adoption and my whole future was completely changed.

Finding out that you are adopted is one of the worst feelings in the world because you feel that all your identity you have known of yourself is a lie; for example your whole childhood and personality.

I found out through photos that my brother was still with my mum and is one and a half years younger than me. This was very upsetting and left me wondering why my mum wanted my brother and not me.

Left with these unanswered questions and feeling very confused; like I did not belong anywhere I wanted to find the truth, and the answers to my questions, the only person who could answer them was my mum.

My decision to find my birth family was not supported in the way in which I would have liked from my adoptive parents. I went about looking for my mum by first of all ringing support after adoption that told me I must wait until I am 18 years of age and would not offer me any help or advice. Which left me more confused and very upset?

In January this year on a Thursday night I received a phone call from my best friend. She told me to go over to her house, as it was very important. I had no idea of what I was to be told. Her laptop was placed on her bed and she told me to read the posting. I was ecstatic as I read the information, which confirmed that my mum was looking for me as much as I was looking for her.

My friend who knew as much as I did about my adoption found the posting when secretly putting my name on GENES REUNITED. I found myself emailing her my mobile number as I knew the same information which was written in her posting; which included information that nobody would have known about me.

I waited three and a half hours for the phone call which would change my whole life, and answer all the unanswered questions which had been tormenting me since the age of about 11 when I moved to Comprehensive School where I met many other adopted and fostered children.

Waiting for the phone call was the most exciting and precious time of my life, the hours seemed like weeks. In the next breath I was actually talking to my mum on the phone, we spoke for an hour about everything that we could. We put the phone down and later that evening I rang my mum back and told her I know it was short notice but could we please meet the following morning and she agreed to.

Our meeting was very emotional for the both of us, neither of us spoke we just put our arms around each other and cried together, we held each other very tight and I cant explain how happy I was feeling.

After many secret meetings I decided to tell my adoptive parents about my news, I did not tell them for about two months because I knew what their reaction would be. When I told my mum, as my dad was at work she cried and turned her back on me making me feel very isolated as if I had done something wrong. They never did understand why it was important that I find my birth family nor did they support me at the emotional time. I was keeping in contact via the Internet with my birth family as my mobile phone was confiscated; however they also stopped me from using the Internet to stop any contact, which I was having with my birth family. During this time I was studying for my AS levels which I failed due to all the stress and confusion.

The way my adoptive parents were towards my other life caused a huge conflict in the house making life unbearable at home and at school. I was eventually turned away from my home due to arguments other than my birth parents; this is when I phoned my birth mum, as I had nowhere else to turn. It was too late when I was asked to return to the house I did not want to be treated like a child nor did I want to my feelings to be ignored any longer, so I decided to move in with my birth family.

This brings me to why I am here today, I was a child who was wrongfully removed from the care of my mother and most of all I have had the rights taken away from me to have enjoyed the right to a family life with my natural family.

I would like to say I have had a good upbringing by my adoptive parents and I love them very much, however the complication of my adoption also ruined my relationship with my adoptive parents, as I only wanted to find the truth about my life.

I am publicly speaking today on behalf of children and parents who have also been through the secrecy of family courts and the injustices that have taken place and do still take place and the devastation of what one decision that determines the future of a child can cause to a whole family.

Since I have moved in with my birth family I see the relationship between my mother, brother and sister and cannot help feeling like I have missed out no matter how much I fit in now. We have all bonded very well, I now feel as if I fit in somewhere and feel I can be myself as I have found out who I really am and that my mum never did anything wrong. Over the years Yvonne has been fighting to prove her innocence and that an injustice has taken place. I am very angry and also upset that my mum was treated like a criminal and punished for life on something that she never did, and she had the right to a family life taken away.

Let me explain to you how I am feeling:

• Confused
• Hurt
• Stripped of my identity
• I missed out on a relationship with my brothers and sisters, mum and dad and other close relations
• Exhausted through lies

• I know I am not the only person to have gone through the hell of secrecy in family courts and hope to have expressed the way in which they will feel and are feeling at my age.

Changes that I would like to see happen.

1) For medical evidence used in the courts to not be based on probabilities when determining a child’s future, it must be fact.

2) To stop social services making medical diagnoses when not qualified to do so.

3) For social services when conducting assessments to be thorough and not based on self-opinions but facts.

4) For an independent body who is impartial to social services to be brought in when social services are assessing a family and to check they are following all guide lines of social work.

5) More support for families with whatever reason; a low IQ, a mother whom has depression, a parent that has suffered domestic violence and also a parent whom has a disability. More outside agencies should be involved to help put support packages in place to help families stay together and have the right to a family life.

6) Slow integration of a child back with its natural family should be paramount and decisions to take away the child should be the last resort. For example my mum was told she would be a stranger to me if I were returned home to her however my foster parents and my adoptive parents were also strangers.

7) The most important factor of us all being here today is about the secrecy surrounding the family courts and why they should be opened, you have all listened to my story and many of you would have read similar stories to mine in the media. I am of age where I can talk about the detrimental effects that the secrecy of the family courts has caused to me.

Many of the children who have been taken in the past and are still being taken do not have a voice.

The opening of the family courts would make it a fairer, non judgmental and a more impartial system which would help children that are left in the hands of abuser’s and would also work by stopping children from being wrongfully removed and injustices from taking place.

So please when considering the opening of the family courts take into account that we are all human and we have feelings and the way in which the courts have been working up to this day has been inhumane in many cases and human rights have been exploited.

The detrimental emotional effects and the separation, has on children torn apart from their birth families, lasts a life time.

Memoir of a Child in Care

On 30th January 2014, Jenny Molloy published her memoir ‘ Hackney Child: a True Story of Surviving Poverty and the Care System’. She describes her childhood of abuse and neglect and the reality of her life in the care system in the 1980s. She is still in touch with some of the social workers she met as a child, considering them ‘family’.

You can also visit her website 

Jenny Molloy was interviewed on Women’s Hour on Feburary 10 2014.

You can also visit Jenny’s Facebook page which has a lot of useful information and discussion.

For another view of life in care and serious concerns expressed about foster care, please read this article